In My Backyard

Library Media Connection - November 2007

In this rhyming fun-to-read counting book, young readers not only learn to count from one to ten, but also learn the baby names of various everyday backyard animals. From a deer fawn to a grasshopper nymph, each stanza tells a little more about each animal from what they eat to the sound they make. The colored illustrations bring the animals to life making it easy to count along with the story. An additional educational supplement includes a "Creative Minds" section, which may be copied by parents or educators to use in classroom settings for animal counting or a memory matching game. This section also includes additional interesting information about the animals such as: porcupine pups are born with soft quills, which turn hard within an hour of birth! An additional section offers advise on spotting signs of wildlife, caring for and protecting wildlife, and what to do if one finds an injured animal. This book offers a lot more than the typical counting book. RECOMMENDED.
- Bridget Slayden, Educational Reviewer, Fordland, Missouri.

School Library Journal - November 2007

Young readers who are interested in learning about backyard creatures will welcome this rhyming counting book. From "one doe's fawn" to "a swarm of ten nymphs" (grasshoppers), Giogas introduces children to the group and baby names of 10 critters commonly found in woodland areas (the animals are identified at book's end). For example, a page showing skunks reads, "In my backyard I can see/a surfeit of seven kits/squinting at me./They hunt for grubs and ants and snails,/and sometimes eat the eggs of quails." Appended are additional facts about the highlighted species and tips on ways to observe, protect, and care for wildlife. The colorful illustrations are a good match for the text and at times provide visual clues. The book makes a pleasant read-aloud for younger listeners, while older children can enjoy it independently, though they might need help with a few of the more scientific terms. While not an essential purchase, it will be a useful addition for libraries in which nature books are popular.
Maura Bresnahan, High Plain Elementary School, Andover, MA

Kirkus Review - June 2007

Giogas’s debut is a nature counting book that teaches young children the names of animals’ young, as well as what to call a group of that animal. ‘In my backyard I can see / groups of baby animals / all around me. / They creep, they crawl, they run, and hide. / They munch, they crunch, they sleep outside.’ From a prickle of two pups (porcupines) to a surfeit of seven kits (skunks), she highlights both the usual and the unusual. Readers will learn an interesting fact about each: eating habits, habitat and adaptations. Zecca’s softly colored illustrations portray realistic-looking animals. Each page features one larger picture in which to find and count the babies, and smaller pictures that are close-ups, or that show the animal in their home or backyard setting. Backmatter includes animal cards to photocopy or download, a summary page showing where each of the baby animals is hiding, signs that animals are around, information on caring for wildlife and steps to take if you find an injured animal. While the rhythms of the verses are not always lyrical, young naturalists will nonetheless enjoy this one, especially since Pam Muñoz Ryan’s A Pinky is a Baby Mouse (1997) is out of print.

Eclectic Homeschool Online-July 2010

Children are fascinated by the out-of-doors. I love to take our little ones into the backyard, just to sit and see what we can see. Reading In My Backyard together, you'll see a lot!

It's spring, and the baby animals are out and about: one fawn, two porcupines, three squirrels, four raccoons, five bunnies, six moles, and more, on up to ten grasshoppers. (Yes, it's also a counting book.) The illustrations are bright and realistic, accompanied by gently rhyming text written by an author who delights in picking just the right word.

The last few pages of this book are devoted to learning activities, such as facts about the various baby animals (including the correct terminology), animal signs to watch for, how to behave around wild animals, even what to do if you find an injured animal.

The suggested age range for this book is ages 4-8, but younger children will also enjoy counting, finding all the baby animals, and listening to the singsong rhymes.

This book is available in hardcover and paperback in English, and in e-book format in both English and Spanish. Additional material for the book can be found at the Arbordale website, including learning activities, quizzes, and links to related websites.
- Virginia Jones

Texas Kitchen - September 2017

Children’s book author Valarie Giogas and animal illustrator Katherine Zecca do a fabulous job of introducing readers to the myriad of animals that can be found in their backyard. The detail in the illustrations is extraordinary. Love that counting skills and the different names for groups for animals are emphasized while reading the tale. A beautiful view of the world just outside your door. The end of the story is simply the beginning of a whole world of learning. Check out the Creative Minds section at the back of the book for more opportunities to learn about what’s “In My Back Yard”.

