A simple text slowly adds members of a marsh food chain, “House That Jack Built”–style, from mud to raptors.
A serene double-page spread with vivid sunrise colors and an early morning mist proclaims: “This is the marsh / in the middle of the meadow.” Equally artistically enticing pages follow, with: “This is the mucky mud / On the bottom of the marsh / In the middle of the meadow.” The text continues in the tradition of a cumulative folk rhyme, using colorful language that complements the vibrant art. “This is the big eagle / That swoops from up high / To grasp the fish / That gulp down the tadpoles / That slurp up the minnows….” Even at its very longest, the cumulative rhyme ends with “the reeds / That grow in the mucky mud / On the bottom of the marsh / In the middle of the meadow.” The fairly sophisticated content and vocabulary seem ill-suited to the nursery-rhyme format, begging the question of audience. As with many food-chain explanations aimed at children, the producer and consumer parts are well-developed, and the decomposers receive no mention. Is this because the decomposers would have to eat the dead remains from the other categories, and live eaglets are more appealing than anything dead? This is understandable, but it seems to force the audience to a younger range than the recommended early-elementary children.
Simplistic science with appealing illustrations and a catchy text. (author’s notes, glossary) (Picture book. 3-6)