Animal Tongues by Dawn Cusick is one of those fun nonfiction books that almost jump off the shelf at you. After all, on the cover is a giraffe sticking its very long tongue out. What child can pass that up?
This fast-paced book is a perfect introduction to animal tongues, a subject most of us have probably not thought a lot about. Cusick starts with the familiar: people tongues, dog tongues and cat tongues. With that basic understanding, she then moves into some wilder beasts.
In addition to clear and colorful photographs, and engrossing text, Cusick throws in some lively activities for kids to do. For example, she gives a quick activity to make a comparison of how long our tongue would be if we were a nectar bat. Fun!
Unfortunately, a few facts might have needed a bit more checking. On page 26, the author says “birds that suck nectar have hollow, straw-like tongues.” Okay, she doesn’t say hummingbirds, but my son immediately said, “That’s a myth about hummingbirds, mom.” I looked it up, and sure enough hummingbirds do not have tongues like straws. See for example, this website about hummingbird anatomy. Maybe she meant some other nectar-feeding birds.
On page 31 we ran into something I knew more about. In this case, she says a house fly has a “tongue like a soda straw.” After years of giving insect mouthpart demonstrations, I know house fly mouthparts are actually more like sponges. It’s too bad she missed this, because having a sponge for a tongue is really cool.
In any case, this is still a highly entertaining book. I think it is a good way to get children interested and inspired to find out more about animals.
If you want to learn more about human tongues and the sense of taste, I put up a few related activities at my Growing With Science blog, plus a video of a flower fly using its tongue to feed on a dandelion flower.
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 36 pages
Publisher: EarlyLight Books, Inc.; 1 edition (August 1, 2009)