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May 15, 2018 BOOKLIST
Find more Classroom Connections
Get kids excited about the life cycle with this wide-ranging collection of books about food chains.
A squirrel burying an acorn in the ground to eat later is more than a signal that fall has arrived. The squirrel’s acorn meal is just one link in the forest food chain. But the squirrel becomes prey when the predator owl scoops up the squirrel for its next meal. The informational, picture, and even poetry books in this annotated bibliography help children understand that food chains are not simply about who eats whom but about the interdependence of species. From realistic and factual to eye-catching and quirky, these books cover key food-chain terms. More important, they reveal how the health of a food chain determines the health of an ecosystem.
At the Marsh in the Meadow. By Jeanie Mebane. Illus. by Gerald Guerlais. 2016. Sleeping Bear, $17.99 (9781585369584). K–Gr. 3.
Using the cumulative style of “This Is the House That Jack Built,” rhythmic text and digitally enhanced illustrations depict a freshwater-marsh food chain, from the mucky mud and reeds to mayflies nibbling algae to the eagle swooping down to catch a fish. Colored font emphasizes the food-chain progression, while endnotes provide information about marshes and their food chains.
Butternut Hollow Pond. By Brian Heinz. Illus. by Bob Marstall. 2000. Lerner/ Millbrook, $7.99 (9780822559931). Gr. 2–4.
“Everyone is hungry at Butternut Hollow Pond.” Five vignettes, illustrated in realistic and detailed paintings, give eloquent descriptions of food webs at various times of day. For instance, at daybreak, mosquitoes rise above the pond only to be snatched by dragonflies, which are gulped by tree swallows; at night, crayfish searching for night crawlers are grabbed by raccoons.
Coyote Moon. By Maria Gianferrari. Illus. by Bagram Ibatoulline. 2016. Roaring Brook, $17.99 (9781626720411). K–Gr. 2.
Large, dramatic illustrations rendered in a dark palette are fitting for a coyote mother’s evening hunt to catch a meal for her pups. Several missed attempts show off the coyote’s predator skills and her prey’s survival skills—until coyote spies an unsuspecting wild turkey. The poetic text highlights how some animals are both predators and prey, as the coyote’s pups make easy prey for hawks.
Everything Predators. By Blake Hoena and Shivani Bhalla. 2016. National Geographic, $12.99 (9781426325342). Gr. 5–7.
On magazine-like pages, this title in the National Geographic Kids Everything series covers carnivores and omnivores in water, on land, and in the sky. Through boxed text, beautiful and abundant photos, and playful quizzes, the book groups information by such categories as habitat and hunting tactics, emphasizing predators’ role in food chains and a healthy ecosystem. See also Predators (2015), by Toby Reynolds and Paul Calver.
Explore Predators and Prey! With 25 Great Projects. By Cindy Blobaum. Illus. by Matt Aucoin. 2016. Nomad, $19.95 (9781619304567). Gr. 4–7.
Part of the Explore series, this title focuses on predators and their prey, encompassing everything from mammals to insects to plants. Following an introduction to the topic and scientific practices, subsequent chapters discuss various ways predators hunt and prey survive, such as venom and camouflage, and touch on ecological issues. Interspersed activities reinforce key concepts.
Horseshoe Crabs and Shorebirds: The Story of a Food Web. By Victoria Crenson. Illus. by Annie Cannon. 2003. Marshall Cavendish, $9.99 (9780761455523).Gr. 2–4.
With the help of Cannon’s beautiful, realistic watercolors, Crenson highlights an annual event in Delaware Bay that brings food chains together into a food web. After hundreds of thousands of horseshoe crabs come ashore to lay billions of eggs, migratory shorebirds as well as land and marine animals feast on this food source. Luckily, enough eggs do survive to maintain the food webs!
Just One Bite. By Lola M. Schaefer. Illus. by Geoff Warning. 2010. Chronicle, $17.99 (9780811864732). PreS–Gr. 2.
