Five Busy Beavers
Five Busy Beavers
Three busy beavers dragging back the logs,
digging up canals that ran into the bog.
Pushing to the river,
and swimming to the lake.
Paddling their feet,
with no time to take a break.
Five Busy Beavers was originally published by Scholastic as a paperback in 2015, and its contents have now been repackaged as a board book. A comparison of the two physical versions reveals that the main text remains essentially the same with the exception of one word being changed. Near the end of the book, where there is only one beaver still working, the original text describing the beaver read: “And one tired beaver paddled away.” In the board book, “tired” has been replaced with “busy”. As well, one illustration page has been removed, and its brief text has been added to that of the following page. Finally, dropped from the board book is the original’s concluding “Life in a Beaver Pond” page which provided a brief factual explanation of the “what & why” of the beavers’ activities.
The poetry contents of Five Busy Beavers initially reveal five beavers busily working away at the various tasks involved in their building a dam. However, one by one, four of the beavers are lured away from their labors by woodland creature friends who invite them to play. For example, the following text follows the “Excerpt”:
Along came some chorus frogs,
who wanted to play.
And one little beaver frolicked away.
Finally, there is only one beaver who remains focused on what had been the entire group’s job, and it works diligently until sunset. Meanwhile, the other four beavers, along with their animal buddies, have returned to the beaver lodge where, perhaps embarrassed by having abandoned their workmate, they prepare a surprise welcome home party. Grasso’s text never says what kind of play each beaver is being invited to engage in, but the contents of Battuz’s cartoon-style collage illustrations certainly provide hints. For example, the illustration accompanying the text of the first beaver’s being lured away reveals a muskrat tossing an acorn to the beaver.
Five Busy Beavers offers youngsters the opportunity to learn how to count backwards from five to one, and Grasso’s rich word choices will certainly add to listeners’/readers’ vocabularies. The publisher had recommended the paperback version for an audience of 3-8-year-olds whereas the publisher’s recommendation for the board book is 0-3-years. Simply changing a book’s physical format does not automatically reduce its audience level. Five Busy Beavers has a lot of text for a board book, and its chronologically structured storyline puts some interpretive demands on its suggested young listeners/readers. Though Five Busy Beavers can work as a board book, its use with toddlers would likely come after they have been exposed to board books originally created in the format.
Dave Jenkinson, CM’s editor, remains busy in Winnipeg, Manitoba.