What's The Difference: An Endangered Animal Subtraction Story

ALA - Social Responsibility Round Table - June 2010

I give a presentation for librarian and teacher association meetings ranging from local to national levels titled “E-Literacy Conquers Illiteracy: A Librarian-Educator Collaboration.” In this talk, I strive to show that stimulating students through creative collaboration, programs, and activities leads to a sustained interest in the environments (from home to communities) in which they live, go to school, and play. The inspiration for this presentation is Richard Louv's book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder, which describes the need to expose children to nature-related, experiential, outdoor activities as an essential component of physical and emotional development, which fosters life-long benefits.

The premise is basic: by creative expression through writing (nature journals play a significant, foundational role), telling stories, illustrating, and the performance arts (dancing, singing, and acting), a child becomes more ecologically or environmentally literate (“E-Literate”) while at the same time honing their literacy skills, not only for reading environmental or nature-themed books, but expressing what Rachel Carson called a child's inborn “sense of wonder.”

E-Literacy begins by reading a book whose ideas, themes, or purpose goes outside-literally and figuratively-to experience and record what they have read: in essence, they “Do the Book.” It is, therefore, fitting to review some useful children's environmental books for SRRT members, and especially TFOE members and other readers of the SRRT newsletter. I review here two such titles that improve literacy skills and E-Literacy skills. Both have special features to assist teachers and librarians in their instruction.

Susan Slade has more than 60 children's books in her portfolio and Joan Waits has illustrated more than 40 educational and trade publications in addition to teaching in the Corcoran Museum School of Art and Design's Aspiring Artists Program. Here they join forces, providing a strong message about endangered species using simple subtraction problems for twelve endangered species. Each species' problem is described in a four-line poem. For each animal, there is a teacher/parent sidebar explaining why that animal is endangered (typically from poisoning, over-hunting or harvesting, habitat modification or destruction, etc.), and additional information about the species. There is a very useful and warmly welcomed five-page educational section, “For Creative Minds,” that briefly outlines important vocabulary terms, dynamics of food chains and webs, and missing links in food chains, and provides explanations of the mathematical problems accompanying each animal's story. The book is described as for grades pre-K through 3 (ages 4 to 8 years). Public and school libraries would find this a useful title for their collection, as would nature centers, museums, or the book lists of environmental, nature, or outdoor educators.
- Frederick W. Stoss, Associate Librarian, University at Buffalo-SUNY

Inspired by Savannah - May 2011

Here is another great educational book to share with your children.  In What's the Difference?, your children will not only learn about subtraction, but they will also learn about endangered animals.  The illustrations alone jump off the page and will get you and your children talking about wonderful animals which are endangered.  Savannah kept pointing at animals and was amazed at the illustrations.  So, I know that if she enjoyed the book, your children definitely will. Throw out those dull flash cards and pick up What's the Difference? today.

Miss Marple's Musings - January 2012

Soooo many books focus on what is wrong (and indeed the situation is dire for many animals), I love the ‘What’s right?’ focus of this book. Many of the species cited have been transferred from the endangered to the threatened list. Kids will be able to learn this distinction. Combing the easy take-away sums will not only make the book very interactive, but of course, subtly highlights, the loss many species have suffered.   I was introduced to the Mississippi Gopher frogs and Prairie dogs, which I don’t know so well. Illustrations are in gentle water color and have a retro feel. This book celebrates the difference that caring people can make in looking out for these species!

Live, Laugh, Love - October 2010

The other Arbordale title we have been enjoying is introducing our oldest child to subtraction and endangered animals (though still enjoyed by our youngest).  What's the Difference? written by Suzanne Slade uses rhyming verses to present a new subtraction problem to the reader for main portion of the book.  The reader also takes a closer look at each animal and learns why they are endangered and how they have been helped with little boxes filled with important animal information.  As with all titles, this has a "For Creative Minds" section in the back of the book.  This title features information on food chains, fact families, and endangered animals.

Arbordale Publishing educates children in science and math through the means of literature.  They're doing a fantastic job, too, offering informative, educational books with realistic and beautiful illustrations.  The books alone are really great, but they help classroom teachers and homeschooling parents in huge ways.  Each book (and ebook) comes with great resources.  The books and activities are targeted for children 4-8 (and 9) years of age. These titles, and all of the Arbordale titles I have read have been fabulous and I highly recommend them!  Thank you, Arbordale, for providing us these fabulous books for review purposes.
- Annette Whipple

Eclectic Homeschool Online - July 2010

Though the "endangered" in the title makes this sound like a gloomy book, the story is actually quite hopeful. Colorful pictures pair with descriptions of animals that were at one time endangered, but through conservation efforts are coming back. For each of the animals featured, there is a lushly illustrated two-page spread, plus a text box with information on how the animal became endangered, and what was done to help save the species.

