Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Animals Nobody Loves by Seymour Simon

Seymour Simon's takes a close look at twenty of the world's creatures that would make most readers skin crawl in his informational picture book Animals Nobody Loves. The book's cover illustration depicts a large photograph of a spider, dominating the width and almost the length of the page. At the end of the spider's description, Seymour states, "It's a good idea just to watch spiders and not to bother them." This warning comes immediately after the fact about how the black widow's powerful bite that can make people sick, or even kill them. Even though spiders don't normally bit human beings, "they usually trap insects they prey upon--from flies to grasshoppers and crickets--in beautiful silken webs. So we should remember that spiders do us a lot of good by getting rid of insect pests." This is one warning that I even remember as a child growing up. I would never kill a spider that I saw, I would just leave it alone knowing that it would trap a pesky fly or mosquito!

Among other animals, Simon's nonlovable animals include sharks, rattlesnakes, cockroaches, skunks, and pirahnas. The layout of the text usually takes up the first half of the page, while the photograph of the animal is a full-page depiction making it "up close and personal" with the reader. In an interview with Reading Rockets, Simon says that he usually takes the photographs before he begins writing a book. "And these photographs that I choose, I winnow through them-I go through them and choose the images that are most striking, the most arresting to me, and if it interests me, I think it might interest the kid...I want the kids to be drawn into the book, and I want them to read it from beginning to end."

While the animals presented in this book are not common for many readers to think that they are "cute and cuddly" like a pet cat or dog; however, Simon's analysis and facts of these twenty creatures allows the reader to think in a different way about them, while hopefully coming away with an understanding and newfound appreciation for what their purposes are here on Earth. In his introduction, Simon states, "You may never love a rattlesnake, a cockroach, or an octopus - but this book may help you begin to understand and respect them for what they are."

Though Simon includes facts and brief information about these animals, he does not include additional information or sources at the back of the book. However, his words at times may prompt readers to self-research about an animal that interests or puzzles them. At the end of the book, Simon questions the reader: "Do you feel any differently about the animals in this book now that you know more about them? If you do, can you think of the reasons that made you change your mind. Perhaps, you might make your own list of animals that you don't love and think about why each of these animals in on your list."

Before reading this book, I was terrified to even hold it in my hands (the large spider on the front cover looks real enough to crawl right off the page!) In response to Simon's question, I do feel differently about these animals. Though they may look hideous and dangerous, they all serve a purpose and do what they must in order to survive.

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