Thursday, October 17, 2013

Carnivores

Title: Carnivores 
Author: Aaron Reynolds  
Illustrator: Dan Santat 
Publisher: Chronicle Books 
Publication Date: August 2013 
Genre/Format: Fiction/Picture Book 
GoodReads SummaryThe lion is king of the jungle!
The great white shark is sovereign of the seas!
The timber wolf is emperor of the forests!


But . . . it's lonely at the top of the food chain. It's difficult to fit in when plant eaters can be so cruel—just because you ate a relative of theirs that one time! What's a carnivore to do? Aaron Reynolds's roaringly funny text is perfectly paired with Dan Santat's mouthwatering illustrations, creating a toothsome book that's sure to stand out from the herd.
What I Think: I've been trying to write this review foreeeeeeeeeever! Every time I try to write it, I end up rereading the book and thinking about it all over again. I want to say that I found this book just as funny as everyone else seems to have, but I can't say that's the case. There's something about it that's amusing but I've yet to find myself roaring with laughter as I read this book. I feel awful that there has been so much anticipation about this review and I'm not sure what to even write!
     I guess I'll start by talking about what I think is the main take away from Carnivores. The way I see it, these guys, the lion, the shark and the wolf, all feel pressure from the other creatures - mainly the ones they keep eating - to not be carnivorous. Giving into the pressure from these other animals to change their ways, the lion, the shark, and the wolf try to give up eating meat. It doesn't work for them though, as hard as they try, it's just not within their nature. I can see how these animals model how doing something for the wrong reasons doesn't make it right. Likewise, doing something that isn't true to your heart - or in this case your stomach - isn't a wise choice either. I can see how the message in Carnivores and in Peter Brown's Mr. Tiger Goes Wild might compliment each other in this way. But when I think about these two books, Mr. Tiger is completely endearing and a character I truly want to root and roar for but the sentiment isn't the same when it comes to the lion, the shark and the wolf.
     This leads me to think about the nature of the characters in Carnivores. Am I really supposed to like them? Am I really supposed to cheer for them when they stay true to their meat-eating ways? Or am I supposed to be happy and think, "Good riddance," by the time I get to the end of the book? Part of me thinks it's the latter. Just as the carnivores could care less about munching up their prey, I shouldn't care a bit when they meet their fate at the end.
     While I didn't LOL while reading this book, I can completely appreciate what the author and illustrator have done here. It's infused with elements that made me smile as I read but mostly in acknowledgement of how Aaron played with words and how Dan's illustrations give the reader so much to infer along the way and not necessarily about what happens to the characters in the end.
     My biggest take away from reading this book is how books tell us stories but tell us a lot about ourselves as readers at the same time. Aaron Reynolds and Dan Santat do a great job of bringing these characters to life. They throw in all sorts of things to infer and witty humor along the way. For some people - or many people, as it seems - it's hysterical. For me, I'm a reader who desperately wants to connect with the characters but it was hard for me to do that with these characters. In the end, I just didn't find their stories to be funny. Believe me, I know this says a lot about me. Maybe I take things to seriously!
     Ultimately, Aaron and Dan made me think though! They really made me think about this book and my reaction to it. I wouldn't have spent so much time digesting it all (ha!) and rereading and trying to see what other people see if it didn't make me think. Isn't that an awesome win for a book? It made me think. Bravo, Aaron and Dan.
Read Together: Grades 3 - 12 
Read Alone: Grades 3 - 12 
Read With: I Want My Hat Back and This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen, Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown 
Snatch of Text: 
"The lion is known throughout the animal kingdom as the 'King of Beasts.'
The Great White Shark is the most feared predator in the oceans. 
And the Timber Wolf's howl strikes terror into the hearts of fuzzy woodland creatures everywhere.
But even SAVAGE CARNIVORES get their feelings hurt."  
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Making Inferences 
Writing Strategies to Practice: Expository, Persuasive, Personification, Characterization 
Writing Prompts: Research one of the animals from the book and their eating habits - how they hunt food, what food they eat, where they find their food, etc. Write an expository piece to share what you learn about that animal. Research different kinds of diet lifestyles and compare and contrast two that you learn about.  
Topics Covered: Determination, Willpower, Conscience, Friends, Nature, Integration - Science
I *heart* It:


    And now, I would love to hear what you think! Please, respond in the comments and answer these three questions! One reader will be chosen randomly to receive a copy of Carnivores and a $5 gift card to Jamba Juice - where everything is vegetarian. Woo hoo! I'll pick a winner Sunday afternoon and announce the winner here in my It's Monday! What Are You Reading? post so be sure to check back. 

Teachers, feel free to ask your students to respond and share their comments for them anonymously or with a code name. What a great opportunity to practice some argumentative writing!

1. Did you find Carnivores to be funny and why? 
(Yes or no, either way, please share!)
2. What is your favorite part of Carnivores?
(The characters, the illustrations...)
3. What did you take away from reading Carnivores?

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