by Laura Gehl; illus. by Gareth Lucas
22 pages; ages 2-4
Abrams Appleseed, 2021
theme: animals, comparison, adaptation
This pangolin wears armor.
This book presents eight odd beasts, each with a particular adaptation. The pangolin wears an armor of scales. Nothing odd in that, right? Except: pangolins are mammals, and mammals have hair, not scales. Other creatures include a glass frog, a long-necked turtle, and a spider with two very sharp – and very long – horns.
What I like about this book: Each spread presents a single odd beast, with one sentence to introduce it. When read aloud, page by page, you realize it’s one long poem to the animals. And this board book has Back Matter! Two spreads present additional information of each animal featured in the book. I don’t often see back matter in board books, so I was kind of excited to find it in this book.
I had a couple questions for author Laura Gehl. Fortunately, she had time to answer them!
Me: How did you come to choose the eight animals you feature?
Laura: Choosing the “odd beasts” to feature was the hardest part of writing this book, because there are so many weird and amazing creatures to choose from. A poop-shooting caterpillar? A fish that looks like it’s wearing lipstick? A bat with a human-size wingspan? Those are just a few of the creatures I had to cut from my list. When narrowing down, I tried to choose creatures that swim, crawl, fly, and jump; creatures that would work well to illustrate; and creatures I could describe in simple rhyming verse.
Me: Did you originally write it as a board book? If so, can you talk about why, and how one structures a board book?
Laura: Yes, I did structure this as a board book originally. There are a number of wonderful picture books about odd creatures, but I thought board book readers would also find creatures beyond the typical pets and farm animals intriguing. Unlike picture books, which are usually 32 pages, sometimes 40 pages, board books do not need to be any specific length. I tend to write my board books as 10 spreads (20 pages), but that’s just personal preference.
Me: Back matter in board books is unusual. Can you talk about the back matter?
Laura: A reader might possibly think that the creatures in this book are too weird to be real. I mean…a frog whose skin is transparent, so that you can see right through to its organs? Having photos in the back matter lets readers see that these are real creatures. The extra information included with each photo will be interesting to parents, older siblings, and caregivers who read the book out loud. They can then choose to share some or all of that info with the board-book-age kiddos in their lives, based on age and interest.
Beyond the Books:
Of all the animals you have seen, whether in a pet store, a zoo, or in the woods, which do you think is the oddest? Draw a picture of it or write about why it is an Odd Beast.
If a wild animal came upon you, how do you imagine it would think of you? Would YOU be the Odd Beast? What would make you weird to other creatures?
Laura has some free ODD BEASTS coloring sheets over at her website. You can download them here.
Laura is a member of #STEAMTeam2021. You can find out more about her at her website.
Today we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review copy provided by the publisher.