Module 7: What Do You Do with a Tail Like This?


Book Summary: This nonfiction book, which is designed to be like an informative picture book, focuses on a different body part of animals on each double page (eyes, nose, tail etc.) and asks what an animal would do with eyes like this/a nose like this/tails like this and so on. The body part is zoomed in on, so it is isn’t clear exactly which animal it belongs to. On the following double page, readers see the whole animal and read about how the animal uses that body part to survive. The end of the book has a description of each animal that appears in the book with more detail about them.

APA Reference of Book: Jenkins, S., & Page, R. (2003). What do you do with a tail like this?. Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin.

Impressions: I have long been a fan of this book and have used it to annually to teach my students about animal adaptations. The paper-collage style illustrations are imaginative, yet accurate physical representations of the animals’ body parts. Of course, most children love discussing animals, so the authors found the perfect way to engage young readers by making them guess what animal the body part belongs to. Students are surprised and tickled to find out that animals’ bodies do amazing things, like the lizard that shoots blood out of its eyes. The text is the perfect blend of informative and entertaining, and it does not rely on heavy text to teach the material. This book is the beginning of my 4th grade unit on adaptations and every single year, every single student is totally hooked by it.

Professional Review:  Arnold, T. (2003). What do you do with a tail like this? The Booklist, 99(12), 1068.

Here’s another exceptional cut-paper science book from Jenkins, this time put together with a partner, and like previous books, it’s a stunner. An opening page, clearly explaining how to use the book, is followed by a double-page spread picturing the mouths of several different animals, accompanied by the question, “What do you do with a mouth like this?” The next spread shows each animal in full, explaining in a few simple words how the part functions. Tail, ears, nose, and eyes are covered in the same manner. A picture glossary at the back shows each animal again, postage-stamp size, with an informative note elaborating on the creature’s special adaptation. The notes also neatly answer questions that might arise during a reading (Why do horned lizards squirt blood out their eyes?) and add to the interactive aspect of the book. A variety of animals is represented–some (elephant, hippo, chimp) will be comfortably familiar; others (four-eyed fish, blue-footed booby) are of interest because of their strangeness. Jenkins’ handsome paper-cut collages are both lovely and anatomically informative, and their white background helps emphasize the particular feature, be it the bush baby’s lustrous, liquid-brown eyes or the skunk’s fuzzy tail. This is a striking, thoughtfully created book with intriguing facts made more memorable through dynamic art.

Library Uses: Outside the gen ed science classroom and in the library this would be a wonderful book to read at the start of a STEM Makerspace activity on robotics. The librarian could lead a book discussion about the material and how each animal’s body is perfectly adapted to help it survive in its environment. Then, students could plan building a robot thinking about what its job is, what environment it needs to be successful in, and what adaptations to its design it will need to do its job most effectively.