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4.9 out of 5 stars
Over in the Jungle: A Rainforest Rhyme
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
When you discover a phenomenal artist who appears solely under the auspices of a single small publisher, it's like finding hidden treasure. I had that very feeling when I found the work of Jeanette Canyon a year ago. She had just finished work on "City Beats" by S. Kelly Rammell when I ran across the book and was entranced by her format. Working entirely in polymer clay, Ms. Canyon imbues her images with so much light, life, and motion that you'd swear her creations were animated stills rather than original sculptural art. Somehow, I had missed Ms. Canyon's previous collaboration with one Ms. Marianne Berkes when they came out with, "Over In the Ocean: In a Coral Reef," (which was the recipient of the Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Book of the Year, doncha know). As such, "Over In the Jungle: A Rainforest Rhyme," is very much the same deal. Having adapted that old song "Over In the Meadow" to different locales, Berkes takes a tried and true format and simply fills it to overflowing with a vast array of rainforest creatures. The result could easily have been a hashed do-over without any originality. Instead, the adaptation is smooth and seamless, the facts at the back of the book quickly correcting any misunderstandings. There are also tips on telling this book aloud for storytime, and even a step-by-step process of how Canyon creates her art. What could easily have degraded into a rote form emerges instead as lush and detailed as its tropical subject matter. Color me impressed.

The book opens as the mottled canopy of a rainforest, seen from high above, fills the interior cover. On the first two-page spread, two marmosets are swinging gaily across a soft rising sun. "Over in the jungle / Where the trees greet the sun / Lived a mother marmoset / And her marmoset one. / 'Swing,' said the mother. / 'I swing,' said the one. / So they swung and they hung / Where the trees greet the sun." Colors pop out at the viewer as animals tumble over and above one another in a haze of action and rhyme. We see the wide iridescent blue of the morpho butterflies fluttering above their now discarded chrysalises. We see sweet honey bears sipping nectar and howler monkeys, their mouths all agape, as they hoot and holler up a storm. By the end, the book rounds everything out with a huge double page spread of all the animals featured, hidden amongst the different striations of the rainforest, from the forest floor to the tops of the trees or "emergents." Kids are encouraged to locate and count all the creatures they saw before. "When you find all the creatures then this rhyme is done."

It's the little things that sometimes impress me the most. Sure, I could wax rhapsodic over the sheer range of colors and ethereal images that appear in this book. But you know what I really love about Canyon's work? She cares about details. For example, as the book counts up from one to ten, a single leaf on the left-hand page carries the imprint of each number. And sitting on that leaf is a glistening raindrop. You might not notice, in fact it would be easy to miss it, but the number of raindrops increase with every number. They do so with a great deal of subtlety, though, so you wouldn't necessarily notice the first few reads. But really, that's what I love about the book. Multiple readings yield incredible rewards. I'm definitely not alone in cooing over the marbleized orange/red leaf cutter ants as they chew through an enormous leaf. And look! A second reading shows that somehow or other Canyon found a way to throw shadows from behind her subject matter. How do you outline the shadow of an ant from the underside of a leaf made out of clay? Or convey a sense of motion when a poison dark frog throws itself up and backwards towards a sharp pink bromeliad? Talent, possums. Just sheer talent.

A couple extra facts wouldn't have been out of place, of course. I'd have loved a definition of a "bromeliad", though the explanation that a mother poison dart frog will put her babies in one helped a little when coupled with Canyon's pictures. Still, some source notes would not have been out of place. Every once in a while my library's clientele will suddenly start a rainforest project, and any and every book I have on the topic is desired. Had Ms. Berkes put a small tot-friendly Bibliography of a scant two or three books in the back it would have made this book a fabulous storytime AND non-fiction source. Ah well. You go with what you've got.

None of this is to say that the back matter in this book isn't welcome. There's a printed selection of sheet music which allows the more talented amongst us to sing this song in our story programs. An amusing section entitled "How Many Babies Do They Really Have?" also clarifies points like the fact that in spite of the delightful suggestion that sloths can have nine babies at once, this is not actually the case. One wonders why it was put in the book in the first place, but at least the author had the good grace to nip concerns on the factual matter of the text in the bud. A nice portion on "The Rainforest Community" covers the four layers of tropical rainforest and even gives some nice websites for further information (kudos there).

