Friday, February 1, 2013

Cabin Fever Cure - Animal Snacks

Halfway to spring is a dangerous time: it looks bright and sunny outside, but the frigid temperatures sometimes keep us cooped up inside, where it's warm. And that can lead to Cabin Fever.

The best antidote to Cabin Fever I can think of is a book. So this month I'll post reviews of books that are sure to cure the winter blahs.

Animal Snacks
By Dawn Cusick
96 pages, ages 6 & up
Early Light Books, 2012

No, it’s not a cookbook showing how to prepare snacks for your pets. This is a book that celebrates the diversity of things animals eat. From birds to snakes to jellyfish to moose, Dawn Cusick details the diets of creatures from all corners of the animal kingdom. Each page is loaded with color photos depicting iguanas eating cactus, turtles eating sea anemones, fish eating crabs, crabs eating coral, snails eating frog eggs … and more.

Think all birds eat the same thing? They don’t. Hummingbirds like sweets, finches prefer seeds, bluebird nestlings feast on grubs, and gulls go for the seafood buffet. Squid go for shrimp, geckos dine on grasshoppers, and badgers eat just about anything.

Cusick introduces the book with a brief explanation of food chains, defines a host of terms including “producer” and “consumer”, provides a smorgasbord of delectable photos accompanied by minimal text. This book will have young nature lovers browsing, grazing, and coming back for second helpings.

What inspired her to cook up this delicious feast of photos?

Dawn: One day a student asked me what starfish eat. (Dawn teaches biology at a community college). So I went looking for a photo… and somehow got hooked on the idea of presenting a whole book about the things animals eat.

Archimedes: What about other books, like Animal Eggs. Do they start with photos or with an idea?

Dawn: A little bit of both. Often when I’m doing photo research I’ll find interesting pictures that just don’t fit with that particular project – but I know that they might make a food story down the line. And sometimes the books are inspired by a question. Animal Eggs, for example, grew out of some research I was doing on the economics of bad mating decisions in katydids.

So in that case I was inspired by the research. I started seeing animal eggs everywhere, and that led to searches for photos which, in turn, raised questions for additional research – such as, how many colors do eggs come in?

Archimedes: You said you collected about a thousand photos for this book… how do you organize them into concepts (for example: Gecko snacks, or beetle snacks)

Dawn: I get really big index cards and fold them in half to represent the pages. Then I map out the photos and ideas I want to illustrate. I clip them together with a huge binder clip and carry them around with me. If I find a cool, new photo I can pencil it in and then search for more photos as I go along. My goal, with Animal Snacks, was to show diversity with photos of as many different kinds of animals – and their favorite foods – as I could.

 Check out other science resources at STEM Friday. Review copy provided by publisher.

1 comment:

  1. Great fun to hear about the behind the scenes details of the book. Thank you!

    The cover photograph is awesome.