The last few pages of What's the Difference? are devoted to learning activities: vocabulary, an explanation of food chains and webs, an illustration of how species are interrelated (i.e., if one thing disappears, it throws other things out of balance, even causes natural disaster), questions about the endangered animals featured in the book, and finally a page of subtraction families.

I almost forgot that for each animal group, there's a subtraction problem, expressed in rhyme. (Thus the subtitle, An Endangered Animal Subtraction Story.) For us, reading the book, the math sort of took a back seat to the animal descriptions and conservation facts. This is not a book that teaches subtraction concepts, but simply touches on a few math facts in the telling of a much bigger story.

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

Katie's Literature Lounge - June 2010

When reading What's the Difference?: An Endangered Animal Subtraction Story, children are in for twice the educational value! Not only will they be able to practice simple subtraction problems, they will also learn a great deal about what "endangered" means, what animals are considered endangered and the reasons for their endangerment!

This is a wonderful story for many reasons! I love the rhyming, lyrical text that will easily engage and interest children. Beautiful illustrations will quickly catch eyes, as children will be mesmerized by the lifelike images!

The Children's and Teens' Book Connection - June 2010

This endangered animal subtraction story points to the ways man has helped endangered animals to change their fate.  Each charming rhyme by author Suzanne Slade offers a simple subtraction problem for children to solve.

“Twelve furry otter pups in a grassy bed, two hunt for clams below.  How many rest instead?”

While children learn about animal habitats and eating habits this book points out how the Endangered Species Act has protected many animals.  Joan Waites’ beautiful watercolor illustrations bring the different environments to life. 

“Gray bats hibernate inside warm caves during winter. There are only about nine caves in the U.S. where endangered gray bats can hibernate, and the openings of some have been blocked.”

The plight of eagles, prairie dogs, butterflies, whooping cranes, gopher frogs, crocodiles, salmon, bowhead whales, gray bats, manatees, otters, and red wolves are discussed in detail.  As a teacher I can recommend What’s the Difference? as a great resource in the classroom or home library. 

As with all of Arbordale’s books there are several fact and activity pages in the back of the book.  Sylvan also provides many on-line resources for teachers and students to use.
- Kathy Stemke

Puget Sound Council - May 2010

This book highlights a dozen species of animals that people are banding together to save. These include the gray bat, the whooping crane, the American crocodile, the red wolf, the Mississippi gopher frog, the Southern sea otter, the Utah prairie dog, the bald eagle, the West Indian manatee, the Karner blue butterfly, the Atlantic salmon and the Bowhead whale. Each of these creatures is carefully, but briefly discussed in an offset sidebar.

A subtraction problem to solve and a poem is included on a two-page spread. "Eight graceful butterflies / soaring way up high-- / three stop to rest their wings, / How many in the sky?" You will learn how many of these creatures became endangered, what is being done to protect and keep them safe, and in some cases, you'll find out if their numbers have increased. (Feathered Quill)

The illustrations are OK but sometimes confuse the eye, not as artful as many other books in this genre. There is a little endangered animal quiz, fact family page and “For Creative Minds” page for deeper understanding at the end of the main story which may be copied and used by the classroom teacher.
- J.J. Avinger-Jacques

In the Pages - April 2010

I always look forward to this great set of new books!Arbordale has sent me these five new titles that will really "beef up" your science and math curriculum. In case you don't know - Arbordale's website is just FULL of wonderful teaching activities, related websites, and "For Creative Minds" a wonderful educational section for each book.

What's the Difference? An Endangered Animal Subtraction Story by Suzanne Slade and illustrated by Joan Waites is my second title in this set. This is a sequel to What's New at the Zoo - and is way to practice subtraction skills while learning about endangered animals. I think this is also a brilliant idea and will be great in classrooms. - April 13, 2010

There is a wonderful series of books from Arbordale Publishing that mixes animal stories with science and math. The books have nice bright illustrations (some better than others), and include interesting facts, questions and tests for readers, even help for teachers who want to incorportate the books into lesson plans.And they recommend related Web sites.

The publisher says they are for ages 4 to 8, but I would put them a little older, say 6- to 10-year-olds. In addition to the print books, the titles are E-books.

"What's the Difference? An Animal Subtraction Story" by Suzanne Slade, illustrated by Joan Waites. "Ten dancing whooping cranes lose the wetland home, five find a refuge near, How many cranes still roam?" Arithmetic and nature study are combined.

Home School Book Review - April 2010

What’s the Difference?  An Endangered Animal Subtraction Story (published in 2010 by Arbordale Publishing, 612 Johnnie Dodds Blvd., Suite A2, Mount Pleasant, SC  29464).  Do you know the difference between an endangered species and a threatened species?  Author Suzanne Slade, who also wrote the popular addition book What’s New at the Zoo?, gives a rhyming description of several animals that are or have been either endangered or threatened, such as bald eagles, Utah prairie dogs, Karner blue butterflies, whooping cranes, Mississippi gopher frogs, American crocodiles, Atlantic salmon, bowhead whales, West Indian manatees, Southern sea otters, gray bats, and red wolves.  And do you know what a species is called when it has been removed from the Federal Endangered Species Act’s list?   As illustrated with life-like watercolor drawings by Joan Waites, each animal is also used to present a new subtraction problem. 

