Thursday, October 18, 2007

Actual Size

Jenkins, Steve. 2004. Actual Size. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0618375945
Plot Summary
Reading about animals and actually seeing them are two different things. Steve Jenkins uses a very creative way to give readers information about animals that helps show what they actually look like. He creates a visual of the animals and includes a caption of size (usually height and/or weight). He tries to include on the page only what fits (the eye of the giant squid or the tongue of the giant anteater) to help the reader "see" the animal in its actual size.

Critical Analysis
The concept of this book was interesting because Steve Jenkins includes as a visual just what would fit on the page of this over sized book (measuring 12" tall). Each illustration is a collage of cut and torn paper. This gives the illustration texture (the earthworm looks segmented; the tiger looks fuzzy; the gorilla's hand looks leathery).

The limited text on each page introduces the reader to the particular animal without overwhelming the reader with too many facts.

Each animal shown has some kind of measurement caption showing how much it weighs or what the total length of the animal is or how big a specific part of the animal is. Included are two animals, the saltwater crocodile and the Goliath frog, that require a fold out page to show their sizes. The picture I liked the best was the Alaskan brown bear because it looked so real. The paper collage illustration made the bear look like there was actual fur in the book and a glint of a reflection in the eye.

Jenkins includes a visual index at the back giving more specific information about each animal. This information tells the reader about the habits and habitat of the animals featured in the book. It discusses camouflage techniques the animal might use to ward off being eaten by other animals. Even though there is more detail about each animal, the index is not overwhelming to the reader. There are just enough interesting facts about each animal that the reader is satisfied.

The illustrations are a great visual instead of just the text stating a dimension. The reader gets a true understanding of how large or small an animal is.

Review Excerpts
HORN BOOK: "The relative sizes are accentuated by the white backdrop and are grounded by the straightforward information that accompanies the creatures."

SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL: "Mixing deceptive simplicity with absolute clarity, this beautiful book is an enticing way to introduce children to the glorious diversity of our natural world, or to illustrate to budding scientists the importance of comparison, measurement, observation, and record keeping. A thoroughly engaging read-aloud and a must-have for any collection."

*Using this book as a springboard, have students research one of the included animals to find out more about that specific animal.

*Taking the information from this non-fiction book, students can create a fictional piece (i.e., short story) or a poem about a specific animal. The story must be factual, but some creative license is allowed.

*Have students measure things in the classroom (furniture, posters, knick-knacks, supplies, etc.) and replicate part of it (by drawing or collage or other art medium) onto a standard sheet of paper. How much will fit? What is important to include to help a reader understand the item in its entirety? Write some text for the item and give dimensions. Collect the class' drawings and bind together to form a Book of My Classroom.

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