Growing Green and Going Wild - June 5, 2009

As your garden grows over the coming months, you and your family can be on the lookout for some of the natural visitors featured in Valerie Giogas's In My Backyard (Arbordale, 2007, ages 3 to 7). This lovely counting book peeks at the fawn, squirrel pups, raccoon cubs and grasshopper nymphs that enliven a backyard habitat. Bunnies hop and mole pups tunnel across the gorgeous double-page paintings by Katherine Zecca. Additional fun facts and activities are included in the back. For example, did you know that foxes are good tree climbers? That porcupines are born with soft quills?

So kick back some summer evenings with an iced tea, your kids and In My Backyard and see who comes calling. In answer to the nursery-rhyme question "How does your garden grow?", you might be able to point to bunnies and coneflowers all in a row.

Children's Bookwatch - September 2007

"Hopscotch Magazine" writer Valarie Giogas presents In My Backyard, a rhyming children's counting picturebook that, in addition to teaching young readers the numbers one through ten, also instructs them in the names of different types of baby animals that can be found in a typical backyard. "In my backyard I can see / a nest of five bunnies/ twitching at me. / They've gotten through the garden gate. / Just look at all the plants they ate!" Katherine Zecca's beautifully realistic color illustrations of baby animals cute enough to snuggle make In My Backyard a joy to page through while reading aloud its verses to children, or encouraging children to read the verses themselves.

Breeni Books - June 2007

Arbordale Publishing brings In My Backyard to the lineup of great children’s books released in 2007. Written by newcomer Valarie Giogas and illustrated by Katherine Zecca, this scientific adventure introduces children (and adults, admittedly) to the family names of a host of common animals found around rural and suburban homes.

The story uses a sing-song rhythm that typically delights the young reader with familiarity. It provides practice in basic counting skills from one to ten. This may be a book with a limited audience due to the strict scientific nature of the topic, but any child with an interest in animals and wildlife will find it fascinating. Akin to virtually all Arbordale books, it is a teacher or home schooling parent’s dream.

Also with all Arbordale releases, the story is followed up by various activities and expanded teaching opportunities. In My Backyard includes a memory game that can be printed from the publisher’s website, extra counting exercises, and helpful information regarding wildlife and caring for injured animals.

Katherine Zecca has written and illustrated various other animal-themed children’s titles including River Song, A Puffin’s Year, and Why Puppies Do That.
- Breeni

Children's Literature Comprehensive Database - July 2007

Simple rhyming verses aptly describe animal scenes in the narrator’s backyard. The pleasing style covers deer, porcupines, squirrels, raccoons, bunnies, moles, skunks, snakes, foxes, and grasshoppers. Counting from one to ten is achieved as each double spread adds one more creature. Active verbs such as munch, crunch, gnaw, spying, twitching, and squinting, increase the interest and move the tale along. The book’s bright cover will attract attention and well-planned and colorful illustrations inside add to the text and allow readers and listeners to seek out the animals to count. End material offers an animal memory game, activity for counting, information on animal signs, and even doles out information about what to do with an injured animal. The scope of text makes this a good resource to use for math and science lessons and those dealing with animal identification. Of interest is the fact that the specific name of some animals is not in the text. This offers an extension for learning more.
- Nancy Attebury

Children's Book Reviews - July 2007

Children will have fun reading this book, probably not even realizing that at the same time they are learning about the animals they can see close by their homes. They will also have fun counting the baby animals. In My Backyard presents ten different animals in their backyard habitat. Author Valerie Giogas uses rhyming and some alliteration in her pleasurable and informative text.

Katherine Zecca’s illustrations entrance the eye not only with lifelike renderings of the animals up close, but also with their habitats. For instance the squirrels are snuggled in their tree trunk nest or the moles move about in their burrows. The activities in the book will keep a child or classroom busy and happy while learning. One engrossing thing a child or preschool class can do is look for the “signs” that animals leave to show they are around. What a treasure hunt that will be! Recommended for children two years through seven years.
- Judith Nasse

Laura Williams' Musings - October 2007

What child doesn't like to see pictures of baby animals? This book not only includes baby animals, but also gives your child the chance to count with each page. Each page has a number relating to the animals on that page.

