~Review by Amanda Smith
Deep in the Swamp, written by Donna M. Bateman and illustrated by Caldecott-Honors winner Brian Lies (Charlesbridge, 2007), is a charming book young readers will love to hear over and over again. This rewrite of the children’s counting rhyme “Over the Meadow” introduces different animals of the Okefenokee Swamp. The familiar sing-song rhythm and rhyme are perfect vehicles for presenting lesser-known animals and plants, and names of animal babies to children. These elements combine to make this book much more than a counting rhyme. Deep in the Swamp contains illustrated, alphabetized backmatter providing interesting, bite-sized facts for those curious about the fauna, flora, and geography in the rhymes.
Brian Lies’ ability to combine friendly, relatable animal faces and realistic nature illustrations brings warmth and character to this concept book. The illustrations teem with environmental details that will keep young eyes engaged for multiple readings.
Deep in the Swamp is an excellent mentor text for interesting word choice. Bateman uses words and word-combinations that are delicious to read out loud. It is clear that she paid close attention to where she placed concentrations of sounds, internal rhyme, and long and short sounds. For example, in her rhyme about nine rat snakes, the snakes “climbed up a pine where the bamboo vines twine.” She also uses vivid, active verbs throughout. The sounds of the words play as important a role as content and illustrations in making this book a sensory experience.
To learn more about Brian Lies, visit www.brianlies.com
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