Thus, youngsters can not only learn how caring people have made a difference for endangered animals but also practice their subtraction skills.  The “For Creative Minds” section includes an Endangered Animal Vocabulary, information about food chains, an endangered animal question and answer activity, and a review of the subtraction fact families used in the book.  Further cross-curricular teaching activities related to reading, language arts, science, math, geography, and coloring can be found at Arbordale’s website.  Both the Creative Minds section of the book and the teaching materials from the website may be photocopied or printed out by the owner of the book or a teacher for educational, non-commercial uses.  As we read about what is being done to help endangered animals, we can be made to hope that no more species will be “subtracted” from the circle of life on earth. Rating: 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
- Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

BookLoons - April 2010

On the cover of What's the Difference?: An Endangered Animal Subtraction Story is a colorful globe, a wolf, prairie dogs, a frog, a butterfly, cranes in the air, and a whale in the water. Suzanne Slade features these and more in her rhyming texts that ask questions, spread over two-page layouts, and each accompanied by a mathematical formula.

Eagles are one of my favorites: 'Three sleeping eaglets wake; / each looks like the rest. / Two stretch their wings and fly. / How many in the nest?' The math formula setup is: '3 – 2 = ?' An outlined box indicates whether the critter is endangered, threatened, or recovered. For example, 'In the 1960s many bald eagle eggs began breaking before the eagles hatched. Scientists discovered the mothers ate fish from lakes polluted with DDT'. After the chemical was banned in 1972, the eagle population grew 'from fewer than 1000 in the 1960's to over 20,000 today. They are now recovered, or no longer endangered.'

Joan Waite's illustrations are spectacular, with vivid splashes of color, while her sketches show the definition of fur, wings, eyes, beaks, claws, and habitat, gracefully calling the reader's attention to each species. The playful Southern sea otter and the beautiful Karner blue butterfly are particularly eye-catching. Suzanne Slade is the author of over 60 books for children, including What's New at the Zoo?, Animals are Sleeping, How Do Tornadoes Form?, and Do All Bugs Have Wings? Joan Waites has illustrated nearly 40 books for the educational and trade marketplace.

For additional fun see the "For Creative Minds" section at the back of the book, which includes facts and questions referring back to the story pages; an Endangered Animal Vocabulary; Food Chains and Webs; Missing Links in Food Chains; Endangered Animals, and Fact Families. 'Bye for now. But before I go, I offer this math problem - Josephine (that's me) has five Arbordale books to read. / She has finished one, / How many more / Before she is done?

Feathered Quill Book Reviews - Mar 2010

Beautiful blue Karner butterflies flit among the lupines on a beach dune as two children frolic nearby in the sands. These insects once lived in an assortment of habitats, but “these habitats are now rare” and this species has been added to the endangered species list. People are trying to help in as many ways as they can to supplement and restore their habitats. There are many reasons that animals become threatened or endangered. Sometimes, as in the case of the spotted Mississippi gopher frog, their habitat was destroyed when people came in and cut down the “longleaf pine forest homes” where they thrived. Animal populations become depleted when their habitats become polluted, or when they are over-hunted or fished. When people become aware of the dire consequences to our wildlife population, a bit of knowledge can go a long way in helping them!

In this book you’ll be able to take a look at a dozen species people are banding together to save. These include the gray bat, the whooping crane, the American crocodile, the red wolf, the Mississippi gopher frog, the Southern sea otter, the Utah prairie dog, the bald eagle, the West Indian manatee, the Karner blue butterfly, the Atlantic salmon and the Bowhead whale. Each of these creatures is carefully, but briefly discussed in an offset sidebar. A subtraction problem to solve and a poem is included on a two-page spread. “Eight graceful butterflies / soaring way up high— / three stop to rest their wings, / How many in the sky?” You will learn how many of these creatures became endangered, what is being done to protect and keep them safe, and in some cases, you’ll find out if their numbers have increased.

This storybook format is a nice way to introduce the concept of threatened and endangered species to the young child. For the older child, there is the extra little challenge of a subtraction example. The sidebar material that discusses the animal could be read by the more confident reader, but is probably of more use to the parent or teacher who can use it for read and discussion purposes in the homeschool or classroom setting. Each and every one of these fascinating creatures could be further explored in a report by an elementary school student. The artwork is beautiful and very appealing. In the back of the book is an expanded activity section with an “Endangered Animal Vocabulary,” a brief discussion on “Food Chains & Webs,” a pyramid style illustrating the results of a disturbed or disrupted habitat, an “Endangered Animals” quiz based on the text, and additional simple number problems. Additional teaching/learning resources for this book can be found on the Arbordale Publishing website.

Quill says: This introduction to endangered species will appeal to and be of interest to a wide age range of children!