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One of Jill Dubin's sketches

Stetson University Children's Literature Conference, Sept 2016

Florida Reading Conference, 2016

FAME Conferece October 2016

The real thing!

Over in the Grasslands: On an African Savanna

Reviews and Awards:
2017 Next Generation Indie Book Award (Winner)
2016 Mom’s Choice Award (Gold)
2016 Florida Book Festival

This rhyming, counting, singing, hide and seek take on the classic children’s song “Over in the Meadow” plays with facts and fiction through text and colorful paper collages. A variety of animals from Zebras to Chimpanzees to Elephants, Hornbills, and more are depicted with their young on lush colorful backgrounds. Readers learn at the end of the book that the number of babies depicted with their animal Moms is generally inaccurate but included to create a rhyming, counting story. Each page also has a “surprise” hidden animal, making it a book children can return to again and again. The hidden animals are described in an end page, and there is an interesting “Life on the African Savanna” section. Each of the animals of the counting story is featured in a detailed paragraph in an “About the Animals” page. Teachers, parents and caregivers will find the “Tips from the Author” section highly worthwhile, with suggestions for extended activities and discussions including writing, counting, music, art, and research activities. Illustrator Jill Dubin provides a very interesting and informative page with details on her cut paper collage technique and her inspiration. A song sheet with lyrics entitled “Over in the Grasslands” rounds out this highly enriching counting book.

— Debra Lampert-Rudman, Children’s Literature

Stunning illustrations make this African twist of a familiar tune “Over in the Meadow” an excellent addition to story time or a classroom unit. The rhymes flow smoothly and are rich in new vocabulary such as agile, stalk, slurp, shrill, and cunning. Useful author tips include the early literacy practices of read, sing, talk, write, and play.

— Terry Ehle, Youth Services Coordinator Lester Public Library, Two Rivers, WI (July 2016)

PreS-Gr 2—Berkes has written a number of books in which children learn about different biomes and their inhabitants, all to the tune of the well-known counting song “Over in the Meadow.” This entry explores the African savanna and the animals that call the grasslands home. The verses are cumulative, counting different types of animals, from one to 10. Each verse focuses on an animal common to the area, such as the hippo, giraffe, or meerkat. Parents are shown teaching their offspring valuable survival skills—for instance, the mother lion instructs her cubs to “stalk.” Dubin’s lovely paper collage illustrations in gentle earth tones add warmth and visual interest. Each spread highlights the named animal, but there is also an additional “hidden animal” subtly placed within the illustration. For example, the jackal’s page contains a little tortoise concealed in the grass. A map of Africa offers the opportunity to review the creatures mentioned. Rich back matter contains facts on the different animals, music notation for the song, and tips from the author and illustrator. VERDICT This versatile picture book is great for learning about the African grassland environment while practicing counting skills

— School Library Journal, Alyssa Annico, Youngstown State University, OH

Berkes and Dubin tackle another habitat in their series of variations on “Over in the Meadow,” this time visiting the African savanna. As in others in the series, each turn of the page/​verse of the song introduces a new animal parent and an ever increasing number of babies as the family does something natural within its habitat: the zebras gallop, the giraffes slurp acacia leaves, the elephants squirt water, and the hippos graze. The mother lion teaches her five cubs to stalk, the babies hunkered down against the ground behind a screen of grass, though the prey is neither mentioned nor shown. The family group of chimpanzees swing in the trees “over in the grasslands,” which may be very confusing to young children. The backmatter explains that while most live in the rain forest, some have adapted to living in the savanna. Other animals include hornbills, aardvarks, meerkats, and jackals. All the animals are pictured on a map of the African continent in the backmatter, which also includes a paragraph of information about each, more about the savanna habitat, blurbs about the hidden animal in each spread, the requisite “Fact or Fiction” paragraph, notes from the author and illustrator, and the song lyrics and music. Some brilliant and unusual color choices, along with marvelously textured and patterned papers, make the cut-paper collage illustrations pop. One wonders what habitats are left for Berkes to tackle; here’s hoping there’s a least one more.

—Kirkus Reviews (7.2.16), 15TH Edition

Marianne Berkes has two more fun sing-along-while-you-read books. One features mother and baby animals found on the African Savanna: zebras, giraffes, hippopotamuses, lions, chimps, apes… and my favorite, meerkats. The other features familiar barnyard animals: goats, cats, cows, horses, ducks and even owls. As in her other books, the text introduces the less familiar baby names – “kid” for goat, “poult” for turkey – and is structured as a counting book. There’s also lots of action as the mothers and their babies gallop, swing, strut, stalk, yip, neigh… all things that the kids listening to the book will want to act out on their own.

What I love about these books is that at the end there’s the music so you can sing along with the story … which, if you grew up singing “Over in the meadow” you might do automatically.

There’s also lots of “beyond the book” activities at the back of the book, including more information about each featured animal. Back matter in Over in the Grasslands includes a map of Africa showing where the animals live, a key to “hidden” animals (they show up in the book but you really have to take a second or third look to find them!), and some awesome tips from the illustrator, Jill Dubin, that might inspire you to try your own cut-paper art. More activities here. Activities in Over on the Farm focus on math, science, language arts, music, movement, and art. Did you know you can grow a plant from the top of a carrot? There’s also a section about food “from farm to table” with activities for making butter and “honey corn”.

— Sue Heavenrich, Sally’s Bookshelf Blog (Dec 2016)

This is not just another book for children. Its scientific accuracy, its subtle focus on vocabulary, and the vast possibilities for creative exploration it opens up, together make it a truly unique asset for children, parents and teachers alike!

— Douwe vanderZee, zoologist, Montessori play consultant and 30-year professional guide and former CEO of the Field Guides Association of Southern Africa (July 2016)