Reviewed by Jacqueline Pfeiffer
3rd Grade Teacher
Imagine spending your entire lifetime in one fifth of an acre, an area about 100’ by 80’. Would you see it all? Probably not, but a white footed mouse would. There is so much life in that small area—plants, vertebrates, invertebrates, spores, mushrooms, butterflies, and insects.
This amazing book is written and viewed from the perspective of that little mouse. It is chock full of facts about the life that would occur in that small area and is all done in verse. The book covers one year in the life of a small white footed mouse through the seasons as its habitat changes. The diverse group of plants and creatures highlighted show how rich life is and how much energy exists in such a small space. It also points out how little we humans actually observe of our surroundings.
The drawings are from a mouse’s point of view and what things would look like to it. Each two–page chapter has a drawing on the left side with numerous creatures and plants embedded within. Across the top of the right–side page, written in verse, are 8–16 lines describing what is happening on the left page. Down the side are 3 or 4 circles highlighting a critter or plant that was in the drawing with mouse. A more detailed description, again written in verse, is given for each. Also, on the right–side page are 3–6 microscopic pictures of parts of the creatures or plants highlighted in the circles.
The scale is compared to the width of a nickel or to our hair. This is so much more meaningful to children than writing the scale in a decimal to which the reader might have no reference. Seeing the close–up of a red velvet mite’s toe and face and comparing it to one hair width is so dynamic. Equally interesting are the hairy and split gills of Schizophyllum (fuzzy mushroom). The birth of a baby moss from a spore is fascinating.
The book targets grades 1–5 and could easily be used repeatedly for all of those levels. Young children would love looking at the pictures, listening to the basic verse at the top of the page, and then finding the highlighted creatures/plants in the drawing. Older students would want to read the descriptions of those highlighted creatures. Young scientists would be fascinated by the electron microscope pictures of the creatures and plants’ parts.
Environmental science, habitats, life cycles, all could be discovered through this book. The author states the goal of the book, “….for teaching children about the natural world around them.” It is certainly successful in doing this and more. I highly recommend this book. It can reach students at a number of reading levels. I found it to be truly unique and intriguing. In fact, I purchased another copy to use in an environmental workshop I’m helping with this summer.
Review posted on 4/16/2012