Monday, August 17, 2015

Nonfiction Monday: Think About How Everyone Says Hello: Does a Seal Smile? by Harriet Ziefert, illustrated by Emily Bolam

This is a republished title in a new series from Blue Apple that encourages parent and child interaction.

The book has a note from Harriet Ziefert to parents at the beginning, explaining active (dialogic) reading and offering suggestions and ideas for using the book to talk with children and expand on the text.

It starts with a few simple question and answer sequences for a seal, mandrill, coyote, and chimp. The text is very simple. The first page will read "Does a animal smile?" Turn the page and it says "A animal does not smile." and then in a sentence or two explains how that animal greets other animals. However, when it comes to the chimp the text changes and expands on how chimps use their body language to communicate. A further spread shows two different chimps and what they are communicating, and then a photograph of chimps with an open-ended question "What do you think these chimps are communicating?" Another spread shows four different animal pairs and a brief caption that explains what their body language shows. Then the second part of the book begins, talking about how human beings greet each other. It begins with a baby learning to interact with people around them and then talks about different ways people greet each other around the world. It ends showing a little boy with arms held wide asking "How do you greet someone you know?" facing an illustration of the coyote from earlier in the story howling. A last spread discusses in more depth ways to think about how people and animals greet each other and more activities and projects, like observing a baby or drawing pictures.

I wanted to really like this, but I just couldn't get into it or visualize using it in storytime. While I do use active or dialogic reading extensively in my storytimes and outreach visits, especially with nonfiction, I felt that this tried too hard to get there; rather than presenting a story and art that would naturally spark discussion, it started all the discussion for you. The book itself, with cute illustrations and simple text, seems aimed at very young children but the additional activities sound more like a kindergarten or even elementary audience.

Verdict: This might work in your library, but it just really didn't click for me. I have a lot of good sources for nonfiction at this point and don't need something I'm not 100% positive about.

ISBN: 9781609054496; This edition published 2014 by Blue Apple Books; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

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