Bees, Snails, and Peacock Tails

Book review by
Dawn Friedman, Common Sense Media
Bees, Snails, and Peacock Tails Book Poster Image
Explore nature's patterns and shapes with preschoolers.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that that the gorgeous pictures in this book are more than entertaining, they're also educational.

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What's the story?

Betsy Franco uses simple rhymes to entrance kids into noticing the everyday patterns that surround us in the natural world. From a delicate spiderweb to a v-shaped flock of geese flying south for the winter, there are shapes and patterns everywhere -- you just need to know where to look. Each two-page spread offers up the shapes and patterns for one kind of animal. There are other interesting little facts embedded in the poems, too -- like that it's the boy peacock who's so fancy (news that's sure to startle gender-rigid preschoolers) or that starfish "see" with eyespots at the end of their arms.

Is it any good?

Preschoolers like their books to rhyme, and adults like it when the author doesn't have to reach too much to make the rhymes work; everyone's needs are met here. This is a well-written and interesting nonfiction book. Preschoolers love to share little bits of information so kids will appreciate the interesting factoids. They will also like being able to trace the patterns and shapes in the arresting pictures.

The illustrations by Caldecott Honor winner Steve Jenkins are vibrant and detailed. Using a layered paper technique, he creates a world that seems three dimensional and realistic while retaining a simplicity that is extremely appealing. The very littlest readers, who might not have the patience for the text, will still enjoy the book for the pictures and parents can help them find the animals' hexagons, diamonds and "graceful Vs."

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the kinds of patterns they see in their everyday lives. Kids can look at leaves, tree stumps, and bugs -- can they find patterns? Can they find the patterns mentioned in the book? Then kids can come inside and make some butterfly art by painting one half of a cut-out butterfly and then folding the paint to the unpainted side to make symmetrical wings.

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