A House in the Sky<br><font size=2>And Other Uncommon Animal Homes</font>

A House in the Sky
And Other Uncommon Animal Homes

  • 1699

By: Steve Jenkins / Illustrated by: Robbin Gourley

Caldecott Honor recipient Steve Jenkins gives young readers a tour of the residences of fourteen different animals.

Some animals build nests, some live in holes in the ground, and some even live in books! Turtles, birds, fish, beavers, and kangaroos are just like people—they need homes, and take up residence in unusual places. Readers get a glimpse of the similarities between human and animal homes with sidebars that detail the unique qualities of each animal and its home.

Robbin Gourley's stylized yet realistic watercolor illustrations prove that nonfiction can be accurate and elegant.

Backmatter includes more information about each animal—their habits and their habitats.

Listen to author Steve Jenkins talk about A House in the Sky on Charlesbridge Unplugged.

Look Inside the Book:

Author & Illustrator Bios:

Steve Jenkins, author

Steve Jenkins, recipient of a Caldecott Honor, has written or co-written more than thirty books about the natural world for young readers, inlcuding Down, Down, Down: A Journey to the Bottom of the Sea and What Do You Do With a Tail Like This? (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). Read more about Steve here, and listen to our podcast interview with Steve here.

Robbin Gourley, illustrator

Robin Gourley is the author/illustrator of several children's books, including Bring Me Some Apples and I'll Make You a Pie: A Story About Edna Lewis (Clarion). Read more about Robbin here.

Awards & Honors:

Coming Soon!

Editorial Reviews:

Kirkus Reviews

Twenty animals and their sometimes-unusual ways of sheltering themselves are presented in full-color watercolor illustrations. Though only one creature, the common swift, really makes a home in the sky (and "eats, drinks, and sleeps on the wing"), the animal homes in this collection are varied and occasionally surprising. Jenkins' brief text describes the houses and shelters of mammals (tree kangaroo, badger, beaver, house mouse, and raccoon), birds (reed warbler, red ovenbird, burrowing owl, common swift, satin bowerbird), Siamese fighting fish, other water dwellers (rock-boring urchin, veined octopus, hermit crab, Venus comb, whale barnacle), insects (caddis fly, termite, Mexican book beetle), and a reptile (the box turtle). Animals that construct their own shelters are interspersed with animals that find shelters prefabricated for them—and of course the box turtle carries its shelter along with it. Gourley's full-page illustrations convey the general look of each shelter, though the environments they're found in aren't always made clear. The Venus comb, for instance, looks fascinating, but is it underwater? Or not? In general, though, these simple introductions are fine beginnings and may lead curious readers to find out more. Alas, they won't find a bibliography or source suggestions. The variety of animals is a definite plus, however. Separate brief paragraphs on each creature appear in the back pages, addressing general geographic location, animal size, and diet. A pretty, introductory survey.

School Library Journal

A thoughtful picture book about where we live and why we live there. What are houses used for—to shelter, to impress, to protect? The text raises there and other questions, and each spread includes a whimsical watercolor illustration of an animal’s home. Gourley balances muted tones with bright swipes of color to direct readers’ attentions to specific elements of the structure. The examinations of creatures going about daily life are striking. Ants work, adult birds guard babies in the nest, whales bear barnacle colonies on their backs, the tree-kangaroo sleeps, the badger burrows; houses in the sky, houses on land, and houses underwater—each scene is depicted with care and includes more detailed information in a smaller font beneath the main text. Young ones can playfully enjoy Jenkins’s warm prose and Gourley’s delicate art, while older readers can engage in exploratory learning. More robust explanations of the different species at the end of the book make it an excellent STEM offering. VERDICT: Purchase for its jeu d’esprit, its attention to detail, and its respect for the intelligence of its young audience.


Opening with the idea that “animals, like people, often need a cozy place to sleep, a hideaway for escaping danger, or a safe place to raise a family,” this informative picture book introduces a series of animals and their homes. From tree kangaroos to burrowing owls to barnacles on gray whales, Jenkins writes succinctly about these animals and their surprisingly varied dwellings. Each full-page or double-page entry presents a type of home and how it serves its occupant. Well suited to younger children, the main large-print text might include several animals in the one sentence that extends over multiple pages. A sentence or two in small type relates directly to the illustration. The book’s conclusion turns the opening sentence around in a satisfying way. An appended section offers additional facts about each animal, such as its size, location, migration, and diet. Gourley’s graceful, appealing watercolor illustrations support the text beautifully. Showing a broad range of animal homes and explaining related behaviors, this book is an effective read-aloud choice in the classroom or at home.


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ISBN: 978-1-58089-780-8

ISBN: 978-1-63289-603-2 EPUB
ISBN: 978-1-63289-604-9 PDF
For information about purchasing E-books, click here.

Ages: 3-7
Page count: 32

Correlated to Common Core State Standards:
English Language Arts-Literacy. Reading Literature. Grade K. Standards 1-4, 6-8, 10
English Language Arts-Literacy. Reading Literature. Grade 1. Standards 1-4, 6-8, 10

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