Eye on the Wild Series

Cindy: Browsing the new book shelf at the public library usually means hauling home a stack of books and with luck finding a gem. In this case I found a new nonfiction series for young elementary school readers about endangered animals. I brought home Brown Bear by Suzi Eszterhas (Frances Lincoln 2012). The cover of a young brown bear cub holding his foot in his paw got his foot in the door (so to speak) and many of the interior photos were equally delightful. Eszterhas is a professional wildlife photographer who specializes in endangered and newborn animals.

Brown Bear follows mama bear and her two cubs for three years starting from their first spring. Mama has to protect them, feed them, and teach them what they need to know so that when she leaves them at the start of their second year they are ready to face the world without her. The fishing scenes and the playful fighting scenes are my favorites. The layout is spacious with plenty of full page photographs and good margins of white space surrounding the large text font.  As a bonus, young readers get a feel for the passage of time as the seasonal changes are described with what that means for the bears’ activities.

A closing page features some additional facts about brown bears, including why they are endangered and a website for more information. The Eye on the Wild series currently has six titles, all of which focus on the endangered animal from birth to adulthood. I feel like the brown bear cub when he successfully caught a salmon with this library fishing trip!

Lynn:  My catch on the fishing trip was Gorilla (Frances Lincoln 2012), another book in this new series.  Eszterhas’s photos chronicle the care and development of a gorilla from birth to 6 years, adulthood for gorillas.  The pictures are breath-taking, revealing tender and intimate moments in the baby’s life – being cuddled and kissed, sucking a thumb or perching wide-eyed on mom’s back.

Eszterhas tailors her examples and vocabulary to young readers and the photographs provide plenty of visual clues to assist beginning readers.  The book’s full-page photos, large dark text and plenty of white space makes these books that can be used with a whole class or individually.  A final page here also provides more facts about gorillas and an age-appropriate website.  These books are sure to be a hit with young children and ideal for use with common core standards.  They’re a hit with me too!  My favorite picture is one of the huge gorilla mom holding and kissing her infant – her hands and actions revealing our startling similarities.

Common Core Connections

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.1.7 Use the illustrations and details in a text to describe its key ideas.

Read the book with the class.  Use a visual presenter if possible to provide a closer look at the photographs.  Ask the class what the book tells them about gorillas/bears.  Ask the students what the photographs tell them about what a baby gorilla/bear needs to learn while it is growing up.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.1.6 Distinguish between information provided by pictures or other illustrations and information provided by the words in a text.

Ask the students if there was something they learned about gorillas just from looking at the photographs.  Was there something they learned just from reading the text?  Have the students draw their own illustration of something they learned just from the photographs or just from the text and label the drawing.

Check out other Nonfiction Monday posts at Hope Is the Word.




About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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