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Little Skink's Tail: Janet Halfmann

Book: Little Skink's Tail
Author: Janet Halfmann
Illustrator: Laurie Allen Klein
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-8 (Picture Book)

Little Skink's TailLittle Skink's Tail, written by Janet Halfmann and illustrated by Laurie Allen Klein is an educational picture book from Sylvan Dell Publishing. Although the story of Little Skink and her lost tail is fiction, the book is based on facts about skinks and other animals. Skinks are a type of lizard. According to Wikipedia, "Skinks usually have long, tapering tails that can be shed and regenerated... Some have blue tails."

The Little Skink in our book has a long, blue tail. One morning, while Little Skink is eating breakfast, a crow comes along and grabs her. To protect herself, Little Skink sheds her tail. The tail continues to wiggle, distracting the crow, giving Little Skink time to hide and save herself. On subsequent mornings, missing her tail, Little Skink imagines what it would be like to have the tail of various other animals. The resulting illustrations are quite humorous, especially the lizard with an owl's tail. Fortunately, things turn out exactly right for Little Skink in the end.

While not exactly long on plot, Little Skink's Tail (which I keep wanting to call Little Skink's Tale) is educational and humorous. I think that it will be a hit with animal-loving preschoolers, especially boys looking for facts in an engaging package. The text is both poetic and energetic. Here's an example:

"Wiggle, waggle, wiggle,
went the tail,
wriggling wildly through
the fallen leaves.

The crow forgot all about Little Skink.
It wanted that wiggling, waggling tail!

As the crow bounced
this way and that,
Little Skink slinked under a log.
She was safe."

I personally find "Little Skink slinked" to be very pleasing text. And I can imagine young readers wiggling and wriggling in delight when they read the above passage.

Laurie Allen Klein's illustrations are in textured colored pencil, with a faint cross-hatch pattern. It's somewhat impressionistic - forming shadows from a distance, but visible as texture from close up. From very close up, the pictures look like embroidery. The palette uses mainly greens and browns, reflecting the colors of the forest.

One other nice thing I noticed in the illustrations is that each page spread contains, hidden away somewhere in a corner, a glimpse of the animal whose tail will be featured on the next page. So, for instance, while Little Skink is imagining how she would look with a rabbit's tail, a squirrel looks on from a tree. On the next page, Little Skink imagines herself with a squirrel's tail, and another animal looks on. I think that this is a great feature for reading with preschoolers - giving them a pattern to watch for. I also like how Little Skink's posture changes depending on which tail she's wearing. I think it could be fun for kids to act out the various postures.

At the end of the book are two page spreads of exercises for kids. The publishers suggested xeroxing these pages, and also offer them for download from the Little Skink website (the For Creative Minds PDF). The first page has a footprint map of the forest, asking kids to locate the footprints of different types of animals on a grid of the forest floor. Supplemental questions ask them to count the distance in squares between animals, and practice compass directions. The next page asks kids to match pictures of different animal tails with their descriptions, and includes tidbits about how the various animals use their tails.

All in all, I think this is a great read for kids who like facts, and for kids who love animals (especially lizards). Little Skink is a winner. I support Sylvan Dell and the authors for their efforts to make learning about science and nature educational. I look forward to seeing their future offerings.

Publisher: Sylvan Dell
Publication Date: August 2007
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
Other Blog Reviews: Laura Williams' Musings, In the Pages, a wrung sponge, BreeniBooks, Book Buds, Fuse #8

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.