It’s all about animals for Mount Vernon’s 4th graders

Animal Hide & SeekDahlov Ipcar’s book, Animal Hide & Seek, was a perfect choice for the 25 very active 4th graders at Mount Vernon Elementary School. I’ve been spending an afternoon each month teaching writing to these students and it’s been a lot of fun. The kids are enthusiastic and really enjoying our afternoons together.

So far they’ve written about their favorite old things (I told them this story could not be about their parents!), their favorite animals, their favorite after-school activity, and their favorite places outside of Mount Vernon. In the fall we went into the woods behind the school, took notes, and came back to write about what we saw there. It took quite an effort to get them out of the woods! I have tried to make writing fun for them.

The kids have written news stories and editorials. I especially liked the news story by one of the girls who wrote about the shooting contest she’d won recently at the Augusta range. And their editorial opinions were very interesting!

I asked them to start writing in a diary at home, and some of them brought their diaries to our last afternoon together and read from them. I was encouraged to hear that many intend to keep writing in their diaries. They seemed to understand right away that they could write about anything they wanted in their diaries. It could be all about them.

After each writing assignment is done, each student gets up and reads what they’ve written. Some of them read with a lot of enthusiasm! I’ve told them that, to succeed in life, they need to be able to read, write, and speak well.

I have concluded, however, that I could never have been a teacher. I’m exhausted after 2 ½ hours with these kids. I don’t know how teachers do it, every day, all day. No wonder my wife Linda is tired when she gets home from school! It was really heartwarming when I heard that the kids had asked if Mr. Smith could come every week. Oh no! And they made me an awesome card for my birthday last October.


At my last visit, I asked the students to read a short book and write a review of it. I explained that I write book reviews and told them what needs to be included: title, author, why they liked it, and just enough of the story to entice someone to read the book. They did a great job with this.

I also brought Dahlov Ipcar’s book, Animal Hide & Seek, with me because I needed to write a review of it, knew the kids really loved writing and talking about animals, and wanted to engage them in the review. After I read the book to them, I asked each student to write two or three sentences telling me why they liked the book.

You probably know that Ipcar is an award-winning artist whose career spanned more than sixty years during which she wrote and illustrated more than thirty children’s and young adult books. Animal Hide & Seek was her first authored title, published in 1947.  Islandport Press in Yarmouth has republished several of Ipcar’s books.

The students were hooked from the first sentence of Animal Hide & Seek:  “The woods are full of animals, little ones and big ones – chipmunks and tree frogs, turtles, birds, and rabbits. When you walk in the woods you won’t see them at first. All you will see are the tall trees and the ferns, and moss and dry leaves. But little animals are hiding there; some in holes in the trees; some are right in front of you, but are hard to see. Look carefully and see if you can find them.”

Ipcar’s illustrations are awesome. Your kids will need to pause before continuing the story, to find each of the more than two dozen critters in the first illustration.

Here is what the kids liked about the book:

The pictures are really pretty and it tells you about nature. The animals are all beautiful.

If you want to learn how to find an animal, read this book.

One girl drew a wildlife scene with her review and then noted she liked the book because it gives detail about which animal it is talking about.

I like this book because it tells you facts about interesting and common wild animals!

I must have seen most of the animals. I like the book.

It is so fun to see animals and take pictures of them.

It has lots of interesting science. The descriptions come off the page.

I like the tree frogs. They turn color. (Even I was surprised to learn that tree frogs change their colors. As Ipcar explains, “If he is on the bark of the tree, he turns brown or gray. If he is on a leaf, he turns green or yellow. If you catch a tree frog and put him on a leaf, you will see his skin change color to look like that leaf.” Did you know that?!)

The author gave plenty of information about animals and the illustrations are amazing. (Well, that really says it all!)

It’s a great book because it has animals and tells about habitats! I would recommend this book for someone who likes animals! Like me! The story is about how animals camouflage and their colors and habitats. I love this book!

I guess you can tell this last girl really enjoyed the book! I told her that her review was exceptional. I wish I could be that succinct!



George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.