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Why Dont Fish Drown?

Why Don't Fish Drown?

Published: 14 Sep 2017

Hardback, 96 pages

Recommended for age 7+ and 9+

By Anna Claybourne

Published by Thames & Hudson Ltd

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What's the point of a porcupine? Why can't my dog talk to me? Could my cat be a cannibal? Why does a shark need such big teeth? This book provides an engaging way for young people to discover more about animals by asking and answering questions for themselves. The book is structured around twenty-two questions, each one tackled over two spreads. The first spread explores the question and answer, supported by a detailed illustration, photograph or diagram.

The second spread asks further questions on a similar theme to help build an understanding of how some animals share characteristics while others may adapt in different ways to survive in the same environment. Fresh and informal without being flippant, this is a swift introduction to natural history that will enable children to feel confident asking and investigating the questions that interest them most.

Reviewed by Jo Bowers

Why Don’t Fish Drown? stands out for me as each title page is a question. I do love a question, and particularly a question that can generate a lot of good discussions. The questions are creative, quirky, varied, and the kinds of questions you can imagine children asking about the animal kingdom. They are also the kinds of questions that you could try and answer first and have a bit of fun with before delving into the book and finding out the answer, such as:

Do animals need maps?

Can I make friends with a snake?

What does woof mean?

Who decided to milk cows?

The chapter doesn’t just answer the question of each chapter either. The other great thing about this book is that each question leads to other more questions. For example, the chapter entitled, ‘Why don’t animals brush their teeth?’ leads on to include lots of different facts linked to animal hygiene, such as explaining sweating and why monkeys and apes groom each other and help each other get rid of fleas. In case you didn’t know, it’s a way of bonding and showing they care. It’s a book that comes across as funny and light-hearted while at the same time sharing sophisticated facts and detail about the natural world.

Not only are the questions and facts inventive, but so too is the layout. One aspect that I liked is that on some pages at the end of each chapter there’s a further question that links you to another chapter. For example, the chapter, ‘Why do sharks have such sharp teeth?’ asks another question about teeth at the end: ‘Why don’t animals brush their teeth?’ with the page number to take you to the answers. I like that it entices you to skip ahead or flick back rather than turning page by page. Another creative layout is how photographs and illustrations sit alongside famous paintings and drawings of animals with the font used throughout is in a handwriting style to give sketchbook feel to the book, which will encourage teachers and children to create their own.

Why Don’t Fish Drown?  is one to revisit many times because there is just so much fascinating and ‘ooh, I never knew that’ information with 22 question titled chapters and over 90 pages long. So it’s one to dip into and read over and over again.

Jo Bowers is a Principal Lecturer in Primary Education (Literacy) at Cardiff Metropolitan University. She joined the university ten years ago and prior to that was a classroom teacher and English leader in a primary school for nineteen years. Jo has been editor of, and currently sits on the Editorial Board of English 4-11 for the English Association and the UKLA Publications Committee. Jo runs an Open University Reading for Pleasure Teacher Group for teachers in Cardiff and sits on various shortlisting and selection panels for children's book awards, currently the English Association Picture Book Award and the Books Council of Wales Tir na n-Og Award. Jo is a Wales representative for UKLA, reviews books for Just Imagine and writes for English 4-11. She is passionate about children's literature and is happiest when she is reading and surrounded by books.