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Spotlight on Science Writers: Steve Jenkins

A select group of authors who have won or been finalists for the AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books have been invited to write or record an introduction to one of their books. We have suggested a few guidelines, but the format and content have been chosen by each author and will be appropriate for their book's intended audience. Science NetLinks will include related classroom resources appropriate for students and educators at the end of each Spotlight on Science Writers post. You can read all the posts in this series here.

Female African elephants stay with their herd and help take care of their younger siblings. (Image Credit: Steve Jenkins. used with permission.)

Steve Jenkins on Sisters and Brothers: Sibling Relationships in the Animal World:

Several years ago, Robin Page and I decided we’d like to write a book about animal families. We wanted to show examples of how animal parents care for their babies. When we have an idea for a book, we always do a lot of research. This includes reading other books that have been written on the same topic. We found that there were already many books about animal parents and their offspring.

As we did our research, however, we noticed that we’d come across very little information about animal brothers and sisters. We decided to read more about animal siblings, but the information was not easy to find.

So, we thought, there are lots of books about animal parenting. But no one seems to have written a book about how animal siblings get along (or don’t). Maybe we should make a book about animal brothers and sisters instead. We decided to call it Sisters & Brothers because “brothers” always seem to get mentioned first, and we thought “sisters” should have a turn.

Seven hundred black widow spiders can be born in one egg sac about the size of a grape. Only few survive, however, because black widows are cannibals. As soon as they hatch, the stronger spiders begin to eat their brothers and sisters. (Image Credit: Steve Jenkins. Used with permission.)


Steve Jenkins and Robin Page are the authors of 16 books together, including How to Swallow a Pig, due out this fall, and What Do You Do with a Tail like This?, which was named a Caldecott Honor Book in 2004. They live in Boulder, Colorado, and have three children. Steve, who has written or illustrated many other books, moved often as a kid, but kept animals, including lizards, turtles, and spiders, and collected rocks and fossils. He has one younger brother. Robin, who has four siblings, grew up on a farm, started a design business with Steve, and has written and illustrated several books.

Their book, Sisters and Brothers: Sibling Relationships in the Animal World, won the 2009 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books for the Best Science Picture Book.

Going Further
Related Educator Resources
  • The lesson Sisters and Brothers uses the book Sisters & Brothers: Sibling Relationships in the Animal World to explore the sibling relationships of different animals.
  • This press release from the publisher includes a conversation with Steve and Robin.
  • Steve's website can be found here. The section on "Making Books" might be particularly interesting to share with your students.
  • Teach students about Animal Diversity, which will help students understand the difference between actual physical attributes of animals and fictional ones.
  • The lesson Where in the Wild? introduces students to the concept of animal camouflage.
  • April Pulley Sayre: Science Explorer explores how animals eat plants or other animals for food by using the books of April Pulley Sayre.
  • Investigating Local Ecosystems will students explore the habitats of local plants and animals to learn about how living things depend on one another.
  • BioBlitz is a collection of resources relating to BioBlitz, a 24-hour natural census of a region conducted by citizens and scientists. The collection contains many student-friendly videos.
  • Learn more about dinosaurs by comparing them to animals that are alive today with the lesson What Were Dinosaurs Like?
  • If you want to move beyond animals and into human siblings, the lesson Taking Care of a Baby offers an introduction to the basics of how a baby grows inside its mother until its birth.