Monday, July 20, 2015

"animals everywhere" words by Lillian Pluta pictures by Jillian Phillips

My wife and I picked up this book in San Jose, California at "Happy Hollow Park and Zoo"--BTW it is a great place to take kids ages 6 months up to 6 years. Back to the book... It is an eco-friendly book following a hodgepodge of animals in their varying habitats around the world. With a nice rhyme and adorable illustrations, this one is a great animal lovers book to add to your library. At the back of the book, it has two pages of mini-descriptions of animal needs, ideas to preserve nature, and an activity to build a bird house and a diorama.

"animals everywhere" and me, in a rare hat-less moment.

While it is a smaller book, it is a good one to read aloud in a group or share one-on-one with a kid ages 2-8 Here are some ideas for you to steal...

1. Verb Hunt:
One night while reading this book to my preschool-aged son, I discovered it was chock-full of great verbs. Phrases like:

"Up in the Arctic, where the cold winds blow, polar  bears tussle in the soft white snow. Reindeer prance as a walrus floats by, and furry little foxes stay warm and dry."

(Adorable, right?)

So I decided to read it aloud to my high school English students to help them deal with parts of speech (because as high school students they still have trouble with it), but this can be done with kids as young as first or second grade.

After reading the book aloud, they were then asked to jot down as many verbs as they could remember from the text. For instance from the above phrases they could have noted: blow, tussle, and prance, to name a few.

At the end of the book they had long lists, and with those lists we played a Scattergories-esk game. One student read out his list, and the others would raise their hands if they caught the same verb. Verbs that were caught by another listener earned zero points. Those that were caught by only one listener earned one point.

What do they win? They rarely win something tangible; I typically shout out, "Good job! Five life points for you." A few students said they were keeping track of life points... but I digress.

From this I then give them sentences from the book. I have the class circle the verbs, and then I ask them to try changing the verbs around to say something new with the verb choice. We can take the phrase  "Up in the Arctic, where the cold winds blow, polar  bears tussle in the soft white snow" and change it to "Up in the Arctic, where the cold winds sings, polar  bears dance in the soft white snow".  (You'll notice I didn't worry about the rhyme scheme or the meter when I changed my verbs; it is less cumbersome to deal with if you are free to play with the words.)

I then play the same Scattergories-esk game with the class. We see who has repeats, and the same scoring of zero points for a repeat and one point for a unique word apply. Life points are given, and the students squeal with delight... well, maybe they just grin politely.

This activity illuminates the importance of word choice, especially with the ever-important vivid verb. After this lesson I have found vivid verb usage skyrockets.

2. Technical Writing to Avoid the Artsy and Costly Diorama: 
I actually love making dioramas with kids. Kids love them too... mostly. There can be a point, however, where there are too many bank-breaking or dumpster-diving projects. Solution? Have kids imagine they are setting up the perfect zoo for one of the animals in the book. (Ideally, each child will select a different animal.) Have each child research what that animal needs to survive and thrive. Then have the child write a letter to the zoo proposing what the animal needs. Clearly this will need to be based in research. I suggest subscribing to great magazines like Ranger Rick or using websites like these. 

When they finally have their research, have the kids think about their audience. They need to realize they are "sending" these to the owners of a zoo, so their language should reflect that.

One page featuring animals of the rainforest. 
3. "I am" Personification Poem:

After reading the book together, have each child select an animal they enjoy (ideally, each child will select a different animal). Once each child has an animal, have the child brainstorm how she would describe it.

1. Is it big? Big as compared to what?
2. Is it loud? Loud as compared to a chainsaw or a buzzing refrigerator?
3. What type of covering does it have? Fur? Scales? Feathers?
4. What does it eat? Bugs or pizza?
5. To what habitat does it belong?

And so on...

Once the child knows the animal, have her begin to create a personification poem where she gradually reveals the identity of the animal. For instance, a child might write:

I am tall, taller than some of the trees at your house.
I am big, bigger than the car you rode in this morning.
I am loud and quiet.
  I can be as loud a trumpet in a 4th of July Parade!
  But I can be as soft as a fan in a classroom during a test.
I am covered with gray skin, but I also have hair.
I am an eater. I eat lots of food. At the circus they give me peanuts.
I am a resident of Africa and Asia, but you can see me at the zoo.
I am an elephant. 

A fun part of this activity is having kids pair up in teams to do "detective work" to discover which animal their friends have written about.

This makes a good bulletin board for Back to School Night or Open House as each student will have a unique piece of poetry, plus you can add an art project to the writing. Have each student draw a picture of the animal and its habitat and tack it to the wall. Then on top of that drawing, tack the child's poem with tacks only at the top. Visitors can then lift up the poem to see the art work. Nifty, eh?

4. Discussions/Writing Prompts:

Use these prompts to talk about the book with your kids, or you can have them write their responses. Remember, picture books don't need to stop in second grade!

1. If you were to select a habitat in which to reside, which would you pick and why?
2. Which of these habitats do you believe to be the most important? Why?
3. If you were to add an additional page to one of these habitat descriptions, what would it say? (Ask kids to elaborate on one page, such as on the page above: The daddy jaguar tucks his cub in for the night, while crickets start to chirp and sing with delight.)
4. Many of these habitats are far away, while some are in our backyard. Make a list of five things we can do to ensure these habitats are protected for the animals that call them home.
5. Choose one of the animals mentioned in the book. Describe the animal with vivid verbs, specific nouns, and thought-provoking adjectives. You may even wish to write about it in rhyme.

I hope you enjoy "animals everywhere"... And I hope you and your kids enjoy the delightful eco-awareness book!

Happy learning!


  1. I am the author of Animals Everywhere and a former middle school English teacher. Your use of my simple book is brilliant. Thank you!

    1. Thanks! I love your book! I am also a member of the local reading council and would love to have you come to our annual author's dinner next spring. E-mail me at and we can see what we can do to make this happen.