________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 2 . . . . September 14, 2007


Cheetah Cubs and Beetle Grubs: The Wacky Ways We Name Young Animals.

Diane Swanson. Illustrated by Mariko Ando Spencer.
Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 2007.
24 pp., pbk. & hc., $7.95 (pbk.), $19.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55451-083-2 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55451-084-9 (hc.).

Subject Headings:
Animals-Nomenclature (Popular)-Juvenile literature.
Animals-Infancy-Juvenile literature.

Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 4-7.

Review by Dave Jenkinson.

**** /4


Mouse Pinkies

With pink, hairless skin, new born mice are Pinkies. But they are shorter than a man’s smallest fingers– his pinkies. When female house mice are only 10 weeks old, they can give birth to pinkies of their own.

Neat to know

* One mouse pinkie weighs no more than two mini-marshmallows.

* It takes mouse pinkies just 10 days to grow coats of white or gray-brown fur.

* Mouse pinkies can sense sounds that are too high-pitched for you to hear.

A companion volume to the Swanson and Spencer 2006 collaboration, A Crash of Rhinos, A Party of Jays, which focused on the collective names given to various animal groupings, the pair’s newest offering, Cheetah Cubs and Beetle Grubs, as explained by the subtitle The Wacky Ways We Name Young Animals, revolves about the names given to the offspring of 11 critters, the author’s use of “animal” being broadly interpreted. Specifically, youngsters will find the names of the young of: mountain goats, house mice, mackerel, mosquitoes, ducks, cheetahs, beetles, pigeons, eels, skunks and salmon.

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     Like the earlier volume, each entry occupies a pair of facing pages with one being used for the two parts of the brief text. One text portion provides an “explanation” for the name given to the specific young, and the second part, labeled “Neat to know,” offers three interesting facts about the young. The same page also contains a circle shaped colour photo of the appropriate young “animal.” The remaining page consists of Spencer’s literally interpreted full-colour illustration of the young. Consequently, the mice young, aka “pinkies,” replete with ears, eyes, nose, mouth and “arms,” become the fourth fingers on human hands.

     Two very small quibbles: The explanation around duck young being called flappers makes a comparison to “flappers of the 1920s– young women who spent lots of energy dancing....” Given the book’s intended audience, this reference to the long ago is likely wasted on them. With regard to cheetahs, youngsters read, “Young cheetahs are cubs.” Like Cub Scouts, they learn outdoor skills from grown-ups.” Spencer’s accompanying illustration reflects the economic realities of Canadian publishing and the need to penetrate the American market for it shows the cheetah cubs decked out in American Cub Scout uniforms, not those of Canada’s Wolf Cubs.
     Not only a fun read, the contents of Cheetah Cubs and Beetle Grubs are also an excellent way to increase young children’s vocabulary and to introduce them to the richness of language.

Highly Recommended.

After more than three decades of teaching courses in children’s and YA literature in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba, Dave Jenkinson, himself once a Wolf Cub, can now focus on just being CM’s editor.

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

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