CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 6 . . . . October 14, 2016
Five Busy Beavers is a variation of the "Five Little Ducks" story/song that many children learn in school or at storytime. Here, though, five beavers are busy making a dam and are distracted by woodland friends who want to play.
The book uses this rhyme scheme consistently throughout (although there is no readily available tune to sing it to, as with the "Five Little Ducks"). As is evidenced in the excerpt, opportunities for learning present themselves through vocabulary (ex. bog, gnawing, ferrying), and through the different types of animals presented throughout the text (muskrat, heron, chorus frogs, turtle, firefly). Even though the illustrated and digital collage images give an idea of what these animals look like, my kids always like to see what the 'real' animals look like (such as in images from the Internet) as they recognize that the book's images are not realistic.
The illustrations in this book are quite cute; the beavers' facial expressions and the different types of tree bark shown give a lot of detail. All of this, as well as the other little details in the book, could lead to meaningful discussions (ex. Why are there lines that look like quotation marks around the heron's foot or the beaver's tail? To show movement.)
Throughout the story, four of the five beavers leave with their friends to play while one beaver remains at the dam to finish the job. When he tiredly leaves at the end of the day, he returns home to the other beavers and their friends having decorated the home and yelling 'surprise'. It is unclear if it is the single beaver's birthday (there is no clear indication of this), but I wonder why else there would be a 'surprise'. Plot-wise, I also question why the four beavers and their friends string up flowers and make water lily pie for the 'surprise' to "make amends" (for leaving the beaver alone to work, I guess) rather than returning to finish the dam so the single beaver doesn't have to work alone. At any rate, young readers likely would not pick up on these details and would focus instead on the 'surprise' and the teamwork of the beavers and their other animal friends in creating the surprise.
Overall, Five Busy Beavers is a fun book that young readers will enjoy, especially if they like animals.
Karyn Miehl, a mother of two and a secondary school English teacher, lives in Kingsville, ON.
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