Along with companion Step Inside! A Look Inside Animal Homes (also 2012), a visually captivating but politically flawed peek into the world of fauna.
Both chronicle a fascinating array of 24 animals from a good mix of classes. In Step Inside!, most pages include several photos, allowing a glimpse of both the animal and its home, although a more wide-angled view would have given a better idea of the home in its surroundings. In addition, some animals are grouped together (“reef fish”), and the “homes” described are not accurate for the entire group. Open Wide! is the better of the two titles, although many opinions are worked into the factual poems. While Ham no doubt provides a few interesting facts about both animal homes and mouths, the delivery is ultimately flawed, the content sacrificed to the form. With rhyme schemes that change within the poems, words that don’t quite rhyme, rhythm that falters and a dearth of punctuation, these animal poems are difficult to read at best: “A turtle's mouth / Is different / It's not like mine or yours / First off, it has no teeth / But extremely hard, strong jaws.” Backmatter features a picture collage of 10 additional animal mouth/homes and an index.
Ham’s information and photos would have been much better served with a strictly nonfiction, non-rhyming format. (Informational poetry. 4-7)