This book has an academic feel. Packed with research and written with a scientific viewpoint, The Secret Language of Dogs is a serious work for pet owners who truly want to bond with and understand their dogs. It is a valuable toolbox of information for those who are training dogs. Understanding is, after all, a key ingredient in social bonding with both humans and animals.
This would be a good research book for junior high students studying about dogs.
Here are some additional dog-themed learning resources for the dog-lover in your family:
I give this book 4 stars.
The Queen’s Shadow is a picture book created for children between the ages of 7 and 11. The book is a mystery laced with educational value. The story begins when the Queen hosts a ball with various animals in attendance. During the ball she loses her shadow. Coming to her aid, the Mantis Shrimp plays detective, interrogating the other animals in attendance to determine who may have stolen the Queen’s shadow. Each animal uses their sight as as a defense to prove themselves innocent. This allows readers to discover facts about how each animal sees. After the resolution the author and illustrator, Cybèle Young, provides more educational value on how each animal’s eyes work and how the human eye works.
First, I think it’s a great concept to use story and weave in educational facts around it. When learning can be achieved in a painless way, it’s a happy day for everyone. I enjoyed the balance of grey and black as well as the use of color in the illustrations. I found the visually interesting.
However, I have a few observations that I think worked against the author’s goal to educate.
I agree with the narrator that the book is sophisticated. I just wonder if it is too sophisticated for its audience.
There are absolutely ways to use this book educationally, but it will take a little effort on your part to put the elements and ideas together to truly get the most out of it. I believe that, as a stand alone book to be used as a quick or casual read, this book is just too heavy and asks too much of young readers. I’m really torn on how to rate it because I see potential, however, I don’t feel the author gave us her best or knew her audience as well as she could have. If I have to work to make a book usable, I’m going to give a lower rating.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of The Queen’s Shadow: A Story About How Animals See from Kids Can Press via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.
I give this book three stars
Recently, we have been studying the art work of Leonardo da Vinci. We currently have five of his paintings hanging on my living room walls (Mona Lisa, Ginevra de' Benci, Lady with an Ermine, The Virgin of the Rocks, andStudy of Cat Movements and Positions).
Their decided favorite of da Vinci's works is Lady with an Ermine, who they all find "beautiful" and "rich looking". This painting has led to some fascinating and fun discussions in my home.
When I first hung Lady with an Ermine my mother was visiting. She noticed the painting and asked "what is that animal supposed to be?"
I thought I knew something and I answered that it was called an ermine and probably extinct.
The whole matter was forgotten until yesterday when my daughter asked if we could research what ermines were like (being told by me that they were extinct and all).
I quickly discovered how little I knew. Ermines do exist today, and though they are not a widely known animal, there are enough of them out there to keep them off any endangered or threatened lists.
My daughter's curiosity led to great learning for all of us.
Here is what we learned about ermines:
Ermines (Mustela erminea) are members of the weasel family. You can find ermine in Canada, Northern USA, and Eurasia. Ermines are very territorial carnivores that live and thrive in the Siberian tundra. God created them with the unique ability to handle extreme cold. They also enjoy marshes and woodlands.
Their life span is only 4-7 years. With such a short life span it seems only reasonable that the females would mature as early as two months old! It takes the male ermine about ten months to catch up . . . no comment ;).
Mating occurs as soon as they are able to hunt independently. They can have up to thirteen kits (young) in each litter. The moms are the active parents who raise and provide for the kits.
Ermines feed on birds like chicken and snow owls as well as squirrels and rabbit.
As a key feature, God created the ermine with a beautiful and useful coat. It has the ability and benefit of changing color in the spring and winter to camouflage it from predators. In the spring the ermine's coat is brown, blending it into the ground and woodlands. In the winter its white coat is virtually invisible against the snowy surroundings. The change of appearance is dramatic and beautiful. The one constant is the tip of its tail which always remains black.
In our study we learned that ermines were used for clothing and as status symbols in the Middle Ages. We also learned that the little black tip of their tail was a key ingredient to producing the paintbrushes that artists treasured in da Vinci's day.
In one of da Vinci's notebooks he writes about feeding the ermine every two days. This might have been a logical pet for an artist. He may have cared for the ermine temporarily during the sittings for his painting, or maybe it was a permanent resident in his studio. It was fun to wonder about what an ermine might do and how it might behave around paints and canvas while hanging out in da Vinci's studio.
During the renaissance the ermine was prevalent in art and literature. It represented royalty, purity, and chastity.
Leonardo da Vinci may have used the ermine in Lady with an Ermine to depict his subject (Cecelia Gallarani) as virginal. He also may have had a more witty and puzzling purpose for using the ermine. Cecelia Gallarini was a very young mistress to the Duke of Milan (There was some discrepancy with her age. Accounts have her as 9, 10 or 17 years of age). In any case, it would have been wise and appropriate to depict her as innocent and virginal.
From our biographical reading on Leonardo da Vinci we learned that da Vinci loved word games, riddles and witty puzzles. Some speculate that his use of the ermine was a play on words with her last name being so close to the Greek word for ermine (galay).
The painting is wonderfully made. I love his use of color and the heavy richness of the hues.
Maybe your children would like to experiment with coloring their own interpretation of Lady with an ermine. A very well done coloring page can be found here.
Another notable portrait containing an ermine was made of Queen Elizabeth 1. Where the ermine seems large in the arms of Cecelia, the ermine is much smaller in Queen Elizabeth 1's painting (created by Sir William Segar). He sort of hides out in her sleeve.
The size of the ermine could be reflective of the human subject's age, or in Queen Elizabeth's case, shrunk down for greater symbolic subtlety. It both cases the ermine enhances the wealth and status of the painting's subject.
If you have little ones you might like to check out this poem about ermines. It was created to teach the letter E, but it also worked for my little ones who were joining in with our fun tangent of scientific learning sparked by art.
*Images in this post are in the public domain. They were obtained from Karen's Whimsy and Wikepedia Commons. Thanks to both sites for making them available.
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