Booklist Review of Swamp Chomp

Schaefer, Lola M. (Author) , Meisel, Paul (Illustrator)

Apr 2014. 32 p. Holiday, hardcover, $16.95. (9780823424078).

With a short, staccato text and colorful illustrations, this picture book portrays life in a swamp. Each of the opening scenes includes only one short phrase, such as “Fish glide. Guard” and “Turtles bob. Dig.” The pace quickens on the center spread, where the text reads “Hum / Simmer / Bellow / Drone / Splash /Scratch” as a number of animals spring into action above and below the water, some chasing their prey, others trying to elude their predators. This sets the tone for the second half of the book, in which many swamp animals catch and eat smaller critters. The endnote, which briefly comments on swamps and food chains, is memorably illustrated with a line of animals (alligator, turtle, frog, bass, crayfish, dragonfly, mosquito) with gaping jaws, each intent on eating the smaller one beside it. A similar line of animals spirals across the endpapers. Created with ink, watercolor, acrylic, pencil, and pastel, Meisel’s lively illustrations capture swamp life without sentimentalizing or sensationalizing it. A colorful addition to classroom units on swamp ecology, food chains, and predation.

— Carolyn Phelan