Nonfiction Monday – And So They Build

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I love books about animals homes. I’m always amazed at the vast array of shapes, sizes, and locations they come in. Perhaps more impressive though, is how some of these homes are built. That is the subject of this beautifully illustrated work by Bert Kitchen. And So They Build introduces readers to 12 animal builders, from birds (4 species) to spiders, frogs, fish and more.

Each double-page spread includes a full page illustration on the right, and two levels of text on the left. Rendered in watercolor and gouache, the images are highly detailed views of the animal(s) in action in their natural landscape. Only the illustration of cubiterme termite mounds lacks actual images of the builders. (Perhaps they are there but are too small to be seen). The text comes in two forms. First there is large print text that states in simple terms why the animals build and serves as an explanation for the illustration. Below, in smaller print, is a paragraph of information that explains in detail more about the builder and the structure. Here is an excerpt.

A tailorbird will be safer
if she hides her nest
and so she builds . . .

The tailorbird lives in southern China, India, and Southeast Asia, and the female usually nests in a garden or on cultivated land. She chooses one or two large, living leaves on a tree and draws their edges together, using her beak and feet. She makes small holes down the sides with sharp point of her beak. Then she twists spiders’ webs, bark, and plant fibers into threads and pushes them through the holes to hold the leaves together.

The explanation goes on to describe how the stitches are fastened. The illustration shows the bird at work, literally sewing the leaves together. How this feat is accomplished by beak alone is simply amazing. The bird builders were some of my favorites. I was particularly taken with the male satin bowerbird, the animal that appears on the book’s cover. The bowerbird builds a bower to attract a mate, decorating it with bits of brightly colored objects and shiny bits. You can watch a video, narrated by Sir David Attenborough, that explores a bower and even allows viewers a glimpse of the bird at work.

Anyone interested in animal homes will find much here to love. The illustrations alone are enough to recommend it, but the text provides enough information to arouse the curiosity of young naturalists and interest them in learning more. The only drawback is that there are no references in the text or resources for additional information. However, this is a minor weakness that should not discourage anyone from picking up this striking volume.

Book: And So They Build
Author/Illustrator: Bert Kitchen
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date:
1993
Pages: 32 pages
Grades: K-4
ISBN-13:
978-1564025029
Source of Book: Personal copy purchased at a zoo gift shop.

This post was written for Nonfiction Monday. Head on over to Anastasia Suen's blog and check out all the great posts highlighting nonfiction this week.