Starting with a worm eating a speck of dirt, this oversize book, illustrated with mixed-media artwork, depicts 11 progressively larger animals and their life-size bites, including an octopus eating a crab and a Komodo dragon eating a snake. A fold-out shows a sperm whale’s single bite—an entire giant squid! Finally, microorganisms in the soil eat decomposing animals, completing food chains. See also Time to Eat (2011), by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page.
Ocean. By Sean Callery. 2011. Kingfisher, $12.99 (9780753465776). Gr. 2–4.
This entry in the Life Cycles series introduces oceans through the life cycles of 11 marine animals. They, in turn, make up three different food chains in three different oceans (Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic). For example, the Atlantic Ocean focuses on the box jellyfish, sea turtle, and killer whale. Filled with colorful photos, the book ends with a double-page diagram of a food web.
Ocean Sunlight: How Tiny Plants Feed the Seas. By Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm. Illus. by Molly Bang. 2012. Scholastic/Blue Sky, $18.99 (9780545273220). K–Gr. 3.
Richly illustrated and narrated by the sun, this informational picture book conveys how the light from the sun’s energy supports life on Earth. It concentrates on the ocean’s microscopic phytoplankton, describing how these tiny green plants supply half the planet’s oxygen and form an essential part of the sea’s food chains. Appended notes provide more detailed facts about each section.
Pond Circle. By Betsy Franco. Illus. by Stefano Vitale. 2009. Simon & Schuster/Margaret K. McElderry, $16.99 (9781416940210). PreS–Gr. 1.
Textured oil paintings on wood illustrate this rhythmic cumulative tale that starts with the deep, still water that fills the pond at Anna’s house. In this pond grows jade-green algae, which is eaten by a mayfly nymph, which is eaten by a diving beetle, and so on until Anna hears a coyote stalking a raccoon. Concluding “Facts to Pond-er” give more information on each creature in this food chain.
Rain Forest Food Chains. By Rebecca Pettiford. 2016. Jump!/Pogo, $17.95 (9781620313046). Gr. 1–3.
Accompanied by high-quality photos, this title in the Who Eats What? series introduces tropical rain forests and their abundant animal life, and it continues with an overview of a food chain, including producers, consumers, predators, and decomposers. It depicts food chains in three ways: traditional text and photos, an infographic, and a step-by-step chart that integrates text and images. The series also comprises Desert Food Chains (2016), Prairie Food Chains (2016), Wetland Food Chains (2016) Coral Reef Food Chains (2017), and Mountain Food Chains (2017).
River Food Chains. By Rachel Lynette. 2010. Heinemann, $32 (9781432938611). Gr. 3–5.
This entry in the Protecting Food Chains series opens with an explanation of food chains and how they create a larger food web and the importance of protecting the habitat and its wildlife. Subsequent chapters discuss producers, primary and secondary consumers, decomposers, the world’s rivers, and human impact. A mix of photos, diagrams, maps, and other visuals enhances the text.
Run for Your Life! Predators and Prey on the African Savanna. By Lola M. Schaefer. Illus. by Paul Meisel. 2016. Holiday, $16.95 (9780823435555). K–Gr. 2.
As “leopards spring and impalas bound,” it’s eat or be eaten on the African savanna. Watercolor-and-acrylic paintings combine with simple sentences packed with action verbs to depict a variety of chasing predators and their fleeing prey. Endnotes explain adaptations both have acquired and list some of their impressive sprint speeds, including the martial eagle’s 100 mph diving speed.
Sea Creatures. By Seymour Simon. June 2018. Harper, $17.99 (9780062289216). Gr. 3–6.
In his tried-and-true format, the photo-essay, Simon highlights sea creatures, from single-celled diatoms and tiny animal zooplankton to dolphins, sea turtles, and whales. Focusing on the sea as a giant food web, he looks at myriad food chains. The author also describes how animals use senses as well as adaptations, such as camouflage and symbiosis, to catch prey and avoid predators.
