From board books to scientific tomes, animal expressions have fascinated readers of all ages. In an ingenious twist on a familiar topic, Melissa Stewart--with more than 180 titles to her credit--cleverly disrupts the predictable cow/moo paradigm with the noises animals do not make.
Let's start with the titular "Can an aardvark bark?" The answer? "No, but it can grunt," with additional information about the long-nosed insect-eater, which "grunts softly as it zigzags across African grasslands at night." Turn the page to reveal how "[l]ots of other animals grunt too," including river otters, hamadryas baboons and even an oyster toadfish, complete with added tidbits about these fellow grunters.
The pattern quickly emerges: seals don't squeal and wild boars don't roar. But just in case readers become complacent, Stewart again surprises with the aural habits of a porcupine: Can it whine? "Why, yes, it can!" followed by a spread of whiners, including American martens. The original pattern returns, featuring dingos that don't bellow, giraffes that don't laugh, and kangaroos that don't mew. With so much excitement happening on the page, the final spread invites loud participation.
Can an Aardvark Bark? marks Stewart's first-time collaboration with Steve Jenkins, who has created some three dozen titles, including Apex Predators. Dazzlingly set against a pristine white background, each of the diverse animals is represented with both accuracy and charm. Engaging the attention of the youngest readers is more important than ever; enriching books like Aardvark are ideal for encouraging future generations of advocates and protectors. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon