Monday, November 28, 2016

Review: One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree by Daniel Bernstrom and Brendan Wenzel


"One day in the leaves
of the eucalyptus tree
hung a scare in the air
where no eye could see,

when along skipped a boy
with a whirly-twirly toy,
to the shade of the eucalyptus, 
eucalyptus tree."

Are your toes tapping? There's a definite rhythm going that has me thinking right away, "Story time! Early literacy!" Children can of course see the snake peeking out of the eucalyptus tree, and that snake gobbles up that boy with the whirly-twirly toy (ooh, let's make pinwheels as our craft!) The boy keeps calm and immediately hatches a plan, convincing the snake to swallow more and more adorably illustrated creatures (seriously - that sloth!), until he is finally so full, them all out.

A natural pairing with any of the million versions of that Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly, there are also so many social studies and science extensions to go with this title. I wonder if I can get eucalyptus leaves anywhere around here? Picturing a story time where we start off examining the leaves, comparing them with leaves that grow around here, discussing where these grow and what animals might live in or near them, and who might eat them. A quick read on Wikipedia gives a million more ideas and cool facts about this very interesting plant.

Equally fascinating is the brief author's bio on the end flap (do you read the author's bios? Always read the author's bios!) To begin with, Bernstrom is visually impaired. How's that for an inspiration for some of your young patrons? When he got the idea for this story (his first, two more are on their way), he was working as a custodian at a preschool. Discussion about pigeon-holing people, anyone? A look at his web site brought me to some of his blog posts, which are definitely not fluff pieces. 

Not to leave the illustrator out, Wenzel has another book, They All Saw a Cat, nominated for Cybils, and is a strong supporter of various conservation groups. Really, you could spin off into a whole week of lessons here!

To summarize: fun story, lively illustrations, early literacy skills and extensions galore. Pick up a copy soon!

Giving as a gift? Pair it with a sneaky stuffed snake, a few whirly-twirly toys, or stuffed versions of any of the other animals in the book.

***This book has been nominated for the Cybils Awards, and I am a first-round panelist in this category. There are many other panelists, and many MANY other great nominees, so a good or bad review here does not necessarily predict placement on the shortlist. 

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