It's a surprising little book, giving far more to the reader than they'd expect to receive. It's clear from the get-go that Ms. Berkes is certainly a former librarian, knowing as she does how important it is to put something this storytime-friendly into publication. Though I've a quibble here or there, this is a strong effort and worth owning. It also happens to make a very nice complement to Graeme Base's The Water Hole. Two thumbs up.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on March 22, 2007
What a fun and glorious time my students have had with this book. We own all the "Over in the Meadow" pattern books and I could not resist this one either. My students never tire of these books and this one was no exception. With each reading, there is a new discovery and my students can never decide which rainforest creature is their favorite. Not only is this book fiction, but the information at the back of the book has provided students with some interesting facts and was an asset in our study of the rainforest. The storybook has been inspirational as a model for our own rendition of this old and favorite poem and song.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 19, 2007
Rhythm, rhyme, nature, and counting mean this book offers something in the content areas of language arts, music, science, and math. But there's more! Author Marianne Berkes made sure her young readers would also experience many movement possibilities. As a children's physical activity specialist (author: A Running Start: How Play, Physical Activity and Free Time Create a Successful Child), I couldn't be more pleased with this inclusion! And if all that isn't reason enough to buy this book, Jeanette Canyon's incredible illustrations will help children fall in love with art.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon March 21, 2008
Having worked professionally with children for many years, I've been privy to countless children's books. For the youngest children, I find routinely that vibrancy of imagery coupled with simplicity of the educational message is the best received.

'Over in the Jungle' is the best of both worlds. Plus it introduces a topic that is and will have more traction for the next generations: world climate/environment.

I could see this becoming a regular staple in young children's reading collections.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Having collected all of Marianne Berkes books this is by far the best! We thought nothing could top her "Ocean" book but...this does! The wording is something the children do readily respond too! Mental pictures take over and the children become very animated in the telling of the story and take on the differnet animal sounds and postures.

This book is a winner for all who take the time to introduce children to their world far removed from the everyday life. You can see their imaginations expanding as the story unfolds! The illustrations and colors by Jeanette Canyon draw the cildren to Marianne Berkes' books, like bees to honey.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 7, 2008
We check out books free at the library and then any favorites from that we buy at Amazon. I worried the large animal names used might be confusing for my 2 year old but nope, she just loved the whole book and now she is learning to better recognize certain animal species because the book while playing on a traditional nursery rhyme that uses general terms like "duck" or "frog" THIS book uses specific names within each species. I enjoyed reading it over and over just as much as my daughter did! The illustrations are very nicely done, ever page is bursting with jungle color!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Over in the Jungle: A Rainforest Rhyne is a delightful picture book. With rhymes children are taught the numbers from one through ten. The illustrations are vibrant and depict ten animals from the American tropical forests. I am impressed with the learning activities at the back of the book which includes: finding the creatures in the rhyme; a song about the creatures; and information on the rainforest structure and community. I give Over in the Jungle my highest recommendation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
REVIEWED BY: Wayne S. Walker, reviewer with Stories for Children Magazine

Did you ever think that you would like to take a trip to a tropical rainforest to see all the exotic animals and strange plants there? Like its predecessor, Over in the Ocean: In a Coral Reef, this book follows the rhyming pattern of the popular nineteenth century song "Over in the Meadow" by Olive A. Wadsworth to depict various jungle animal parents and their babies, and describe the things they do. One marmoset swings. Two morpho butterflies flit. Three parrots squawk. Four leaf cutter ants scurry. Five honey bears scramble. Six boas squeeze. Seven poison dart frogs hop. Eight ocelots pounce. Nine sloths creep. And ten howler monkeys hoot. Again, as author Marianne Berkes notes, "All the rainforest animals behave as they have been portrayed. That's a fact!"

This is another "Sharing Nature With Children Book" from Dawn Publications, which is dedicated to inspiring children with a deeper understanding and appreciation for all life on Earth. The author has spent much of her life with young children as a teacher, children's theater director, and children's librarian and knows that children enjoy brilliantly illustrated books with predictable text. Therefore, the book not only contains factual scientific information but weaves that material into a poetic text that is fun to read and that reinforces counting, too. At the back of the book, there is a section of curriculum components about the rainforest habitat and animal families. Illustrator Jeanette Canyon once more provides striking relief sculptures with polymer clay. Over in the Jungle: A Rainforest Rhyme has deservedly won several awards, including the iParenting Media Award. It was a joy for me to read and review.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 14, 2007
Children's librarian and teacher Marianne Berkes presents Over in the Jungle: A Rainforest Rhyme, a softcover picturebook that teaches young readers the numbers one through ten with an engaging, singsong rhyme about various wild animals of the rainforest. "Over in the jungle / Wearing wings of shiny blue / Lived a morpho butterfly / And her little morphos two. // 'Flit,' said the mother. / 'We flit,' said the two. / So the flitted and they fluttered / Wearing wings of shiny blue." Of particular note are the brilliant color illustrations, created as textured relief sculptures in polymer clay by extraordinarily talented artist Jeanette Canyon. Readers of all ages are sure to enjoy studying the amazing, vividly colorful artworks; the last few pages of Over in the Jungle offer some fun facts about rainforest animals, as well as tips from both the author and the artist about the process used to create the book. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 29, 2007
My five year old son loved Over the Ocean in a Coral Reef so much we kept checking it out of the library. I finally purchased the book and also purchased Over in the Jungle. Both books are beautifully written but especially beautifully illustrated. I especially like the information in the back of the books about the animals depicted in the story. We have read the stories over and over none of us ever tire of reading them, nor looking at the beautiful illustrations.
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