Stunning illustrations and tightly focused text make the new book Frog Song (Guiberson, 2013) an ideal read aloud and independent read for k-5 students. On each two-page layout, Guiberson, the author of many many nonfiction books, describes the characteristics of a particular frog including –
- in varied bold fonts, the frog’s sound (TINKTINKTINKTINK! the male midwife toad of Spain “clangs”),
- how a frog takes care of the eggs (in Ecuador, the Surnam toad carries eggs in the skin on its back),
- the role of moisture in the frog’s life or the moisture in the frog’s habitat (in Borneo, the four-lined tree frog “stirs up a foamy next to keep the eggs moist”)
The main idea of this book is that if the sound of frogs is absent from a habitat, there may be environmental problems. In the author’s note, Guiberson notes that 1/3 of the world’s frogs are “struggling to survive.”
There’s an additional two-page layout at the end of the book with a small picture of each frog featured and more details like the frog’s length.
I was surprised though – that with such a focus on the sound of the frog, Guiberson did not include details about how she researched the sounds of these frogs and determined an onomatopoeia for each – so I emailed her and she responded!
Clearly, Guiberson’s research process can be a model for our students.
- To figure out how to write about the sounds, Guiberson relied on audio recordings of frogs she could not go hear for herself. Some of the links to these recordings are listed at the end of the book under “Frog Facts Online.” So for example, if you want your students to hear the wood frog featured in the book, here’s a link http://allaboutfrogs.org/weird/general/songs.html with an audio clip of the wood frog and several others.
- For accuracy, Guiberson found “three agreeing sources to verify the information.”
- She also found it helpful to know the scientific name of the frog (the Scarlet-sided pobblebonk is Limnodynastes terraereginae) and to search for links with this name for more scientific sources.
- In addition, she looked for how others have spelled and described the sounds of these frogs.
There’s so much potential here for our students’ writing! Frog Song can serve as a mentor –
- for the research process,
- for writing tightly focused research with details that clearly support a central idea,
- for refreshing use of language (word choice) (toads clang, belt out, sing, zap, rattle their songs).
The latter two points are also good purposes for doing some close reading, writing in response to reading, and then thinking about students’ own writing and possible revisions.
And I’m neglecting to get into the beautiful illustrations by Gennady Spirin and how they serve to support the content of the text! Oh, the places we could go!