________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 4 . . . . October 13, 2006


A Crash of Rhinos, A Party of Jays: The Whacky Ways We Name Animal Groups.

Diane Swanson. Illustrated by Mariko Ando Spencer.
Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 2006.
24 pp., pbk. & cl., $9.95 (pbk.), $19.95 (lib. bd.).
ISBN 1-55451-047-3 (pbk.), ISBN 1-55451-048-1 (lib. bd.).

Subject Headings:
Animal societies-Juvenile literature.
Social behaviour in animals-Juvenile literature.
Animals-Terminology-Juvenile literature.

Kindergarten-grade 2 / Ages 5-7.

Review by Dave Jenkinson.

**** /4


Tower of Giraffes

Rising nearly as high as a two-story house, giraffes really tower above other animals. When they stretch to the top branches of trees, the giraffes stand especially tall. Then out comes a l-o-n-g tongue to grab leaves for lunch.


Once upon a time in my professional career, I was an Associate Dean. At a meeting of Deans and Associate Deans, a colleague, who was a bit of a wag, asked, ‘What do you call a group of Deans?” When he saw that I had no response, he offered, “A Dunce of Deans.” The names of 11 groups of animals (excluding Deans) is the fun stuff of Swanson’s A Crash of Rhinos, A Party of Jays. If you’ve ever been at a loss for the collective name of a group of bears, caterpillars, clams, ducks, elk, giraffes, jays, leopards, lions, pheasants or rhinos, then Swanson can help. Her brief text does two things. Firstly, as demonstrated in the above excerpt, she explains the “logic” behind each of  the collective nouns, and, secondly, for each of the 11 entries, she supplies a “Neat to know” section which offers three tidbits of interesting information. For example, about giraffes, readers will learn that:

Giraffes are the tallest of all the animals on Earth.

Each giraffe wears a coat with its own spotted pattern.

Giraffes often sleep standing up.

internal art

     Each entry takes up a pair of facing pages with one being used for the two parts of the text as well as a colour photo of the topic creature. The other full page consists of Spencer’s literal and comical watercolor rendering of the collective noun.

     Obviously, A Crash of Rhinos, A Party of Jays is a terrific vocabulary builder for early years students, but this book’s use should not be limited to just younger pupils. With higher grades, the book’s entries could be used as exemplars, and then students could be invited to invent their own collective nouns for other groups. For example, what could one call a group of book reviewers? A Critique, perhaps?

To encourage children to extend their knowledge of collective nouns associated with animals, Annick is running a contest, with the prize being “a library of 15 favorite Annick Press books!” Contest details are available at www.annickpress.com/catalog/crashofrhinos.html.

Highly Recommended.

Dave Jenkinson teaches courses in children’s and adolescent literature in the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba.


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

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