Ackerman, Diane. 2003. Animal Sense. New York: Knopf.
Here is a Digital Trailer for ANIMAL SENSE created by graduate student Eva Price.
Here is a Readers' Guide for ANIMAL SENSE created by graduate student Elizabeth Hoff.
Animal Sense by Diane Ackerman explores each of the senses- vision, touch, taste, hearing and smell- by using animal-themed poetry, explaining in a fun and often silly way how different types of animals use their senses in their environments. From an alligator with “skin chock-full of dimples” to an owl that is more like “a pair of binoculars with wings,” the animals in this poetry collection are a great way to give kids a taste of poetry and will have them listening intently, anxiously waiting to see the next illustration, and ready to get their hands on this book so they can bury their noses is in it!
Review Excerpts and Awards
“There are 15 poems, 3 for each of the 5 senses, each one about a different animal. They are concise and compact, with a quietly humorous tone that sometimes veers into the kind of silliness that many kids love…This is a small book with an elegant and perfectly scaled design. It is more similar to a jewel than to an ice-cream sundae-in other words, it may not have the wide appeal of the more colorful or broadly humorous offerings, but readers who want to go beyond the obvious will savor it.”
Lauralyn Persson, Wilmette Public Library, IL
“Grouped into sections representing each of the five senses, the poems are clever, funny, challenging, and playful, with occasionally made-up words reminiscent of Lewis Carroll. Even if young readers miss the precise meaning and concepts, they will be captivated by Ackerman's rolling, rhyming sounds that mimic the motion of her subjects.”
Gillian Engberg, ALA Booklist
“Ackerman’s lovely little book of poetry will appear at first glance to be a good gift for a child, and indeed a child would be handy to have around so you could justify reading the book aloud. It is more than that, though. It is a book for the curious child in each of us, and lots and lots of the clever wordplay is as much to an adult’s liking as the words in Dr. Seuss’s Cat in the Hat. There is also a lot of learning to be had here (I suspect she couldn’t help herself)...Don’t make the mistake of reading it once. Read it at least three times. Then you’ll understand why a scientist like Carl Sagan was crazy about this woman.”
Stephen L. Petranek, Discover Magazine
“Good poetry, fine illustration, a bit of natural history gently rendered and more than occasionally funny- what child could ask for anything more than this exquisite little gem?”
“Ackerman’s personalized, poetic narrative is natural history writing at its best.”
Top 10 Youth Poetry, American Library Association Booklist
Questions to Ask Before Reading
♣ What are “senses?”
♣ We have five senses. Can you name them?
♣ What is the softest thing you have ever touched? The roughest?
♣ What is the most beautiful noise you have ever heard? What noise hurts your ears?
♣ What is one thing that you want to see but have not had the chance to yet?
♣ What is the yummiest smell you have ever smelled?
♣ What is the sweetest thing you have ever tasted? The bitterest?
♣ Do animals have senses?
♣ How do you think their senses help them in the wild?
♣ How do our senses help us?
Suggestions for Reading Poems Aloud
♣ The Hearing section of the book has several interactive options. For poem I, the poem about bats, give listeners a triangle or other instrument to use. Instead of saying the word “ping,” cue listeners to hit their instruments. For poem III, the poem about baby birds, replace the “noise words” with the actual noise. For instance, when the poem says hum, actually hum instead of saying the word and have the listeners hum too. When it says whistle, actually whistle, and so forth.
♣ With older audiences, have children pair up and read to a poem to each other, alternating lines. Have them practice several times and then have each pair perform their poem for the rest of the audience.
♣ Read at the pace of the animal the poem is about. Poem II of the Taste section of the book is about a grazing cow “with plump rolling cheeks” who takes her time eating grass. Read this poem slowly to mimic the actions of the cow. Poem I of the Vision section is about a bee “for whom the world zooms in a whirlwind rush.” This is a perfect poem to read quickly and with energy.
♣ Several of the poems have dialog. Read these poems aloud and then select a listener to participate and read aloud the quotations of the animal in an “animal voice” when they come up in the poem.
♣ Choose a volunteer before reading each poem. Have the volunteer act out what the animal in the poem is doing as you read, allowing time for the volunteer to act out each movement, making the poem active and bringing it to life.
Discuss where the animals from each of the poems lives - what continent, what habitat, etc. Create a worksheet with pictures of each animal and one with habitat-labeled columns (ie. desert, ocean, etc.) Have students cut out the animals and paste them into the appropriate columns.
Following the Social Studies activity, have each student pick the habitat they would like to learn more about and research it. Have books available about each habitat for the students to use as resources. Then have them write about what types of animals they would find there, what types of plants, etc.
Incorporate the animals into word problems to teach multiplication. For example, “If four binocular-eyed owls were staring at you, how many eyes would be looking at you total?” or “There are three trees with nests in them. Each nest has three singing, baby birds in it. How many singing, baby birds are there altogether?
Set up stations for each of the senses.
Touch: Cut a hole large enough for a hand in a shoebox. Put a texture similar to a few of the animals from the poems. Have the students put their hand in the shoebox to feel the texture and write down what animal they think it feels like.
Hearing: Have the students use headphones to listen to a CD of a few different animal sound clips and have them write down what animal they think made the noise.
Vision: Have the students look through a microscope at something small, a pair of binoculars at something far away and a pair of old glasses at one of the poems and then write down how well and what they were able to see through each item.
Smell: Soak cotton balls in lemon juice, vinegar and perfume and place them in unmarked, empty water bottles. Have the children open each bottle and waft the smell towards them. Then have them write down a guess at what the smell is.
Taste: Have salt and sugar in separate clear jars. Have students guess which one is which and take a pinch to find out if they are right.
Provide students with an array of “found objects” like water bottles, sand paper, paper scraps, etc. Have them recreate an animal from a poem on a piece of paper, using the items to add texture and visual intrigue to their artwork.
Neuroscience for Kids
Website featuring interactive activity ideas for each sense, broken down into appropriate age groups.
The Five Senses at ppst.com
Contains several free powerpoint presentations, activities for kids and lesson plans for teachers.
Come to Your Senses
An interactive website that goes into more detail about each of the senses using Mr. Potato Head as a guide
Games and interactive learning concerning the senses
Resource of worksheets about the senses
Roca, Nuria. 2006. The Five Senses. Ill. by Rosa M. Curto. Barron’s Educational Series
Nettleton, Hill. 2006. Look, Listen, Taste, Touch, and Smell: Learning About Your Five Senses. Picture Window Books.
Cole, Joanna. 1994. You Can’t Smell a Flower With Your Ear. Ill. by Mavis Smith. Grosset and Dunlap.
O’Brien-Palmer, Michelle. 1998. Sense-Abilities: Fun Ways to Explore the Senses. Chicago Review Press.
Showers, Paul. 1993. The Listening Walk. Ill. by Aliki. HarperCollins.
Williamson, Sara. 1998. Fun With My Five Senses: Activities to Build Learning Readiness. Ill. by Loretta Trazzo Braren. Williamson Pub.
Jayne, Lisa. 2007. How Do You Know? A Book About the Five Senses. Tate Publishing and Enterprises.