Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Living Color

Living Color

Steve Jenkins
Nonfiction picture book
For ages 6 to 10
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2007   ISBN: 978-0618708970

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2007, 978-0-618-70897-0

We humans have a lot of color in our lives. Most of the time the colors we choose to wear or have around us don’t have much significance because they are decorative in nature. Occasionally our colors do have significance, like the red, yellow and green lights of a traffic light.  In the animal kingdom, colors are not there just to look pretty. Instead, they are there because they serve very important roles in the lives of animals.

   For us humans the color red often warns us that we need to stop, pay attention, be vigilant, or beware. This is true in the animal kingdom as well. Malaysian Cherry-red centipedes are red because they, like many other animals that are red in color, are poisonous. The stonefish is red for the same reason, and many a diver that has stepped on one of these fish has deeply regretted that he or she did not see that red warning color. Other animals are red because they want other creatures to know that they taste terrible or smell bad. A predator will think twice if the animal it is thinking of eating is red.

   Many humans like the color blue because they find it calming and soothing.  In the animal kingdom many animals are colored blue because they want to make a statement, or they want to attract attention to themselves. Blue for them is the quite the opposite of calming. For example the blue bird of paradise shows off gorgeous blue plumage when it wants to acquire a mate. When blue-tongued skink sticks out its bright blue tongue it wants to scare potential predators away.

   Often, when we see a brightly colored animal outside of its home environment its coloration is very noticeable, but if we see that same animal in its home, its bright colors blend it with its environment beautifully, and we discover that those bright colors are a form of camouflage. Hyacinth macaws are bright blue, and in a zoo they look dazzling and splashy, but in the dappled light of their rainforest home their blue color blends in so well that predators such as hawks and eagles have a hard time seeing them. Similarly the bright orange pygmy seahorse is very noticeable in an aquarium, but in the wild these little animals look like the tropical coral that they live near.

   Readers who have an interest in animals will be fascinated by the information provided in this beautifully presented book. For each animal the author gives us some written information, which is accompanied by a lovely cut paper illustration.

   At the back of the book readers will find further information about the sixty-six animal species featured in the book.