Friday, February 7, 2014

What if You had Animal Hair?

What if You Had Animal Hair?
By Sandra Markle; illus. by Howard McWilliam
32 pages; ages 6-8
Scholastic, 2014

"What if one day when you woke up, the hair on your head wasn't yours? What if, overnight, a wild animal's hair grew in, instead?"

Themes: animal adaptations; nonfiction

If your hair were polar bear hair, the top hairs would be hollow and clear. They would reflect the light, just like snow does. And, writes, Sandra Markle, you wouldn't need to wear a hat when you go outside to play. Through the pages of this book, Markle explores the diversity of animal hair, from long shaggy musk-ox hair to scaly pangolin hair. Howard McWilliam's clever illustrations show kids sporting various types of hair - and hair styles. In the end, we don't have to worry. Because even when the hair on our head gets "wild" it's still "people hair". And, like the animal hair in the book, our hair has a job to do.

I caught up with Sandra a couple weeks ago and she was delighted to answer a couple of questions.

Archimedes: Did a "bad hair day" inspire you to write this book?

Sandra: Not hair! Teeth! So many kids responded to my previous book, What if you had Animal Teeth, by sending me photos of them wearing a mask with animal teeth. They loved pretending that they had wild teeth! So I started wondering what else would give that kind of playful response. I also think about the children who will read my books, and what sorts of things appeal to them.

Archimedes: What sort of research did you do for this book?

Sandra: I always start with thinking about what animals I want in a book - especially beyond those usually found in children's books. Then I start talking to experts - sometimes as many as 30 for a book. I want to make sure I have all my facts right, and I'm also looking for new information, or something uncommon  - a fun fact that will make this book different. Underlying it all is the question: what does an animal need to thrive in its environment?

Archimedes: Why did you include the Pangolin?

Sandra: According to scientists, those things that look like scales are actually hairs. They start small, grow longer, get thicker, and replace other flat scale-like hairs that fall out.

Beyond the Book

What would you look like with animal hair? Create a mask or self portrait that shows your head topped by the hair of a different animal. Will you be wild and woolly? Scaley? Will your hair change color with the seasons?

How strong is your hair? Some cultures used human hair to make ropes and twine. But how strong is human hair? Sandra gives directions for how to test hair strength over at her blog. You'll also learn some pretty hairy history. 
This post is part of STEM Friday round-up. It's also part of PPBF (perfect picture book Friday), an event in which bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books
On Monday we're over at the Nonfiction Monday blog. You'll find lots of nonfiction resources there. Review copy provided by publisher.


  1. Oh Wow! I HAVE animal hair, but it would be fun to think of having polar bear hair, or that pangolin hair. Pretty crazy! Thanks for this one. I'll be looking for it!

  2. I thought ANIMAL TEETH was brilliant. I can't wait to get my hands on this title!

  3. What a brilliant hook to draw kids into this topic. I know I would learn a lot from this book.

  4. That cover is hysterical too!

  5. What a fun book, Sue! And to think you can learn such fascinating facts from it, too. I appreciate your interview as well, since I am moving down the non-fiction PB road as well. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Letting the readers use themselves as points of reference really brings them into the book. Pangolins are cool!

  7. This is great. I didn't know of either of Sandra's books, but I will definitely be checking them out. Thanks!