The Most Dangerous, written by Terri Fields and illustrated by Laura Jacques, is an educational story that caters to children between the ages of 4-9.
The engagement of this story is instantaneous when a gathering of animals from all over the world come together in order to compete for the coveted title of the most dangerous. Savvy to her audience, Ms. Fields masters the craft of description by devoting a mere sentence or two per creature that enables her young audience to instantly engage. She presents a wide range of animals from box jellyfish to hippopotamus that have traveled from the far reaches of Australia as well as the barren plains of Africa to compete in The Most Dangerous contest. She is concise in describing characteristics that are individual and unique to the animals she depicts and notes traits specific to each animal. Before moving on to the next, she explains why it is considered to be fearful. In essence, she makes it easy for her reader to process the ‘danger.’
Laura Jacques complements Ms. Fields’ story with her creative and detailed depictions of the animals through bold and colorful illustrations. Her images assign a reality and recognition in a ‘come to life’ style that assists the reader in formulating an opinion when it comes time to judge.
Fields reserves the outcome and element of surprise for the very end of the story when the most unsuspecting ‘most dangerous’ achieves the overall title. While the story may be over, Fields provides an afterthought to the book as she coaxes her readership to think about what they’ve learned by including an educational section. There are interactive snippets of information that address topics such as where the animal originates and what makes it indigenous to its domain. She further encourages her young readers to give their creative talents a shot with a section of illustrations and the suggestion they draw their version of the varied creatures. She expands on the challenge by planting seeds that encourage the reader to think about the animal’s natural habitat and diet.
This story brought me back to many years ago when I would read bedtime stories to my daughters. I believe children are a very difficult audience to write for. Their imaginations are vivid and vast, but their insistence toward believability is where they invariably refuse to give an inch. Ms. Fields has done a just job in accomplishing a believable and educational tale for her target audience.
Quill Says: Who would have thought the smallest creature would be The Most Dangerous.