My three year old especially liked this book. She was mesmerized by the pictures of the animals. My five year old was counting the pages as she was showing the pages to her little sister.

In the back of the book, there are reinforcement pages for counting as well as pages to learn about animal signs, and more.

This book is a great change of pace from normal counting books. I definitely recommend this book for parents with preschoolers. I give this book a bright line of 5 stars.
- Laura Williams - March 2008

There’s a lot of learning going on in Valerie Giogas’ In My Backyard. Rhyming clips introduce children to counting from one to ten and common backyard animals. They’ll learn the names for baby animals and other interesting traits.

The back matter includes a lot of practical information for spotting animals in suburbia and caring for wild animals in general. There’s also a memory game that you can access from the publisher’s website.

Parents and teachers will appreciate the book’s purpose, but the kids will enjoy the rhymes and the pictures. They won’t care about the science or math that they’re learning through osmosis.

Giogas does a good job of producing prose that’s easy to read aloud. The rhythm is faithful, almost. Only one line tripped me up. Katerine Zecca’s illustrations are warm with a just the right bit of humor—they’re faithful to the subject, but they don’t take themselves too seriously.

Arbordale Publishing is one of my favorite children’s publishers—you will never go wrong with one of their books.
- Susan Harkins

The Reading Tub - March 2008

Summary: The yard is full of baby animals for us to count, from one fawn (deer) to ten nymphs (grasshoppers). These are common animals that you'll find in most neighborhoods. This picture book uses rhyme and illustration to teach counting and baby animal names.

Type of Reading: family reading, anytime reading, playtime reading, read aloud book

Recommended Age: read together: 2 to 5; read yourself: 6 to 8

Age of Child: Shared with a class of twenty 5- and 6-year-old Kindergartners.

Little Kid Reaction: The kids liked the book. They recognized many of the animals, but didn't know their babies' names.

Big Kid Reaction: This is a fun approach to counting, but we were more attracted to the information about the animals and their habitats. The illustrations are great -- even the hatchlings (baby snakes) look (sorta) cute.

Pros: Kids will learn more than they realize as they make their way through identifying and counting baby animals.

Cons: It would be nice to know if the numbers correspond to the normal brood for these animals. Are foxes born nine at a time? It would be nice to have a book like this for larger numbers, too. [SD Note: The numbers do correspond to normal broods!]

Borrow or Buy: Borrow, at least. Even after your child has mastered counting to ten, you can use this as a guidebook for exploring the world around you.

Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Review - April 2008

If you look into your backyard, and if you are very quiet and don’t move around much, it is likely that you will see all kinds of animals, many of which will have babies with them. In this book the author shows her readers the kinds of animals that they might see hiding amongst the shrubs, playing on the lawn, or climbing in the trees.

The author begins by describing, in a gentle rhyming text, the little fawn that she sees. He sees her too “through the leaves and brush” and he quickly runs back to its mother.

Next we see a pair of prickly pups, a duo of porcupines who chew on anything made out of wood, including old garden tools.

These funny looking creatures are followed by three squirrel pups which trundle along a branch one after the other. Bleary eyed they look for a comfy place to sleep.

The author of this picture book educates and entertains her readers in several fronts. Her book is a counting book, a portrait of commonly seen backyard animals, and she also shows her readers what the different babies are called. For example baby squirrels, porcupines, moles, and foxes are called pups. Baby raccoons are called cubs, and baby skunks (which are very sweet looking even if they do smell a bit) are called kits.

At the back of the book the author also provides her readers with a counting activity which will not only help them practice their counting but which will teach them a good deal about the animals described in the book.

Finally there are two very useful sections which backyard naturalists will find very interesting and informative. One is about “Animal Signs All Around You” and the other is “What to Do If You Find an Injured Animal.”
- Marya Jansen-Gruber

Wee Ones Children's Magazine - May/June 2008

Did you know that many amazing animals live right in your backyard? This book, written in rhyme, is all about creatures of the wild. They live in trees, under the ground and all in your backyard! Raccoons, deer, opossum, and many more animals can all be within sight, if you just look hard enough!

Realistic illustrations coincide nicely with the rhyme and show the different animals in action.
- -Jennifer Reed