Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Over In The Jungle

Over In The Jungle
A Rainforest Rhyme
By Marianne Berkes
Illustrated by Jeanette Canyon

Ages 4-8

Over In The Meadow, the classic late-19th-century poem by Olive A. Wadsworth, was one of my daughter's favorites when she was two... and mine as well, when I started reading singing it to her. It had all the elements: counting, rhyme, music, animals... and the book we had was pretty nicely illustrated, nothing eye-popping, but, eye-catching, nonetheless.

Over In The Jungle mimics Over In The Meadow in concept but presents a rainforest buzzing with activity thanks to 10 Howler Monkeys, 9 Super-slow Sloths, 8 Waiting Ocelots, 7 Poison Dart Frogs, 6 Boa Constrictors, 5 Honey Bears, 4 Leaf-cutter Ants, 3 Squawking Parrots, 2 Morpho Butterflies and a Swinging Marmoset who are there with their moms. Except for the Howler Monkeys who are there with their dad.

Each double-page spread is carefully constructed to showcase not just the animals but their habitat and food.

As a bonus, the back of the book has notes on each of the ten animals. As well as, Tips From The Author, Marianne Berkes, about related activities. I particularly liked the Body Movements suggested for each animal's action as we sing the verse.

The Tips From The Artist by Jeanette Canyon was truly inspiring. The illustrations for this book were created with polymer clay. Just reading about the process made it exciting and exhausting at the same time - to realize the amount of work and dedication that has gone into each page. And it shows!

The last page is a treat: the two-page spread juxtaposes the whole gamut 55 enchanting animals in a lush rainforest and invites us to spot them all. Very much like "I Spy". And the clever artist has made it quite challenging for the wee ones to spot them easily which naturally makes it a delightful and engaging activity.

Over In The Ocean
In a Coral Reef
By Marianne Berkes
Illustrated by Jeanette Canyon

Ages 4-8

Over In The Ocean: In a Coral Reef is just as appealing - thanks to the same team. And everything mentioned above for the Rainforest Rhyme applies to this book as well: just replace the rainforest animals with bright and beautiful creatures in the coral reef - 10 Octopuses, 9 Parrotfish, 8 Clownfish, 7 Stingrays, 6 Pufferfish, 5 Dolphins, 4 Angelfish, 3 Needlefish, 2 Gruntfish and a Sea Horse.

The back of the books suggest activities including "Story Stretcher" using puppets and making a diorama using polymer clay or even just Model Magic clay.

It is fun to sing/read this book with accompanying music, if at all possible. The dad in our household joins us when possible with his tin whistle to make this an experience to cherish.

When the kids got these two books as Christmas presents, I elbowed them out of my way to pore over the gorgeous art work. I savored it alone for the first few days, reading the notes from the artist about how she created the scenes for each page.

It is no surprise that these two books have appealed equally to both the kids. Whereas the 4¾ year old pores over art work, reads the words, and drinks in the composition, the 1¾ year old stares with jaw-dropping wonder at the various animals, their expressions, their stance/action/colors and shouts the numerals on each page as we move along from 1 to 10.

Two more books by Marianne Berkes along these lines Over in the Arctic: Where the Cold Winds Blow (illustrated by Jill Dubin), as well as Going Around the Sun: Some Planetary Fun (illustrated by Janeen Mason) are a lot of fun to read, especially for the 4¾ year old. It was exciting to read that the swirling cosmic landscape in the tour of the Solar System was created with melted crayons. After reading about the wonderful Arctic flora and fauna in Polar Bear, Arctic Hare in verse, the creatures of the Tundra brought to life via cut-paper art in Over in the Arctic resonated with us.


sathish said...

wow. the illustrations are amazing.

There is a potential for so many other similar interesting like 'Over in the Desert' and so on..

Anusha said...

wow from me too!
I know both kids here will love the jungle one as well. thanks for introducing us to the series, I'd love to check them all out (esp the one on planets!)

Vibha said...

Looks really interesting. Thanks Sheela, for introducing this series.

Anusha said...

We finally got a chance to try out a couple of books in the series, and they were just as good as you promised. totally blown away by the illustrations and LOVED how two whole pages were dedicated to author/illustrator and their methods. We tried out the coloring technique in 'Going around the sun' and it was a blast!
Thanks for introducing us to this amazing series.

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