14:14 PB ELEMENTS – Creature Features – DIALOGUE
by Steve Jenkins & Robin Page
illustrator, Robin Page
(c) 2014, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
(1,005 words, AR Reading Level 3.6)
This delightful book gives animals a voice, and while I am tempted to say one of the effective primary story elements is patterns, but I want to point out another that I find that lifts this book above straightforward fact to engage the young reader directly.
DIALOGUE is employed here in two ways. First, the book subtitle, “25 Animals Explain Why They Look the Way They Do,” hints at the format. When the book is opened, we find a memo form query (in marvelous typewriter font) to a tapir. “Dear tapir: Why is your nose crooked?”
The book then explains that the animal world has oddities, and promises to give the creatures a chance to explain their differences. The tapir then replies: “My nose isn’t always twisted. I bend it when I want to reach some tender leaves or fruit.”
The rest of the book follows a predictable format, with a question (“Dear [creature highlighted], Why…”) on the left, which is followed by an answer from the creature on the right. Closeup illustrations of each animal’s face bring on the effect of a personal, one-on-one conversation. So, the format of the story is in dialogue.
Second and notable is is the use of voice as a sub-element of dialogue. While the questions are simple, the answers are forthright, honest, and revealing of the character traits of the animals. Listen to the frank answers below.
“Dear frilled lizard: What are you wearing around your neck?”
“That’s my frill–extra skin that I unfurl when I feel threatened. Pretty scary, isn’t it?”
“Dear Egyptian vulture: Why no feathers on your face?”
“Are you sure you want to know? Really? Okay, I’ll tell you. I stick my face into the bodies of the dead animals I eat, and feathers would get pretty messy…”
Jenkins and Page did a marvelous job here, I believe, of relating differences through dialogue that teaches about the animals, and with subtlety shows that differences are useful and purposeful. That translates to an important implication for kids today. Hopefully the notion will take hold.
(See a list of other reviewers’ posts in Christi’s latest post at Write Wild.)