Employing her splendid talent for making science cool, Melissa Stewart (Can an Aardvark Bark?) introduces young readers to creatures that go dormant not through the winter, but during the summer. Hibernation is a well-known concept; estivation less so. Stewart aims to change that. Her enthusiasm for these unfamiliar snoozers, combined with stunningly realistic watercolor illustrations by Sarah S. Brannen (illustrator of Stewart's Feathers: Not Just for Flying), make summer sleepers the superstars in the charming nonfiction picture book Summertime Sleepers: Animals that Estivate.
The main text offers general groupings of animals that estivate: "Some hard-shelled creatures climb up high for a nap.../ ...while others doze underground." Then, in secondary narratives, specific critters take the spotlight: "When the days grow long and hot, land snails cling to tree branches and seal their shells shut. Their heart rates slow, and they barely breathe as they wait for cooler days." To offer even more information for eager learners, a black-and-white logbook page appears amid the lush colors of the illustrations. The page includes the animals' scientific names, sizes and detailed sketches an observer might record while watching them.
Brannen's art is as captivating as the information it illuminates. The lifelike depictions include vital intricacies--variegated shading on the shells of the snails, wisps of whiskers on the yellow-bellied marmot--as well as a sense of depth and texture. The illustrations are not only incredibly enjoyable, they're also accurate and informative. Summertime Sleepers is a gem that should spark children's interest in science, in the world around them and in the joy of learning. And what better bedtime reading than a book that features everyone sleeping? --Jen Forbus, freelancer