Sea Otter Heroes: The Predators That Saved an Ecosystem. By Patricia Newman. 2017. Lerner/Millbrook, $31.99 (9781512426311). Gr. 5–8.
This ecomystery, complemented by photos, charts, and other visuals, follows marine biologist Brent Hughes as he studies the healthy seagrass that grows in California’s Elkhorn Slough. His research reveals that the presence of sea otters, the local apex predator, allowed the slough to flourish. The author discusses how both the top and bottom of a food chain are important to ecosystems.
Secrets of the Garden: Food Chains and the Food Web in Our Backyard. By Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld. Illus. by Priscilla Lamont. 2012. Random, $16.99 (9780517709900). K–Gr. 2.
Cheery watercolors illustrate this look at a family’s preparation and harvest of their garden. As the young daughter narrates her observations of the process, two chickens give more detailed information about various food chains in the garden and how they form a food web. These lively chickens highlight plants as the start of food chains as well as decomposers, herbivores, and carnivores.
Trout Are Made of Trees. By April Pulley Sayre. Illus. by Kate Endle. 2008. Charlesbridge, $15.95 (9781580891370). K–Gr. 2.
Although the title seems impossible, lyrical text and mixed-media illustrations in earthy tones show how leaves fall into streams and become soggy on the bottom, where they are eaten by bacteria and become a home for algae. A food chain continues with flies and small predators until they are gobbled by trout. The book ends with information on the trout life cycle and environment.
Vulture View. By April Pulley Sayre. Illus. by Steve Jenkins. 2007. Holt, $16.95 (9781250062673). K–Gr. 2.
Boldly colored cut-paper collages combine with short, lyrical, rhyming text to describe turkey vultures and their role as scavengers in the food chain. As the turkey vultures catch a ride on warm thermal air, they smell and search for dead carcasses. “They land and dine. Rotten is fine.” A concluding section offers more info on these unique birds that make up “nature’s cleanup crew.”
Who Eats What? Food Chains and Food Webs. By Patricia Lauber. Illus. by Holly Keller. 1995. Harper, $6.99 (9780062382115). K–Gr. 3.
Part of the venerable Let’s Read and Find Out Science series, this informational picture book was one of the first to introduce food chains and food webs. It remains a perennial favorite with its examples from land and sea and simple explanations of food chains as a flow of energy and the impact of humans on food chains. Child-friendly drawings add to the simplicity and thoroughness.
The Wolves Return. By Celia Godkin. Illus. by the author. 2017. Pajama, $17.95 (9781772780116). K–Gr. 3.
From 1995 to 1996, 23 wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park. Beautifully illustrated, this book shows the lingering effects and the impact that animals at the top of the food chain have on the environment. For instance, wolves prey on weak elk, keeping the herd healthy, and with fewer elk, bison herds increase. See also Jean Craighead George’s The Wolves Are Back (2008).
Dory Story. By Jerry Pallotta. Illus. by David Biedrzycki. 2000. Charlesbridge, $15.95 (9780881060751). K–Gr. 2.
Young Danny rows his dory, a small boat, farther and farther away from shore. As the water gets deeper and deeper, he observes a food chain, from plankton and shrimp to tuna and killer whales. When a humpback whale arrives, Danny realizes that he’s witnessing a food web. Sleek acrylic paintings illustrate his harrowing tale, which readers discover is actually Danny’s bathtub imagination.
Porcupine’s Picnic: Who Eats What? By Betsy R. Rosenthal. Illus. by Giusi Capizzi. 2017. Lerner/Millbrook, $19.99 (9781467795197). K–Gr. 2.
Porcupine found the perfect spot. When Koala joins him, Porcupine offers some of his clover, but Koala declines, eating eucalyptus leaves instead. Gradually, more animals arrive and enjoy their favorite foods. The picnic comes to a halt when Tiger gazes hungrily at the attendees. An author’s note explains how animals are divided into herbivores, omnivores, and carnivores.
