Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

A Place to Start a Family: Poems About Creatures That Build

A Place to Start a Family: Poems About Creatures That Build

David L. Harrison
Illustrator:  Giles Laroche 
Nonfiction Poetry Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Charlesbridge, 2018   ISBN: 978-1580897488

We humans like to think that we are the only species that is capable of building a home or shelter from scratch; that we are the only architects on this planet. The truth of the matter is that many animal species are excellent builders. Some of them even fabricate their only building materials, like spiders and paper wasps.

For many animal species the best place to set up house is underground, where there are fewer predators, and where they can be sheltered from the elements. Prairie dogs build whole towns where they raise their babies in a special nursery chamber which they “line with care.” Star-nosed moles spend most of their lives underground. They can barely see, but their sensitive noses help them find food in the moist soil that they like to dig through. They will even tunnel into bogs where they enjoy “crunching fish / and munching frogs.”

Other species favor building their homes above ground. The female king cobra crafts a nest using leaves, which she layers until she has a soft and dry space to lay her eggs. There she lies, wrapped around her eggs for a few weeks, keeping them warm and safe. The king cobra is one of a kind for “No other serpent / can fashion / a nest.”

The stickleback male builds a special nest underwater. Using a glue he makes himself, he sticks together plant material and sand and creates a pile. The fish then swims through the pile again and again until there is a tunnel through it. The stickleback then invites a female to enter his home, and after she lays the eggs and he fertilizes them he chases her off. The stickleback watches over his eggs and babies until the little fish are ready to face the world on their own.

Birds are famous for building nests of all kinds. Perhaps one of the most extraordinary avian builders is the ovenbird. Using clay, mud, sticks, and other materials, ovenbird pairs spend months constructing their dome-shaped home in a tree. When the mud and clay dry the house is hard, and it even has two rooms inside.

In this delightful volume the author offers his readers thirteen poems about thirteen animal species that build structures. Children will learn about builders who live underground, above ground, in the water, and in the air. The beautiful illustrations were constructed using cut paper and painted backgrounds.

At the back of the book the author offers readers further information about the animal species that are mentioned in the book.