October 13 – National Fossil Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chicken-frank-dinosaur-cover

About the Holiday

Did you know that some fossils date back to 4.1 BILLION years ago? Just think of that the next time you’re feeling a little bit old (or so recommends the website National Today). Today we celebrate National Fossil Day to recognize the importance (and, well, awesomeness) of paleontologists, geologists, and fossils in providing us with information on the history of our earth and those who have inhabited it before us. ​National Today provides some further information, with a timeline of fossil history, and fun facts like this one: The highest amount ever paid for a dinosaur fossil was $8.3 million (they named it “Sue”).

To celebrate National Fossil Day, check out National parks near you, learn more about fossils, do something to help protect the earth, read some books about evolution—like Chicken Frank, Dinosaur!—or visit the National Parks page for more information and resources on how to celebrate our geologic heritage.

Thanks to Albert Whitman & Company for sharing a copy of Chicken Frank, Dinosaur! with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Review by Dorothy Levine

Chicken Frank, Dinosaur!

Written by S.K. Wenger | Illustrated by Jojo Ensslin

 

If you ask Chicken Frank he’ll tell you, “I’m a dinosaur! Cluckity-roar!” But the other barnyard animals aren’t so sure. Everyone is puzzled by this evolution thing Frank keeps talking about (“Evo-what?”). Chicken Frank tries to explain, “Evolution! Change! Change happens over time so we can survive.” He takes a stick and draws lines of lineage, connecting crocodiles to plant-eating dinosaurs and eventually birds. “From a dinosaur. See?” But the other animals don’t see it: “I see a chicken who was a chicken five minutes ago,” a sheep says. “I see a chicken who’s been a chicken since he hatched,” a pig chimes in.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chicken-frank-dinosaur-evolution

Image copyright Jojo Ensslin, 2021, text copyright S. K. Wenger, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Chicken Frank then presents different types of evidence to try to convince the farm that birds evolved from dinosaurs. He points out his feet look like those of T. rexes, to which another chicken looks at the readers and says, “More like T. crazy.” Frank explains that feathers evolved from dinosaur scales, and that both dinos and chickens had little tails when they were embryos. Other animals start wondering if they come from dinosaurs, since they have tails too. So, in a last straw attempt, Chicken Frank returns to his mud lineage map once more.

He shows how fish, amphibians, reptiles and mammals come from different branches in the evolutionary tree. Birds, however, branch off from reptiles. Nobody is convinced, and pig, sheep, and horse turn their attention to pretending to be unicorns with carrot horns instead. But then, the results from Frank’s DNA test arrive. The data shows Chicken Frank has a reptilian cousin: Crocodile Ike.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chicken-frank-dinosaur-timeline

Image copyright Jojo Ensslin, 2021, text copyright S. K. Wenger, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Chicken Frank decides to send a post card to his cousin Ike inviting him to come for a family reunion, much to the dismay of everyone. A crocodile and a chicken in the same place? Seems like a recipe for disaster…and maybe some chicken franks too. And while Crocodile Ike and his mom are first tempted to gobble Frank up, they take some time and study his charts. And, to everyone’s surprise, they get it! “One of us isn’t a dinosaur… But we’re both Archosaurs! KINGS of the dinosaurs! Roar!” Ike tells Frank. Ike’s mom wonders who else they may be related to, so Frank starts a letter to an even further distant cousin—the sharks!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chicken-frank-dinosaur-ike

Image copyright Jojo Ensslin, 2021, text copyright S. K. Wenger, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

They all decide to take a trip to the aquarium, where the pig, sheep, and horse are delighted to find “a swimming unicorn!” (a narwhal), and Crocodile Ike exclaims, “family!” Chicken Frank happily agrees and adds, “Ours is the very best.”