Swamp Chomp. By Lola M. Schaefer. Illus. by Paul Meisel. 2014. Holiday, $16.95 (9780823424078). PreS–Gr. 2.
With simple sentences and plenty of action verbs, Schaefer sets the scene in a cypress swamp with animals at work. Soon movement puts a food chain into motion: “Fish jump. Swallow.” “Turtles dive. Snap.” “Alligators CHOMP!” Brightly colored mixed-media illustrations showcase the events. An endnote, complete with a visual of the represented animals, explains food chains.
Leaf Litter Critters. By Leslie Bulion. Illus. by Robert Meganck. 2018. Peachtree, $14.95 (9781561459506). Gr. 3–7.
In 19 zany poems, including rhyme, free verse, sonnet, tanka, and clerihew, Bulion introduces a variety of the brown food web’s decomposers that live in the leaf litter layer, also called the duff, and how they turn dead organic matter into nutrients for plants. In addition to cartoonlike illustrations, “Science Notes” accompany each poem, providing more info on each decomposer’s job.
What’s for Dinner? Quirky, Squirmy Poems from the Animal World. By Katherine B. Hauth. Illus. by David Clark. 2011. Charlesbridge, $16.95 (9781570914713). Gr. 2–5.
Brown bats scoop insects, hawks snatch snakes, and many other animals hunt for a meal in this collection of 29 poems, filled with irreverent humor and accented with cartoon artwork. A variety of poetry formats make up these food-chain poems, which introduce such related terms as carnivores, herbivores, omnivores, scavengers, and parasites. Several fact pages conclude the book.
Further Reading: Food-Chain Fiction
Below, find a list of fictional picture books with stories that highlight lessons about food chains.
Barnacle Is Bored. By Jonathan Fenske. Illus. by the author. 2016. Scholastic, $14.99 (9780545865043). PreS–K.
A bored barnacle imagines a more mobile fish has more fun until an eel appears.
Frog and Fly: Six Slurpy Stories. By Jeff Mack. Illus. by the author. 2012. Philomel, $12.99 (9780399256172). PreS–Gr. 1.
In six short stories, a frog tries various ways to catch a fly.
A Hungry Lion; or, A Dwindling Assortment of Animals. By Lucy Ruth Cummins. Illus. by the author. 2016. Atheneum, $16.99 (9781481448895). K–Gr. 3.
A hungry lion is not the only one in for a surprise when his animal friends throw him a birthday party.
I Want My Hat Back. By Jon Klassen. Illus. by the author. 2011. Candlewick, $15.99 (9780763655983). K–Gr. 2.
After a rabbit steals his hat, a bear knows exactly how to get it back.
I Won’t Eat That. By Christopher Silas Neal. Illus. by the author. 2017. Candlewick, $15.99 (9780763679095). PreS–Gr. 1.
Hungry, picky Cat asks a variety of animals what they eat, hoping to find something yummy. Mouse may have—or be—the answer.
Sonya’s Chickens. By Phoebe Wahl. Illus. by the author. 2015. Tundra, $19.99 (9781770497894). PreS–Gr. 3.
Young Sonya learns the interconnectedness of animals after a fox raids her chicken coop.
There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Trout! By Teri Sloat. Illus. by Reynold Ruffins. 1998. Holt, $8.73 (9780805069006). PreS–Gr. 1.
In the same cumulative format as “This Is the House That Jack Built,” an old lady in the Pacific Northwest eats progressively larger animals.
The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse. By Mac Barnett. Illus. by Jon Klassen. 2017. Candlewick, $17.99 (9780763677541). PreS–Gr. 2.
A duck and a mouse make the most of their new lives after ending up in a wolf’s belly.
Angela Leeper is the Director of the Curriculum Materials Center at the University of Richmond (VA).
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