My children all went through a stage of obsession with Bill Martin Jr’s Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. I didn’t really understand it from reading the words flat on the page, but when they started singing it to me (particularly the Crystal Taliefero version,) I finally got it.
A similar thing happened with Armadillo Antics. Tho Bill Martin Jr passed in 2004, Michael Sampson builds on his legacy with this short book, incorporating the kind of rhyme structure used in Mr Martin’s other famous work, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?. Again as with that latter, I didn’t really understand the rhyming scheme/point (as a fast reader, even as a child, I tend to go for content over sound) and was ready to write this book off as another book I was sure would be popular though I didn’t see the appeal myself… until I recruited my 8 year-olds to come read this for me.
And wow, did those kids love this book! The escalating beat of the “Armadillo, Armadillo, Armadillo” refrain in particular was a favorite, with the kids providing their own chant-like emphasis when reading aloud to me. I almost feel as if they learned by osmosis here, as the rest of the informative text was something they read over mostly in order to be able to get to the next Armadillo x3 instance. Tho in fairness, their ears definitely perked up at the mention of twins. After all, who doesn’t like seeing themselves represented in books, even in animal form?
Nathalie Beauvois’ art is superb throughout. Using what looks to be a mix of collage and gouache, her fine art aesthetic speaks to me more readily than the other art of the Bill Martin Jr oeuvre. But that doesn’t make it at all inaccessible to kids either: the very kinetic illustrations draw kids in to explore the details of each page, and make it easy to ask questions that reinforce both vocabulary and numeracy throughout.
The page on armadillo facts at the end is also very cute, with the armadillos drawn in a more cartoon-y style that feels like a natural progression from the rest of the book. I definitely appreciated the informative page, tho my kids — while enjoying the cartoons — wanted to go back and read the main book again from the beginning. Overall, I’d say this is a win for encouraging zoological interest in a manner kids will love, while also highlighting some truly beautiful, stylized artwork.
Armadillo Antics by Bill Martin Jr., Michael Sampson & Nathalie Beauvois was published April 26 2022 by Brown Books Kids and is available from all good booksellers, including