Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - Terrific Tongues! 4.04.18

Artwork by Sarah S. Brannen ©2017
Every Wednesday I join Alyson Beecher from kidlitfrenzy and other
kidlit bloggers to share wonderful nonfiction picture books.
The intention of today's blog post is to give professionals that work in the
education field new nonfiction reading material and ideas to use 
with students to promote a love of reading nonfiction materials.

I bet you don't think about your tongue too often - until you bite it unexpectedly!  Ouch!  But many mammals have come to rely on it for an important tool.

Terrific Tongues! by Maria Gianferrari
Terrific Tongues!
written by Maria Gianferrari
illustrated by Jia Liu
published by Boyds Mills Press

Did you know a woodpecker uses its tongue like a sword?  It's as sharp as a sword and it can stab the food it needs to get when it's hiding beneath tree bark.  Handy!

Or that a gecko's tongue is like a windshield wiper, keeping its eyes clean since they don't have eyelids.  

And my favorite - did you know a tongue can be an air conditioner?  Like for a dog, their tongue helps cool them off when they stick it out and pant - it helps chill their blood and circulate it through their body!

I love the way this book is structured with front to back layouts.  The front pages show the tongue looking to the item it is being compared to.  Although this is silly, it also makes a visual connection for the young reader that helps them understand what could be an abstract idea.  Of course the silly visuals will just make this book so much fun to read and look at over and over again!

front layout... turn the page and see...

...the actual animal!

Author Maria Gianferrari has stopped by to answer a couple of questions.

1. Talk about the research a bit for this book.  It must have been interesting to learn all of the information and think of the comparisons for this book!

This story has its genesis long ago! It all started when my then toddler was obsessed with all things tongue. At the time, we were living in Berlin, Germany for my husband’s sabbatical. Every time we’d go for a walk, or read a book, or see a dog or some kind of animal, she would point at it and say the German word, “Zunge.” Her obsession became my obsession. I began to do some preliminary research and stumbled upon so many cool things that I knew I could write something about it. It started off as a poem, some of which has been retained at the end with the tongue functions. Once I had collected all of the cool details, and made comparisons, I had to study nonfiction picture books to figure out a format, and it eventually morphed into a book.

2. I'm always fascinated by what didn't make the book - what was an animal and its interesting tongue feature that didn't make the book?

The hummingbird was moved from the main text to fun tongue section and was replaced by an even cooler creature—a nectarivorous bat called the Pallas long-tongued bat when I discovered a scientist’s high speed video of it. You can see it here:
Here’s a photo of the Pallas long-tongued bat: 

Photo credit: Dr. Melvin D. Tuttle/Bat Conservation International 

3.  So if you could choose.... which animal tongue would you want to have?

If a dog’s tongue truly worked as efficiently as an air conditioner, I’d definitely take that! I am not a fond of heat and humidity.

Thank you, Maria, for stopping by!  

Thanks for featuring Terrific Tongues here, Michele!

Here's more about this fantastic author:
Maria would love an air conditioner-like tongue to combat Virginia's hot and humid summers, or a tongue like a straw for sipping cold ice tea! But she'll make do with kisses from her rescue mutt, Becca. Terrific Tongues is Maria's first book with Boyds Mills Press. She is also the author of the Penny & Jelly books, Coyote MoonOfficer Katz & Houndini and Hello Goodbye Dog. Maria lives in Virginia with her scientist husband, artist daughter, and writing companion, Becca.

You can find Maria:

Would you like to have a copy of this book in your classroom?  Maria and her publisher, Boyds Mills Press, has generously donated a copy of this fantastic book. The giveaway is open to US residents and will remain open through April 9th.  Good luck and happy reading!


  1. The library has the book, so requesting, and it looks amazing. I love that video, often wonder how something evolves. Thanks, Michele and for the interview too.

  2. Thanks for featuring Terrific Tongues today, Michele!! :)