As some of you may already know, I studied ants in graduate school and I still find them fascinating. Therefore, I was thrilled when I received a copy of Little Black Ant on Park Street by Janet Halfmann and illustrated by Kathleen Rietz, the newest installment in the Smithsonian’s Backyard series published by Soundprint. Our family already had several titles from the series that we had enjoyed and we were looking forward to seeing one on ants.
We were not disappointed. As you would expect with a book labeled with the venerable Smithsonian name, it is a quality nonfiction picture book. As with the other books in this series, it also has a fictional flavor. What do I mean by fictional flavor? The author has created a main character, the little black ant, who experiences rising levels of conflict and finally resolution. Overlaying this rich story is amazingly accurate and up-to-date information about the biology of ants.
The name “little black ant” may sound generic, but it is an actual common name of a species of ant. The choice of this species is interesting because they aren’t the usual fare. The ants are tiny, occasionally considered to be pests, and they don’t have the typical ant lifestyle. For example, the colonies of little black ants have multiple queens, rather than a single queen as many ant colonies do. Tiny might mean they are less noticeable to children in real life, but on the other hand, you have to root for these feisty little ants when a big carpenter ant comes to steal their food.
Janet Halfmann is an experienced writer of children’s books and this is her ninth book with Soundprints. She has done a superb job translating technical jargon into age-appropriate language without losing meaning. I can’t emphasize enough what a wonderful job she did of this difficult task.
The illustrator, Kathleen Rietz, created big, vibrant scenes to tell the story at another level. The large illustrations are perfectly scaled for holding the book up and reading to a group. Everyone will be able to see the action. In the back is a list of “Points of interest” in the book that identify the elements in the illustrations, such as the type of flower shown.
We read the softcover version, but the book comes in a wide variety of options. Both the hardcover and the softcover are available, with or without read-along CD’s. The book also comes in a “microbook” format, with or without a plush toy ant. We have several of the microbooks. They are 5 7/8 inches by 4 3/4 inches, a size which definitely attracts youngsters.
Little Black Ant on Park Street is a marvelous little book, sure to inspire children to learn more about ants and the world around them. With so many options, I’m sure you can find a version that fits your needs.
For related activities, try making marshmallow ants and guarding an ant nest at my Growing With Science blog. Here’s more about the biology of the little black ant.
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Soundprint (December 1, 2009)
This book was supplied by the publisher.
Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. For more information, stop by Picture Book of the Day. This week’s post is at Wild About Nature.