The exploration of microhabitats continues in this sixth outing from Fredericks and DiRubbio (Under One Rock, 2001, etc.).
The action begins with a lightning strike and a wind that fells a huge old oak tree. As it decays, it becomes a place for termites, roly-polies, a salamander, a garter snake and a chipmunk to find food and shelter. The majority of the text follows a House-That-Jack-Built pattern with rhyming couplets, to mixed effect. While the repetition will help readers remember the information, that information needs to be worthy of remembering, and not all of this is: “Some daddy longlegs, like alien creatures, / Have thin spindly legs and other strange features.” The Field Notes section in the back helps readers fill in the knowledge gaps, but even these are spotty—it states that the daddy longlegs is not a spider but does not say what it is. As in the prior titles, it is DiRubbio’s artwork that is the big draw. Amazingly detailed and lifelike illustrations make it seem like the creatures will step right off the pages onto readers’ hands. At least two of the featured animals are on each page, allowing kids to get an idea of their relative sizes.Teachers may find the cool activities and projects listed in the back helpful, but, overall, flaws outweigh utility. (Informational picture book. 4-8)