A Seed is the Start
Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers
by Melissa Stewart
illus by Stephanie Laberis
Peachtree, 2018
for ages 6-9
ISBN 978-1-56145-936-0
Purchase this book at your local independent bookseller or Amazon.com.
TEACHERS' GUIDE
READERS THEATER
READ-ALOUD GUIDE
MAP & KEY STATS
 

Puny? Poky? Clumsy? Shy? A lighthearted look at the surprising traits that help some animals survive.

Written with a lively, playful voice, Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers introduces young readers to a variety of “animal underdogs” and explains how characteristics that might seem like weaknesses are critical for finding food and staying safe in an eat-or-be-eaten world.

Award-winning author Melissa Stewart offers readers a humorous and informative nonfiction picture book with a gentle message of understanding and celebrating differences. Stephanie Laberis’s bright, bold―and scientifically accurate―illustrations add to the fun.
Behind the Book
“I began researching animal superlatives in 2011. I was hoping to find a unique angle, something I could add to the conversation. I developed a four-book proposal about the science behind the statistics, but editors weren’t interested. I tinkered with two different picture book manuscripts, but they went nowhere. Then in 2013, I decided to turn my idea on its head. I began thinking about anti-superlatives—the smallest, slowest, weakest animals. Maybe I could write a book about them.
“As I was waking up on a chilly December morning, the beginning of the book just came to me. I knew it was gold, so I scrawled it in my notebook and went about my morning routine. When I sat down at the computer, I typed it in. I loved the strong voice and embedded question. I knew this approach was fresh and fun.
“But as I re-read the words aloud, I suddenly realized that this wasn’t going to be just an anti-superlative book. It was going to be an anti-bullying book too. And to write it, I’d have to revisit some painful parts of my childhood. This was going to be a book only I could write, but it would come at a price, and that scared me. So I shut the file.
Six months later, I convinced myself to just add some of my research notes to the file. I wasn’t writing. I was just assembling information. By September, I could see that all the pieces were falling into place, and I finally felt brave enough to write the ending. I was committed.
“After crafting prose for the animal examples in the middle of the book, I shared “Smallest, Slowest, Weakest” with my writing group. They pointed out many problems, but author-illustrator Steve Anderson saw my vision clearly and gave me an incredible gift—the title Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers.
“In December 2014, I did a week of school visits in Summit, NJ. Each day after school, I dug into the manuscript, working late into the night. All that time with no distractions really paid off. By the time I went home, the book’s pacing was working, and I’d settled on just the right set of animal examples. I was ready to submit it.
“The manuscript was rejected twice, but after making some revisions, it was finally accepted in the summer of 2015. Following another round of revisions with my editor, the book headed off to be illustrated by the talented and hilarious Stephanie Laberis.”
Reviews
“Kids love pandas and elephants, big cats and great white sharks. But how many know about the naked mole rat or the western fence lizard? Dedicated to children experiencing bullying (“what others see as a weakness may actually be your strength”), Stewart's latest focuses on some of nature's most underrated creatures. … Stewart's narrative voice is casual and peppy. Laberis' digitally rendered illustrations are warm and dynamic, simultaneously silly and realistic—a perfect match for the text and topic. … Friendly and approachable, this compendium is sure to create some new favorites in the animal kingdom.”
“Meet the small, shy, shy, and sleepy creatures from around the world whose unique features have helped them survive, adapt, and thrive when faced with bigger, faster, stronger predators. Hoatzins, zorillas, okapis, and tiny Amau frogs smaller than the tip of a pinkie finger are just some of the many diverse and fascinating animals depicted in humorous and informative portraits that showcase variety of incredible critters up close and in their natural habitats.”
“… the point that every animal, no matter how seemingly weak, has ‘its own special way of surviving’ is effectively made. The narrative also offers discussion-encouraging questions, and the lively painted portraits depict the animals fairly realistically, placing them in simplified natural settings, sometimes with a humorous touch.”
“If you have animal lovers in your house or classroom, definitely seek out Melissa Stewart's newest picture book: Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs. She takes a fresh look at what makes an animal noteworthy—do we really want to focus only on the fastest animals? Or do we want to find out how animals survive and thrive?”
“Stewart engages young readers with a conversational style and effective use of questions. … Laberis' bold and colorful illustrations, created in Adobe Photoshop CC, lend a humorous tone to the charming and informative narrative. The back matter provides more information about animals listed in the text in addition to a list of selected sources. Pick up a copy today to add to your library, classroom or to give as a gift to the animal lover in your life.”
“As a meticulous researcher Melissa Stewart brings a respected authenticity to everything she writes. In this title her easy conversational style replete with captivating facts and the use of alliteration generates a desire in the reader to keep turning the pages … as quickly as possible.”
“Stewart uses a see-saw question and answer format to explore the behaviors and features that make these creatures unique. Fantastic read aloud potential!”
“Give this one to kids who like animals, especially unique facts about animals.”
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