Web of Life series
by Madeline Dunphy

Madeleine Dunphy's Web of Life series presents beautifully illustrated cumulative tales about different habitats around the world. We must admit, we always get a little tongue tied when trying to read these books aloud to the class.  In trying to keep to the cumulative format (a la 'This is the house that jack built'), the text can occasionally be a bit awkward.  But...it's fun nonetheless, and the kids like that they can participate in part of the read aloud after the first few pages.

What we really LOVE about this series are the vibrant paintings, some almost iridescent. Each captures the habitat beautifully. Our little sample pages below absolutely do NOT do the illustrations justice. Put these books in your class library, and we guarantee kids will pour over them, particularly the panoramic vista ones. STUNNING!

We agree with Kirkus Reviews, who said "Teachers will welcome this appealing introduction" to the different habitats.  And School Library Jrnl correctly promises the vibrant acrylic paintings "will grab and hold the attention of young viewers."

Interest Level:     Kindergarten to 3rd grade

* These books are best as read alouds by an adult. (Younger kids will enjoy the content, but the text will likely be too difficult for independent reading.)

Here is Antarctica

Readers learn about penguins, seals, whales, fish, and other polar animals, all in fun, bouncy cumulative verse, like:

Here are the icebergs
all jagged and spiked
that rise from the sea
in this cold world of ice:
Here is Antarctica.

Below are some sample interior pages, with the subsequent page right next to it (as illustrations often spill over onto the next page as well).

Here is the Coral Reef

This title looks at the interdependent plants and animals in Australia's Great Barrier Reef, using cumulative text like:

Here is the coral
of all colors and shapes
that lives in clear waters
in this vivid seascape:
Here is the coral reef.

Befitting a book about the coral reef, the illustrations are really vibrant and full of detail.  Below are the first two spreads, to give you an idea of what's inside:

Here is the African Savanna

This book covers life in the African Savanna--basically all those big zoo animals that kids LOVE to learn about, like giraffes, hippos, zebras, lions, etc... Sample text:

Here is the grass
that grows on the plain
which turns green or brown
depending on rain:
Here is the African savanna..

Below are sample pages from this book. We like how they mix the expansive vista illustrations with the animal close up illustrations. Keeps it interesting!

african savannah kids book

Here is the Southwestern Desert

As a former resident of this habitat (Arizona), I can say that this book does a BEAUTIFUL job of capturing the life and diversity of the Sonoran desert habitat.  Here's a sample of the cumulative text:

Here is the cactus
that is covered with spines
and can live without rain
for a very long time.
Here is the southwestern desert.

Below are two sample pages. We love how this book covers all the 'expected' elements -- like the saguaro cactus below -- but also covers lesser known, but super fascinating desert life -- like to ocotillo plant that frames the second spread.

Here Is the Wetland

This book emphasizes the tight interconnections of plant and animal life in the wetlands, and (thankfully) moves beyond the usual, well-known residents. :)  Here's a sample text:

Here is the water
both shallow and still
that soaks the soil
of this murky, moist world:
Here is the wetland.

We love the color pallet used in this book.  It's not what is 'expected' of this habitat, and like the text, it helps reinforce that there's more diversity to wetlands than you'd think on first glance. This book helps readers see wetlands in a whole new way.

Here is the Tropical Rain Forest

Sloths, jaguars, monkeys, snakes... Kids already love "all things jungle"! This presents the 'old favorites', plus new, lesser known inhabitants and details about the overall, lush jungle environment. Sample text:

Here is the rain
that drizzles and pours
and may fall every day
in this lush and wet world:
Here is the tropical rain forest.

Sample pages are below. The illustrations aren't as vibrant in this book as in the other ones.  This book has a different illustrator, but it could be a different printer as well.  Given the subject of this book, we wish the saturation was turned up a bit, or the pages more glossy, or something... We can't quite put our finger on what's different about this one.  However, we do still recommend it, and think makes a great contribution to the series overall.

Where would you like to go now?

home page
books on science
habitat books

arctic books
desert books
rain forest books

pond books
ocean books
grasslands books