Tuesday, July 8, 2008


Bibliographic Data:

Jenkins, Steve. 1997. What Do You Do When Something Wants to Eat You? Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN 0395825148

Plot Summary:

In this nonfiction picture book, fourteen animals are presented on front and back pages, with the front page highlighting the specific animal and the back page highlighting the ways in which it defends itself from predators. From an octopus to the blue-tongued skink, the animals presented are as unique as their defense mechanisms, thereby presenting the reader with a fun and engaging look at the natural abilities of animals all over the globe.

Critical Analysis:

This picture book presents great scientific and accurate information about animals in a fun and informative manner. Jenkins incorporates a wide variety of animals in the book, highlighting his efforts to make this book a worthwhile read for readers of all ages. He does not change the names of the animals to make it an easier read, so names such as “pangolin” and “Javanese leaf insect” reflect the accuracy of the book’s information on a wide assortment of animals in their natural habitats. Additionally, the discussion of each animal’s defense adaptation is presented in a straightforward and clear manner, reinforcing the scientific information that Jenkins is presenting in the text. While there is no bibliography or source citation listing included in the book, much of this information can be found in an encyclopedia, thus reinforcing Jenkins’s aim to educate the reader in an engaging and colorful manner.

Each animal and its defense adaptation is presented in a unique manner in that the animal is presented on one page, with its adaptation presented on the next page. This method of organization allows the reader to get more involved with the book through guessing of what they feel will be the animal’s reaction to a predator. Additionally, the incorporation of collage-like illustrations of both the animal and its defensive adaptation emphasize the textual information and help the book flow from beginning to end.

With various colors, collage-like illustrations, and even textured-looking pages, this book is inviting to readers of all ages. The illustrations take up entire pages and for the most part, the text is clearly visible, making this a book that is accessible and engaging on many levels. Jenkins’s passion for animals and scientific information related to animals is clear through the style of his book. He invites the reader to enjoy their learning about animals and their adaptations through his brief descriptions of the animals and his bright color scheme. In the end, his whimsy and fun for learning about this topic comes through when he asks “What would you do if something wanted to eat you?”

Review excerpts:

Booklist – “Thrilling, beautiful…dramatic.”

Kirkus Reviews – “Jenkins cleverly conceals a factual compendium of 14 animal and insect defenses as a colorful picture book.”

Horn Book – “Jenkins has produced another marvel….Young children will delight in first guessing, then seeing, how each of fourteen unusual animals avoids becoming someone else’s dinner.”

Personal Reaction:

This picture book was quite unique and inviting, as it opened up a world of animals and science in such a creative way. I enjoyed exploring the animals’ unique defense mechanisms while enjoying the beautiful collages and textures that accompany and illustrate the text.


· Create a diorama in which you show one of the animals from the book and the manner in which it defends itself.

· Make a list of five additional animals that you would like to learn about. Research them and find out how they defend themselves.

· Complete the web quest at
http://www.uen.org/utahlink/activities/view_activity.cgi?activity_id=3803 to explore more animals and their adaptations.

· Write a paragraph about the animal and its defense mechanism that most surprised you. Why were you surprised by this adapatation?

Related Readings

Animal Defenses: How Animals Protect Themselves by Etta Kaner

Extremely Weird Animal Defenses by Sarah Lovett

Nature’s Tricksters: Animals and Plants that Aren’t What They Seem by Mary Batten

Animals in Disguise by Anita Ganeri

Other Books by Steve Jenkins
Living Color

Almost Gone

Actual Size

What Do You Do With a Tail Like This?

Animals in Flight

Biggest, Strongest, Fastest

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