Rebecca Hogue Wojahn and Donald Wojahn have teamed to create the series Follow that Food Chain for Lerner Publishing Group. I reviewed the titles set in the rainforest in South America, the desert in North America, and the savanna in Africa, but they also have titles in a temperate forest in North America, a tundra in the Arctic, and the Australian Outback.
The cover design of these titles is very attractive and drew me to pick them up again and again. Come on, look at the subtitle of these books: A Who-Eats-What Adventure in… With 64 pages and ample end material, these are useful to my middle schoolers but are written at a fourth grade level intended for grades 3-5. These unusual titles demand reader interaction as you pick which tertiary consumer you will follow through the pages. (Think Choose Your Own Adventure for the food chain)
I have to admit the first time I read A Savanna Food Chain: a who-eats-what adventure in Africa, it took me nearly an hour. Being an obsessive person, I had to get out my drawing paper and start graphing my choices. I was disappointed that there was no summary in the end because I found myself frustrated with the dead-ends that occur due to animals being endangered. There is a wealth of additional resources at the end, but I need the definitive "best choices" guide to survival on the Africa savanna.
When I logged on to the website, I realized that this series is written as a GAME showing "animals in their habitats while illuminating curriculum concepts related to food webs and biomes." The website indicates there are dozens of choices, but I need some mathematician to go through and calculate how many different possibilities exist or I may never finish these books. My students who blithely follow web links for hours won’t be bothered by this obsessiveness I deal with. The book A Rain Forest Food Chain has 24 different animal and plant pages but I’ve given up on counting how many choices are involved altogether.
The photographs are very appealing and I would include this series in science units on biomes and food chains. Be sure to allow plenty of time for additional research using the links and books listed at the end. For your students who need a straightforward story, encourage them to graph one path through listing each choice they made, then have them provide a short synopsis. There is a story created by the reader while playing this game – some students will simply have the need to see it differently.
The series has been recommended by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA). I saw from the author’s website that more titles in this series are on their way: The Galapagos Islands • The Nile River • An Asian Mangrove Forest • An African Cloud Forest • A North American Estuary • A Coral Reef
Be sure to check out the interview of both authors (who happen to be school librarians) by their local entertainment magazine.