________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 3 . . . . September 29, 2006


Creatures Great and Small.

Karen Patkau.
Toronto, ON: Tundra, 2006.
32 pp., cloth, $22.99.
ISBN 0-88776-754-0.

Subject Headings:
Animals-Juvenile literature.
Body size-Juvenile literature.

Kindergarten-grade 3 / Ages 5-8.

Review by Valerie Nielsen.

***½ 4



Young children have an enduring fascination with the various forms of life that inhabit their world. Such abiding curiosity ensures the popularity of a book like Creatures Great and Small, a beautifully illustrated volume which explores the world of five different species: insects, mammals, sea jellies, reptiles, amphibians, birds, crustaceans, arachnids and mollusks. Patkau has picked out examples of extreme size, moving from huge creatures, such as the blue whale, the giant Chinese salamander and the goliath tarantula (shiver!) to the tiniest creatures-including the bumblebee bat, the dwarf gecko and (another shiver!) the Rocky Mountain Wood Tick.
internal art

     Author-illustrator Karen Patkau has won many awards for children's books, beginning in 1986 with the Ezra Jack Keats Memorial Medal for Don't Eat Spiders. Her most recent book, Sir Cassie to the Rescue, brought awards from the Applied Arts Magazine and the Canadian Children's Book Centre.

     Each double page painting in Creatures Great and Small focuses on one of the five species, with three-quarters of the illustration devoted to the oversize creature and the remaining one-quarter of the spread to the tiny one. The simple and straightforward text, written in the voice of the creature, manages to avoid the condescending or 'cutesy' tone often found in information books for the young. Patkau's handling of the text on her reptile page exemplifies her skill:

Anaconda: I sun myself high in a tree, or slither a swamp on a hunt. Winding my body around a prey, I squeeze it tightly. Then I swallow it whole and feel full for weeks.

Dwarf Gecko: I dart all about my island home on gripping, padded toes. I go everywhere, even upside down. If you catch me by the tail, it drops off and I escape. Later, it grows back.

     Patkau has done an excellent job of supporting the information she has presented by including a glossary explaining unfamiliar words and concepts, a chart introducing the idea of scale and map endpapers enabling readers to pin-point places around the world where each creature may be found.

     Creatures Great and Small is a beautifully designed and illustrated information book guaranteed to intrigue five to eight-year-olds and should make a valuable addition to the biology section of the elementary school library. Librarians spending $22.95 on the volume will appreciate the reversible dust jacket, which provides a splendid poster to whet the interest of young nature-lovers.

Highly Recommended.

A retired teacher-librarian, Valerie Nielsen lives in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364
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