It's Easy Being Green
You may be aware that flamingos get their intense color from the pink shrimp and other shellfish they eat, and that they will eventually turn white if they don't get enough of their colorful diet. But did you know that the three-toed sloth, pictured at left, is green because its damp, shaggy fur is home to a special kind of algae, which helps it hide in the jungle from hungry eagles and jaguars? Or that the mouth of a baby crow is bright red inside, so that when it opens wide in hunger it quickly gets the attention of the parents, who can then see just where to pop the food they bring back to the nest?
These and other color-related facts are revealed in Steve Jenkins's latest picture book, Living Color (Houghton Mifflin, $17, ages 7 to 10). Jenkins, a Caldecott Honor winner in 2003, is both author and illustrator here. His color-loaded paper-collage illustrations are simple but accurate and will fascinate any child with even a small interest in the natural world. Clear, funny text suggests what each animal's color says about it; brief paragraphs next to the images provide more information. Readers will encounter the red shield bug (lower right), which, when threatened, releases an icky scent. They'll meet the harmless luna moth caterpillar, whose green hue keeps it safe by making it hard to spot as it nibbles away on green plants. Children who like to get all the details—exactly how big or small these creatures are, where they live and what they eat—will appreciate the five-page habitat-and-diet index of animals mentioned in the book, organized by color.
With its succinct, vivid text, Living Color will keep solo readers fully engaged—and it's full of intriguing snippets for parents and younger children to enjoy together.—Kristen Greenaway