Picture Book Perfect Friday – What’s the Difference?

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While I am tempted to promote an endangered species book every week on Picture Book Perfect Fridays, I have been holding back and trying to vary my offerings. But today I am back to one of my favorite topics, but with a difference!

What’s the Difference? An Endangered Animal Subtraction Story

Written by Suzanne Slade, Illustrated by Joan Waites

Published by Slyvan Dell Publishing, 2010

Ages: 4-10

Themes: Endangered/threatened species, subtraction, habitat, ecology


Three sleeping eaglets wake;

each looks like the rest.

Two stretch their wings and fly.

How many in the nest?

Each double page offers a simple rhyming stanza asking the child to look carefully at the animals illustrated and do the simple subtraction problem. The book could be read to young children with just the rhymes and math. However, for the older children there is a text box describing in simple terms, the species, the habitat dangers they have been facing and how things have improved for the species over the past years. So, for example, DDT had been causing the shells of these birds to become so thin that hatchlings were being born before they were fully developed and thus dying. DDT was banned in ’72 and the population of these eagles has increased from around 1000 to 20,000 over the past 50 years, and they are no longer on the endangered list!

Why I like this Book: 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!


The book itself is a math activity. the back four pages contain some great facts on: Endangered animal vocabulary, food chains and webs, animal groups and some additional math problems.

On the Sylvan Dell Website there are over 60 pages of activities across the curriculum related to this book. I was very impressed with their resources, and recognized other titles I have enjoyed on their lists.

For more books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

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38 Responses to Picture Book Perfect Friday – What’s the Difference?

  1. This sounds wonderful! Counting/subtraction, attention to detail, and endangered animals all in one place! You know me – I love animal books, and especially endangered animal books – so this is going right on my library list 🙂 Thanks!

  2. I LOVE the idea of combining many learning concepts into one beautiful book, without, apparently, being overly didactic. Not easy to do, and this looks really lovely. On the list! 🙂

  3. Check! Endangered animal book on the list. This is a wonderful choice. I definitely will get this lovely book. 🙂

  4. I like! I like! I like! Rhyming and math all in one beautiful book. Awesome. I will have to take a look at this one.

  5. Joanna, what a wonderful selection with so many teaching moments. I am partial towards the Bald Eagle and wrote articles about their plight back in the early 70s. The DDT from Lake Erie were making the eggs too thin, and they were facing extinction in Ohio. That has turned around. I particularly like the focus of the book about what is “right.” Such an important message for kids about ecology, conservation and what can be done. Will have to look at this book. Glad you shared it today.

    • Joanna says:

      Pat, the scenario you describe is exactly what the book details. I myself was encouraged by the improvement in endangered status of all the animals mentioned in the book. It offers a great perspective for children.

  6. Another perfect one for my son. You’re all doing well on the boy books today. Thanks Joanna.

  7. Sounds like a wonderful book. I am always on the lookout for math related books. This appears to be the perfect balance of math and learning about animals set to rhyme. Can’t wait to read it.

  8. This book sounds perfect, Joanna! So many elements combined so skillfully into a book that kids can truly enjoy and relate to — that is a tricky thing to do, and it seems that it’s been accomplished in this book.

  9. Great idea for a pb. Love the concept. Thanks for the review

  10. Oh, I wish I had written this one. And I LOVE all the Sylvan Dell Books. Hope I can find a copy. Thanks for sharing.

  11. I LOVE endangered species/animal stories. Have you ever read When the Wolves Returned? Now I’ll have to check this one out too!

  12. clarbojahn says:

    Thanks for this carefully chosen selection, Joanna. The many themes it covers is sure to be a pleaser. I,too look at the positive factor when I read and if it comes across as optimistic or pessimistic. This one sounds like good example of many optimistic nature stories all in one book.

  13. Another book to add to my list. My daughter will enjoy this one (and what a great way to have her practice some math?). Thanks for the review!

  14. I think I would enjoy 52 books on this topic. I like the idea of finding a niche among the PPBF entries. I have several books on loan from the library that you reviewed in the past and am enjoying them.

    • Joanna says:

      Thanks for the encouragement, Stacy. I reviewed many wonderful books on this topic last year, when I was setting up my blog and I am thinking that some would be worth reviewing for PPBF. I am glad you enjoy them.

  15. This sounds fabulous! I KNOW I would use it in my classroom. Thanks so much for bringing it to my (everyone’s) attention.

    Grade ONEderful

  16. Wonderful choice, Joanna. I, too, love seeing the positive in everything. The book sounds like it has a wide age range…I love that also. I’m sure many adults would learn quite a bit as well. 🙂

    • Joanna says:

      Vivian, I was struck by the possibilities of using the book in different ways with different age groups of children. I often learn new facts through these picture books on endangered species, and being a kid at hear, I love all the illustrations.

  17. Amy Dixon says:

    Sylvan Dell is such a quality publisher when it comes to books with curriculum tie-ins and it looks like this book is no exception! Thanks so much for sharing this one, Joanna!

  18. Heather says:

    Thank you for presenting a book with a positive spin on a serious subject (you can make a difference). Too many well meaning children’s book authors end up placing a heavy burden of guilt on young readers with heavy handed treatment of conservation concepts.

  19. This is a great idea for a math book! I like how you learn about the animals too. Thanks for telling us about it!

  20. What a wonderful way to integrate math with reading and science! My students will really enjoy this book. They love animals and are very interested in learning about endangered species. Thanks, Joanna, for this excellent perfect picture book!

  21. Haven’t really taken much to math picture books – but will give it a try. I also discovered the million book from you, right? Hmm… may be worth exploring more this year. 🙂

    • Joanna says:

      I chose it because of the positive slant on endangered animals, but was pleased with the additional (pun not intended) math element, which doesn’t detract from the conservation side.

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