Last Sunday amid the quiet (and not so quiet) chatter of children, I could be seen in a local book store sitting on the floor in front of the nonfiction shelves.  The titles were arranged by subject but there was no delineation as to when the book was published.  If I found a volume in which I was not familiar, I would pull it out to examine the information for accuracy, reliability of the author, illustrations and the release date.  The stack next to me on the floor did get a little bit higher.  

Participating in the 2016 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge has me constantly seeking new titles.  One book I discovered recently is A Tower of Giraffes: Animals in Groups (Charlesbridge, September 8, 2015) written and illustrated by Anna Wright.  It's a whimsical exploration of collective nouns guaranteed to impart several new tidbits of wisdom and wonder. 

Animals have varied social lives, family systems, and living situations.  Some animals live together in large groups of thousands.  Others prefer to be alone but like to know that neighbors are nearby, and some animals are very particular about the other animals they spend time with.  

After completing this introduction and a short definition of collective noun, readers travel to and from sixteen different gathered animals.  We first visit geese learning they have two different names, depending on whether they are in flight or on the ground.  Even though koalas do tend to enjoy their own space, a collection of their individual territory boundaries are called colonies.  

The movement made by squirrels is assigned to their group.  Did you know that a herd of elephants is composed of only females?  Social as they are pigs may spend years with the same one every night.  Sheep use a great defensive technique to disorient predators.  

Penguins and flamingos are known to take the "birds of a feather" idiom to extreme measures.  Readers will concur with the title given to a family of mice, a mischief and to a bunch of otters, a romp.  The wisdom symbolism attached to owls might account for their title.  Are monkeys part of the military?  

You will smile at the word supplied for a group of camels and peacocks.  After being a guest with each group, readers will begin to see a pattern.  The animals' collective nouns can be viewed as descriptions of their actions or personalities or an alliterative flight of fancy as in a parcel of penguins.

What Anna Wright offers readers in her narrative paragraphs is not only the term but fascinating pieces of information woven together in several sentences.  These additional facts are of the variety people will tend to remember.  They work together to create a form of mnemonic devices.  Her word choices assist in supplying a cadence.  Here is her first passage.

When geese are together on the ground, they are called a gaggle.  When they fly, often in a V shape, the group is known as a skein.  The bold geese at the back honk to encourage those in front to move quickly.  Honk! Honk!

Charming and unconventional, the illustrations, rendered in ink and watercolor with feathers and fabric collaged on them, will catch any reader's attention at first glance.  The giraffes on the front fashioned from fabric, looking straight at us, seem to be ready to speak as does the one to the left on the back.  Sharing this space is a peacock, a penguin and a mouse, looking lively.  Twelve of the animals are placed in a row stretching from the opening endpapers to those at the back.  The dedication and publishing information are incorporated into these at the beginning and at the end.

For the animals Anna Wright has selected to place them on two pages or on a single page on the heavier matte-finished cream paper.  She changes their size and location within those images to create a spirited display.  All the animals look as if they are ready for some kind of action.  

The fabric and feather choices are marvelous.  Each of the sheep is wearing pieces of sweater, several unraveling.  The peacock feathers are their actual size but appear on smaller birds.  Every page turn is a step into a world of delight.

One of my favorite illustrations is for the prickle of hedgehogs.  On the five that are featured each is wearing a unique piece of material in shades of green and pink with one exception; a pattern in yellow.  They all look quite content with their colorful coats.

A Tower of Giraffes: Animals in Groups written and illustrated by Anna Wright is a refreshing look at the animal kingdom and the words used to describe it.  It's a joy to read individually but even better when shared with others.  Wouldn't it be fun to create some creatures as distinctive as these after doing a bit of research?

To learn more about Anna Wright please visit her website and blog by following the links attached to her name.   A portion of her website highlights this title with numerous interior pages to view.   There is an additional interior page at the publisher's website

Please visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to view the other titles selected by participating blogger this week.  

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