Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Bones: Skeletons and How They Work

Jenkins, Steve. 2010. BONES: SKELETONS AND HOW THEY WORK. New York: Scholastic. ISBN 9780545046510 [Suggested Grade Levels PreK–3]

This picture book irresistibly combines hard science and elegant design as it explores the beauty of bones. Steve Jenkins’ trademark cut paper collage illustrations depict bones in their endless variety yet convey the point that all animals with skeletons have a great deal in common. One striking two-page spread entitled “Arm Yourself” compares the amazing similarities between the arms of a human, a mole, a spider monkey, a gray whale, a turtle and a fruit bat. “Animals may vary greatly in size, and they may use their arms to do very different things, but their forelimbs all share the same basic set of bones.”

Young readers will find the text accessible; readers of any age will find it fascinating. On some pages, bones are shown to scale, on others they are scaled down with faithful annotation: thigh bones, for example, are shown at one-fourth their actual size. Jenkins softly mottled yet sharply detailed cut paper bones jump off each earthy colored page. Glossy hues range from umber to mossy green to eggplant. Three dramatic foldouts reveal a lifesize skeleton of a python and a human elbow joint and a half size human skeleton which provides a cleverly satisfying conclusion. A text heavier final section, “Facts, Stories, History, and Science,” provides a hodgepodge of supplementary material.

Extend the theme by teaching children the African folk song “Dem Bones.” Add hand movements for fun; replace generic terms like leg bone with more scientifically correct terminology to build vocabulary.

Other picture books about bones:
Barner, Bob. DEM BONES. ISBN 9780811808279

Other books by Steve Jenkins comparing animals:
ACTUAL SIZE. ISBN 9780618375943

By Suzy Parchman

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