CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 16 . . . . December 22, 2017
A rainforest ecosystem is explored in this eye catching, informational picture book. In cumulative fashion, the lyrical storyline introduces an interdependent food web. An industrious line of ants haul their bounty along a single blade of grass while, in the foreground, a praying mantis gets poised to strike. On the next page, a blue spotted lizard, with a long sticky tongue, sets his sights upon the mantis. Next up, a monkey looms large behind the unsuspecting lizard. A sleek, black panther, with glowing eyes narrowed in concentration and focus, stealthily stalks the monkey. In time, the panther grows old, and his remains return to the earth. The soil becomes richer, and seedlings begin to sprout.
The patterned, simply stated text uses many action words which propel the action forward, like "marched", "snacked", "crept", "pounced". The nuanced word choices are also witty and playful: "Once upon some ants, preyed a mantis." The consumption of each creature is not graphically depicted. A dramatic spread of multi coloured beetles roaming the ground is poetically arranged in the shape of the panther. A fold out page, entitled "Story of a food chain", explains the circle of life in easy to understand language. The endnotes also offer a "search and find" activity: "See if you can spot which are the producers, consumers, and decomposers. Happy hunting!"
James Boast's bright and bold illustrations are mesmerizing. The creatures seem to leap out against the jet black, velvety dark backgrounds. Different perspectives are afforded, including an underground view of worms and the partial skeleton of the panther. Brilliantly coloured flowers, insects, and birds fill the background details with movement and beauty. Once Upon a Jungle, a succinct and poetic picture book, is perfect for introducing many environmental topics.
Linda Ludke is a librarian in London, ON.