"Little Black Ant pokes her head from a tiny sandy hill dotting the lawn of the house on Park Street. It is summertime and the anthill is a flurry of activity. Beneath the hill lies a busy ant city, with many rooms connected by little tunnels." - Little Black Ant on Park Street by Janet Halfmann, illustrated by Kathleen Rietz
Author Janet Halfmann, through her non-fiction picture book, helps children learn about ant colonies and the life cycle of a little black ant (the common picnic ant). One summer a little black ant emerges from the colony and she searches for food along a city street. Her job presents several challenges including figuring out how to move a large, dead caterpillar and fighting a large carpenter ant. A bird scoops her in the air on a gum wrapper and she must find her way home. She and her friends feast on cookie crumbs and sweet juice from aphids. The busy ants work energetically all summer long and into the fall when they return below to winter underground.
This is the first book we've read from the Smithsonian Backyard Series, and I'm very impressed by the writing and illustrations in this large paperback. This isn't written in the usual textbook non-fiction style, but instead reads exactly like an entertaining picture book. Little Black Ant on Park Street successfully introduced my children to a typical ant species. They easily became engrossed in the story of the little black ant, and they learned a lot of factual information along the way. Illustrator Rietz uses unique angles and perspectives in her colorful paintings and gives a detailed, almost microscopic look at the life of an ant. My preschool daughter asked several questions about the colony underground and loved seeing all the tunnels and rooms. My son focused longingly on the picnic cookie illustration and pointed out the ants carrying crumbs away. One page shows children quietly and carefully observing the ants, making sure not to disrupt or harm them. Several other species of plants and animals are featured throughout the pages and the last page highlights these as "Points of Interest." The last page also includes a more scientific summary about the Little Black Ant and a glossary defines a few of the key terms used in the book. The book is also available in hardcover or microbook format and a read-long CD/book combo or plush ant toy can be purchased as well.
Little Black Ant on Park Street (Smithsonian's Backyard Collection) by Janet Halfmann, illustrated by Kathleen Rietz. Soundprints (December 2009); ISBN 9781607270034; 32 pages (Book Source: Review copy from publisher)
Janet Halfmann - Author Website
Kathleen Rietz - Illustrator Website and blog
We made Ant Hill Colonies using chocolate pudding as fingerpaint. The messy and fun activity gets the hands dirty just like playing in the mud, and the kids enjoyed eating the sweet chocolate treat after completing the project. (They may have licked their fingers a few times while painting, too!)
First we mixed up a batch of chocolate pudding using milk and the kids looked at the illustration of the ant colony in the book. They made tunnels and the ant hill by smearing the pudding around with their fingers on a large piece of freezer paper. The pudding paintings dried overnight and the next day we used black paint to make fingerprint ants. On each ant we used a black marker to draw the antennae and six legs. The ants look very busy working away in their colony. The kids added a sky and some grass by coloring with blue and green sidewalk chalk. Maybe this summer we'll try making an actual ant farm!
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