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SPY HOPS AND BELLY FLOPS by Lynda Graham-Barber


Curious Behaviors of Woodland Animals

by Lynda Graham-Barber & illustrated by Brian Lies

Age Range: 4 - 8

Pub Date: April 22nd, 2004
ISBN: 0-618-22291-X
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

A lamentably excellent example of why children’s books should never be forced into rhyme. Contrived couplets describing different animals’ quirky actions: “Ready, set, jump into a puddle / like a noisy splasher. / Flap your hands behind you like a nervous tail flasher,” make this a disastrous read-aloud. Can any adult say “prickly tree snacker” without grimacing? Fact does appear in the footnotes—non-rhyming explanations on each page that make far better reading than the main text. Lies’s illustrations are accurate, but uninspired. Worst of all, the actions Barber describes with such phrases as “spy-hopper” and “swooping beeper” (a fox jumping onto its hind legs to look for other animals; a bat using echolocation to find dinner), would, if put into a more straightforward context, be fascinating. A missed opportunity. (Picture book/nonfiction. 4-8)