Recommended read aloud for PreK-1st Grade – Lifetime: The Amazing Numbers in Animals Lives – reveals the power of numbers to make us go “oooh” and “aaah.” This book was named an Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K–12: 2014 by the National Science Teachers Association. The author focuses on “how many times one particular animal performs one behavior or grows one feature in a lifetime” (Schaefer, 2013). Love the first page where she explains how she came up with the numbers through research and estimation – while this might not be easy to read aloud to the youngest students, it’s important because Schaefer establishes authority and credibility.
Each two-page spread focuses on one animal and one number. For example – “In one lifetime, this spider will spin 1 papery egg sac” and “In one lifetime, this female red kangaroo will birth 50 joeys.” The one egg sac and the 50 joeys are part of their respective two-page illustrations – students can revel in the difference between 1 and 50, flipping back and forth between pages. (She counts 1, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 100, 200 and then jumps forward inconsistently with larger numbers from there.) Important move – the numbers are written as numerals and stand out in bold print. What I didn’t like was that on some of the spreads, there was a little almost “attached” sentence – like on the spider page, “Fragile! Don’t touch!” and on the kangaroo page, “So many hoppy birthdays!” And there’s not an extra sentence on some of the pages. I couldn’t make heads or tails of how Schaefer decided what to write for those extra sentences. It’s almost a distraction – wandering away from the focus of the book. I’d be tempted to skip those sentences when reading aloud – unless you can figure out what she’s after and make sense of it for the students.
At the end of the book, Schaefer includes extra details about each of the animals featured – specifically naming the animal as “red kangaroo” or “eastern diamondback rattlesnake.” Read these aloud, too! I was disappointed that she didn’t use these names consistently in the main text. So, for example, she names the red kangaroo on the two-page spread that says, “In one lifetime, this female red kangaroo will birth 50 joeys” but she only refers to the eastern diamondback rattlesnake as “rattlesnake” on its two-page spread. The spider is just “spider” and not “cross spider” (as noted in back of book) which actually might lead to some misconception about spiders – because “most” web-building spiders create multiple egg sacs. I hope this wasn’t because she was considering the audience – because little kids can handle specific names of animals like this.
Okay…I had minor disappointments, and I really do recommend reading this aloud to students and leaving it in your classroom library for students to “oooh” and “aaah” over and then engage in counting, counting, counting. It’s beautiful and has so much potential for teaching – introducing ideas, launching units of study and so forth.