The story is followed by five informational sections: “What Is DNA?”, “What Is Evolution?”, “Is Chicken Frank Really Related to T. rex?” “Similarities Between Dinosaurs, Chickens, and Alligators”, and “Frank’s Glossary of Favorite Animal Groups” Each of these sections provide in-depth scientific explanations for those who want to know a bit more about how it all works. S. K. Wenger masterfully explains each of these concepts at an advanced level that is clear to read and understand for readers of a wide range of age and abilities.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chicken-frank-dinosaur-archosaurs

Image copyright Jojo Ensslin, 2021, text copyright S. K. Wenger, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

A joyous read, with important concepts about evolution scattered in with the fun. This comic-style picture book will have kids laughing out loud at the farm animals’ speech bubble puns and jokes. S. K. Wenger (and Chicken Frank) explain concepts of evolution in easily digestible terms for readers of all ages. The story is quick-paced and intriguing, with distinct characters and a quirky humor. A must-read for all kids, especially those with a fondness for dinosaurs.

The story would not be nearly as fun or educational without Jojo Ensslin’s colorful, cartoon-like drawings. As Chicken Frank explains his evolutionary reasoning, Ensslin depicts the ideas clearly and closely juxtaposed. For example, when Frank talks about how his feet match those of a T. rex, kids see both feet on the same page. Likewise, a scaled dinosaur and an ancient bird are portrayed on the same blackboard.

Later, when Ike receives the postcard from Frank in a muddy swamp, swarming with crocodiles, and calls out, “Does anyone know a cousin named Frank?” little speech bubbles with “Nope!” scatter the swamp, prompting kids to join in. In a carved-out corner, a close-up view of Ike and his mom show their evil plans to crash the reunion with some chompers. The facial expressions of each of the animals add to their characters and the humor of the story. Many carefully placed illustrative details add to the plot in meaningful and silly ways, such as, the DNA Test Kit shown the page before the story begins and the large bone Chicken Frank stores in his coop; the illustrations and text come together to create a read-aloud that is enjoyable to all.

Creative nonfiction at its best, Chicken Frank, Dinosaur! is both a hilarious story and a highly engaging way to explain evolutionary science in a way kids will respond to and remember. Sure to spark an interest in further science learning, the book is highly recommended for home bookshelves and a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 7

Albert Whitman & Company, 2021 | ISBN 978-0807511411

Discover more about S. K. Wenger and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jojo Ensslin and view a portfolio of his illustration, animation, and woodcout work, visit his website.

National Fossil Day Activitycelebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chicken-frank-dinosaur-national-park-service-dinosaur-coloring-pageDinosaur Coloring Pages

 

Enjoy these four dinosaur coloring pages from the National Park Service’s free prehistoric coloring book in honor of National Fossil Day!

Dinosaur Coloring Pages

For more, you can download the whole coloring book from the National Park Service here.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chicken-frank-dinosaur-cover

You can find Chicken Frank, Dinosaur! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 22 – It’s National Insect Week

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-moth-an-evolution-story-cover

About the Holiday

Insects are endlessly fascinating, and this week celebrates their diversity, purpose, and beauty. This week was established by the Royal Entomological Society to encourage people to learn more about insects, from those close to home to the exotic species around the world. This year the theme is Entomology at Home and people are invited to participate by learning about local species of insects and enjoying the resources on the National Insect Week website. There’s a photography contest, learning videos for all ages, access to Instar the Magazine for Young Entomologists, and so much more, including a mention of “the most bizarre use” of an insect ever imagined. To discover all of the resources and fun, visit the National Insect Week website.

I received a copy of Moth for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

Moth

Written by Isabel Thomas | Illustrated by Daniel Egnéus

 

“This is a story of light and dark. Of change and adaptation, of survival and hope. It starts with a little moth.” Long ago a peppered moth wiggled out of its cocoon, unfurled its “salt and pepper” wings, its legs, and its antennae and took to the air to avoid predators. It met up with other peppered moths flitting and fluttering among the trees in the night sky. Most of these moths “had speckled, freckled wings,” but some had “wings as dark as charcoal.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-moth-predators

Image copyright Daniel Egnéus, 2019, text copyright Isabel Thomas, 2019. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

During the day, the peppered moths rested, flattening themselves against the speckled bark of the trees, camouflaged from birds and other animals. But the black-winged moths weren’t so lucky. Easy to spot against the light bark, they began to vanish as birds nipped them up for themselves and their chicks. As the speckled peppered moths had more and more babies, they also sported a mottled pattern.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-moth-bird

