Thursday, June 26, 2014

Lifetime: The Amazing Numbers in Animal Lives

Lifetime: The Amazing Numbers in Animal Lives
written by Lola M. Schaefer; illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal
2013 (Chronicle Books)
Source: Mebane Public Library

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Lifetime shows how many times a particular animal performs one behavior or grows one feature in a lifetime. 

I've been a sports fan all my life. That means I enjoy numbers and how they relate to performance. Growing up, I knew Babe Ruth hit 714 home runs in his career and cheered with my brother when Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run off Al Dowling. So when I read Lifetime, I was very interested in the numbers and what they could tell me. For example, you can make a lot of inferences with numbers. The first animal featured in this book, the cross spider, spins one egg sac in its lifetime. I think that must be one tough sac if it is going to be the only one that this spider produces. Inside that sac are 300 - 900 spiderlings. An alligator will build 22 nests and lay 550 eggs. I'm going to guess, based on the numbers, that less than 50 percent of the baby alligators survive. If more survived, we would be overrun with alligators. (I found an article at Discover Magazine that said only 10 percent end up growing to 4 feet, which makes them near invincible.) Several other animals, including woodpeckers, rattlesnakes, and dolphins, are featured in this book.

The narrative text in Lifetime is sparse and an easy read for your average second grade reader. I love this because it isn't so dense that young readers get bogged down. There are great opportunities for teaching sounds like /ir/ as in giraffe and birth. For advanced readers, the extensive back matter will satisfy their curiosity. Christopher Silas Neal's mixed media illustrations are fun because he uses the numbers in the pictures. Giraffes have 200 spots so Neal illustrates two sides of a giraffe with 200 spots. Kids will love checking to see if Neal holds to form. Lifetime is a nonfiction book that will get worn quickly because it will be passed around several times between classmates.


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