Sunday, February 1, 2009

Little Skink's Tail by Janet Halfmann

Little Skink's Tail by Janet Halfmann
Illustrated By: Laurie Allen Klein
Geared Towards: Ages 4-8
Published By: Sylvan Dell
Publication Date: August 2007
ISBN: 978-0-9768823-8-1

I've reviewed several of Sylvan Dell's books, and each time I'm amazed by how exceptional they are. If you're a child, parent, grandparent, or teacher looking for high quality, entertaining, yet highly educational books then look no further than what Sylvan Dell has to offer. I kid you not, this company doesn't fool around. Working with only the highest caliber of authors and illustrators, you can't go wrong with any of the books they publish.

Most recently I was invited by author Janet Halfmann to review her book Little Skink's Tail; which, as it turns out, is a publication of Sylvan Dell. I would have accepted Halfmann's offer no matter what; however, I must admit that when I learned of the publisher it was a deal clincher for me. It's like I said, I have a great respect for this publishing company, and I knew any book coming from them would not disappoint.

And what can I say? I'm in love!!! Little Skink's Tail is, by far, one of the cutest books of all time. By and far, this is a story that inspires imagination all the while teaching a great lesson. When we meet Little Skink she is busy enjoying a breakfast of ants in the bright morning sun. Caught up in the moment, Little Skink is oblivious to the fact that she's become the interest of a big, hungry crow. Caught with no place to go, Little Skink must determine a route of action. But it doesn't take her long to figure out what to do. Created with a built in safety feature, Little Skink quickly distracts her captor by snapping off her bright blue tail and diving for cover. The crow goes after the twitching tail, and Little Skink is able to get herself to safety.

Losing her tail is all fine and dandy, it's both a perk and draw back of being a Skink. She knows it will eventually grow back, yet in the meantime Little Skink begins to miss her beautiful tail. Feeling a bit sad, Little Skink watches the other animals in the woods around her. Then it hits her. What would it be like to have another creature's tail? Little Skink then goes on to imagine how she'd look if she had the tail of a rabbit, porcupine, squirrel, and more. Each looks pretty neat, but none is quite right. She is a Skink after all, and a Skink looks best with a Skink tail. I'm happy to report, though it seems like I'm crossing some forbidden line for sharing the ending, that Little Skink does infact find, at the end of this tale of tails, her very own tail grown back in gleeming color.

It was immediately evident why this title was selected as the 2008 FPA Best Children's Picture Book Winner, 2008 FPA Best Overall Book Winner, and 2009 Learning Magazine's Teachers' Choice Award Winner. With gorgeous watercolor illustrations, the incredibly talented Laurie Allen Klein, captures perfectly the playful and inquisitive story scenes. The story itself reads like a charm, and incorporates both an entertaining story with a good message. Everyone, even Little Skink, enjoys a little daydream wondering what things would be like if they were different in some small way. What I loved about this book was that while Halfmann showed it is okay and fun to use your imagination, at the end of the day you should always be happy with who you are. Just like Little Skink learned, each of us is uniquely created, and each is perfect as we are. You don't need to try to change yourself to be someone or something you're not.

As is the case with all Sylvan Dell titles that I've had the pleasure of reading, this book ends with a great "Creative Minds" section. The first activity is a Footprint Map where the reader is asked to locate the matching footprint for each animal on an illustrated grid. This activity teaches matching skills, number and alphabet skills, directional skills, and also counting skills. The second and last activity is also one of matching, howbeit a different sort. This time readers are shown a picture of each animal tail (featured in the story), and they then must match it to the animal name. On it's own this activity might not sound all too educational, but it is. Readers will find, alongside each animal name, a little blurb describing what each animal uses his tail for- attraction, protection, steering, balance, etc. So, they'll have fun doing the activity, and come away from it having hopefully learned something new.

EDITED TO ADD: Congratulations to Janet Halfmann and Laurie Allen Klein on this book's most recent award, the Mom's Choice Best (of three) Children's Books of 2009 Award. Plus Little Skink's Tail was also recently named the 2009 Gold Recipient: Animal Kingdom category and 2009 Gold Recipient: Educators’ Choice category.

OUR RATING: 5 hearts


morninglight mama said...

I've wanted to check this book out-- we have skinks all over our backyard and front step all spring and summer. (And unfortunately, one found its way into our attic and then down through a fan... not pretty...) So, my kids have that first hand experience with them, and I've heard really good things about the book. Thanks for sharing!

Janet said...

Thanks so much, Rebekah, for your wonderful review of Little Skink's Tail. I also loved reading about all the skinks in morninglightmama's backyard. The illustrator, Laurie Allen Klein, lives in Florida, where skinks also are plentiful. She told me that soon after she got the Little Skink assignment, she found a skink with a blue tail in her garage. So she figured it was fate that she illustrate this book! And I'm so glad she did!

RebekahC said...

Definitely check the book out, morninglight mama. You won't be disappointed!

I don't think you could have had a more perfect match up than you had with Laurie. You can really really feel the story you told through Laurie's illustrations. It was the prefect package!!!


Tasses said...

Just wanted to let you know that I linked to your great review on Reading Rumpus