As a homeschooling mom, I’m always on the lookout for living books that cover science or mathematical concepts. Yes, a textbook can give my kids the information they need to know, but I want them to be drawn into the topic and enjoy it while they’re learning. Steve Jenkins and Robin Page have created just the book to do that in How to Clean a Hippopotamus: A Look at Unusual Animal Partnerships.
If you’ve ever been to the zoo or even if you’ve just read Bill and Pete, you have seen examples of symbiosis, relationships in which the animals involved help each other in some way. Some of these symbiotic relationships are well known, like that of the anemone and the clownfish or the oxpecker and the rhinoceros. These examples are covered in the book along with others you may not have heard of before. Have you heard how coyotes and badgers work together to hunt prairie dogs? Or did you know that the petrel and the tuatara share a nest and help each other? Do you even know what a tuatara is? To be honest, I didn’t either, but I learned about it in How to Clean a Hippopotamus!
This book is geared toward elementary aged students, but unless you are pretty knowledgeable about symbiotic relationships in all kinds of habitats, you’re likely to learn something, no matter how old you are. Many science picture books have an illustration and a paragraph or so of text about the picture, but Jenkins and Page have used a graphic novel format to include many pictures from different perspectives on each page, all accompanied by small pieces of information. This format makes the book more manageable for kids that might have trouble with large chunks of text and I think it makes it more appealing to older kids, too, who might consider most picture books to be too babyish. The grouping of the information also makes this an easy book to use as a resource along with other books or unit studies. Remember how the hermit crab keeps picking up new friends in A House for Hermit Crab? That’s covered in How to Clean a Hippopotamus, so this could be a fun go-along when you use the lapbook from Homeschool Share!
My favorite thing about this book—as with all Steve Jenkins books—is the illustrations. Amazing doesn’t even begin to describe his talent for making these collages. My son and I had the opportunity to hear him speak about the creative process for his books and pictures and though he described the steps he went through, you couldn’t ever follow them with the same results unless you had his unbelievable talent. With just scissors and paper he creates depth and texture and details that draw your eye back to the page again and again to notice something new. These are works of art.
If you’ve already learned about symbiotic relationships, try How to Clean A Hippopotamus as a fun review, or if you’re looking for more living science books, check out Steve Jenkins’s many other books on a wide variety of topics. I know you will enjoy them!