Written by Leslie Bulion
Illustrated by Robert Meganck
Peachtree Publishing 3/1/2020
60 Pages Age 8—12
Genre: Nonfiction MG Picture Book, Poetry
Themes: Olympian Amphibians, Preservation
Step right up and learn all about the lively participants in the Amphibian Acrobat show!
You’ll marvel at the astounding agility of “The Olympic Jumpers” (tricky midair somersaulters called Fiji tree frogs), and you’ll be awed by the incredible stamina of the intrepid “Marathoners” (long-distance walkers called small-mouthed salamanders). Plus, you may be surprised by the antics of the amphibians called caecilians. What a spectacle!
A science glossary, notes on poetry forms, and resources for information about these extraordinary animals are included at the back of the book. Witty drawings by Robert Meganck add another layer of fun to this humorous and informative exhibition starring some of the world’s most remarkable frogs, salamanders, and caecilians. (from inside cover)
“We’re amphibians! We breathe through our skin,
We drink the same way: we soak water in,
Through skin that is moist-ily marvelous thin—
Come see our amazing show!”
Why I like Amphibian Acrobats
Amphibian Acrobats contains 20 of the most agile and highly talented amphibians you will ever find. The jacket flap, printed above, tells all a reviewer would say about this unusual science book. Well, maybe not all. Let’s looks inside and see how you can use this information, (other than for science or preservation—both very important). The next time the boy a table over eats like a pig, be inventive and call him what he truly looks like: an African Clawed Frog. This chubby frog shoves food into his mouth as fast as he can and swallows without chewing even one time—he has no teeth to get in the way! Nathan’s hotdog eating contest is nothing compared to this tongue-less creature. Imagine this frog at your lunch room table.
“Each hind webbed foot wears three black claws
For tearing larger prey, because
A gape-mouthed gulp would just be rude—
Instead, frog shreds, then stuffs in food.”
Next time you need to get away quick, these two amphibians can show you how it’s done. When this “shape-shifting” toad sees danger coming its way, it tucks into a small ball and quickly rolls away. The Venezuelan Pebble Toad leaves its hungry captor-wanna-be confused. “Did my lunch just roll away?” Other hungry beasts might try to eat a Wallace’s Flying Frog, but fear not, this frog really can fly! Its webbed feet and fingers, plus skin flaps on its sides, help this frog catch air and steer right past a hungry bird.
“This largish frog with bright white, bulgy eyes,
Flees any treetop perch where danger lies,
By paragliding with its feet—it flies!”
Written in “Science Poetry,” author Leslie Bulion tells a story and relays facts all in one poem. She’ll also make you laugh with her amusing choice of words. Each poem is a different style than the last. “The Speed Eater” (African Clawed Frog), is written in a poetic form called a kyrielle. It has four-line stanzas with the first- and second-line rhyming and the third- and fourth-line rhyming. The end of the fourth line is repeated at the end of each stanza; in this case it is the word “food.”
“The Shape Shifter” (Venezuelan Pebble Toad), is a concrete or shape poem. When you get Amphibian Acrobats, you will see this poem looks like a round ball (toad) ready to roll off the page. “The Skydiver” (Wallace’s Flying Frog), is written in culminating verse. Ms. Bulion adds a consonant sound to the end-rhyme sound of the line before it. To the word “eyes” the “es” sound has the consonant “L” added to it, making the next end-rhyme word “lies,” which then becomes “flies” by adding the letter “F.”
Writing poetry is not as easy as it might look. Twenty poems requiring twenty different poetry styles. Who knew there were so many? Author Leslie Bulion did, and she makes it a fun and educating experience reading her latest book, Amphibian Acrobats. Each style, and the poem/amphibian it applies to, are detailed in the backmatter. If you are interested in a new poetic form, check out this inventive picture book.
The art contains its own humor, which makes each new amphibian a complete experience for your eyes and ears. Mr. Meganck shows how a Wayanad Dancing Frog uses an extended leg for protection from other males, while he is trying to court a female with his white bugling vocal sac and high-rising waving foot. The art for Darwin’s Frog would please Darwin himself. The daddy frog tends to the eggs while mommy goes off (shopping?). When he can see little tadpoles wiggling in those eggs he swallows them whole for safe-keeping. Three days later, the eggs hatch. Another ten weeks and the fully formed frogs hop out of dad’s mouth, ready to take on life as a new Darwin’s frog. Each illustration shows some Olympian trait these amphibians possess.
Kids will love the funny poems and the unbelievable art that goes along with it. Teachers can use Amphibian Acrobats as an adjunct text in a science class. There is information about extinction rates and how to help keep these amphibians alive in good numbers. Ambitious English teachers can use Amphibian Acrobats in a poetry class and never run out of ideas for her students. Homeschooling parents will find many uses for this wonderful picture book.
Amphibian Acrobats is a well-written, well- illustrated, and well-designed picture book. Kids who like animals will love this book of the craziest amphibians the world over. In addition to the numerous poetic forms included and explained, there is a TON of information about amphibians and their threat levels. Amphibian Acrobats is a fantastic picture book! Highly recommended.
As mentioned in the review, the backmatter includes the twenty styles or forms of poetry used in Amphibian Acrobats and short directions on how to write your own. Each style is headlined by the amphibian it tells readers about, making it easy to see Ms. Bulion’s directions in the selected poem.
Prior to this section is a glossary of words used throughout the book that may not be familiar to kids. Words such as “ambush predator” (a critter that waits for its prey to come to it, rather than going out and searching for food), “invasive species” (a species introduced to an area where it is not commonly found, it then overtakes the area making it uninhabitable for the normal residents), and “poetic license” (“making up words, breaking rules of grammar and poetic form for a particular poetic effect such as humor, rhythm, or rhyme”).
A section titled “Amphibians Need Our Help” explains the declining number of amphibians and why. Things such as climate change, international sale of wild amphibians, and humans (deforestation for development of human habitats). Included is a section on how we can help keep wild populations of amphibians safe and in good numbers.
A “Resources” section lists websites and books for further education on amphibians. Amphibian Rescue Organizations are listed, as are Captive Breeding Conservation Programs. Currently, there are 8041 amphibian species alive, but there are at least 170 amphibian species that have become extinct.
Two final areas of backmatter include a map of the world and where each amphibian in this book can be found. This map includes invasive species as well as native. Mr. Meganck drew each amphibian in relative size to other amphibians and a number two pencil. This makes for an interesting composite of images. The Japanese giant salamander takes up the length of the spread, while a strawberry frog is smaller than a US nickel. This spread includes IUCN threat levels of each amphibian in color codes (endangered, vulnerable, near threatened, and least concern).
Illustrations Rendered digitally.
Available at Amazon: Amphibian Acrobats
ALSO by BULION & MEGANCK: Superlative Birds (3-1-2019) Similar to Amphibian Acrobats; explores excellent, unbeatable birds; amazing art and poetry.
AMPHIBIAN ACROBATS. Text Copyright © 2020 by Leslie Bulion. Illustrations copyright © 2020 by Robert Meganck. Published by Peachtree Publishing Co., Inc., Atlanta, GA.
Copyright © 2020 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved
[782-word count—review only]
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NEXT UP: CB – Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist #9: Recipe for Disaster by Jim Benton – Simon & Schuster BYR
AND THEN: MG – Ria Bel: Dog of War by Sheila Burnford – New York Review of Books