Image copyright Daniel Egnéus, 2019, text copyright Isabel Thomas, 2019. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Over many years, the speckled moths became dominant while the dark-winged variety dwindled. But then, factories, trains, and other machines that burned coal were built. They spewed dark clouds of soot into the air. The soot settled everywhere, turning buildings and trees black. Now, the lighter-colored moths became the meals of birds and other predators, and the black-winged peppered moths had better camouflage. “Now they lived long enough to lay eggs of their own…and their wing color passed on to their offspring…and their offspring’s offspring.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-moth-evolution

Image copyright Daniel Egnéus, 2019, text copyright Isabel Thomas, 2019. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

After decades of pollution and adaptation, the peppered moth population was still strong, but now most of the moths were dark, while the lighter moths were rare. But then, people came together to clean up the pollution. Less coal was burned as new ways to fuel machines were found. In time, the air cleared, the sky was again blue and the clouds white. “The trees shed their sooty bark.” Modern life brought many changes to the landscape, providing places for both dark and speckled peppered moths to hide. Today, a mix of peppered moth can be found flittering and fluttering in the night sky, offering their “story…of survival…and hope.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-moth-cleaner-air

Image copyright Daniel Egnéus, 2019, text copyright Isabel Thomas, 2019. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Isabel Thomas’s superlative nonfiction picture book masterfully combines lyricism with clear descriptions of the science of adaptation and natural selection to create a story that touches on natural history, human history, and the interactions of the two. Thomas’s conversational tone and direct address to the reader makes this a personal story and will captivate children sensitive to nature and the world around them. Her excellent pacing serves to show the passage of time involved in the evolutionary changes within the moth community. Thomas begins and ends her story with a note of hope that living things will adapt to today’s changing world. The underlying lesson may also encourage readers to find ways in which humans can adapt to promote the survival of all living things.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-moth-an-evolution-story-trains

Image copyright Daniel Egnéus, 2019, text copyright Isabel Thomas, 2019. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Exquisite mixed-media illustrations by Daniel Egnéus will immediately draw readers—both children and adults—into the nighttime forest where peppered moths take wing, silhouetted against the golden moon and the deep blues and purples of the midnight sky before finding a hiding place from hungry bats and birds. The story’s theme of light and dark in its variations is powerfully presented. In the early pages, images are set against bright, open backgrounds; foliage is vibrant green; and birds dazzle with color. As a bird brings a charcoal-winged moth back to her nest while speckled moths hide, children can easily see natural selection at work.

As the Industrial Revolution alters the skyline and the quality of the air, the images become denser and the hues of the sky, trees, and birds muted. For children who have not grown up with the air pollution of the past—even the near past—double spreads of smog-churning factories and trains will make a strong impression. The introduction of a child at the beginning and end of the story reminds readers of two things: that we owe it to our children to treat the world with kindness and that our children are the hope this story builds on.

Special mention must be made of the magnificent and poignant illustrations of the speckled peppered moths. Looking closely at their outstretched wings, you will see nature—trees, water, dappled sunlight—reflected in them. The stunning cover—with its foil-embossed lettering, stars, and moth—reflects the importance of each reader to our world: touch or look into the shining silver and you will find yourself mirrored there.

A beautiful book to enhance nature and science studies and help children develop an understanding of the impact of change, Moth is a must for school, public library, and home collections.

Ages 6 – 10

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1547600205

Discover more about Isabel Thomas and her books on her website.

To learn more about Daniel Egnéus and his work, visit his website.

Take a look inside Moth with this beautiful book trailer.

National Insect Week Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tree-branch-with-white-cocoons

Beautiful Moths Game

 

Moths go through many stages of metamorphosis—from egg to caterpillar to cocoon— before they finally emerge as a moth. In this game, help six moths emerge from their cocoons to win!

Supplies

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-moth-cards

Directions

  1. Print a Tree Branch Game Board and set of Moth Cards for each player
  2. Print one Moth Playing Die
  3. Choose a player to go first
  4. The first player rolls the die and places the matching moth card on one of the cocoons on the Tree Branch Game Board
  5. Play then moves to the player on the left
  6. Players continue to roll the die and place moths on each cocoon
  7. If a player rolls a moth that they already have placed on their game board, they pass the die to the next player and wait for their next turn.
  8. The player who fills their Tree Branch with moths first is the winner

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-moth-an-evolution-story-cover

You can find Moth at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review