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Over in the Grasslands: On an African Savanna

From School Library Journal
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.—Alyssa Annico, Youngstown State University, OH --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Kirkus review: 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

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

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)