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After the Kill
After the Kill
By author: Darrin Lunde   Illustrated by: Catherine Stock
Product Code: 
Binding Information: Hardback 
6  - 9
It is early in the mornig, and a hugry lioness is on the prowl. She sees a herd of zebras grazing int he distance. Mmmm--zebra! Her mouth begins to water.
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Price: $16.95

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A hungry lioness attacks a grazing zebra on the plains of East Africa. She bites it in the throat. The zebra is dead. After the kill, the lioness and her pride rip the carcass open and eat. Vultures swoop in and fight over scraps of meat, and cunning jackals compete with bone-crushing hyenas for a piece of the feast.

Life on the plain is a constant, dramatic struggle for surviaval between predator, prey, and scavenger.

This book is good for your brain because:
Life science, life cycles, predator/prey relationship

Download the cover image.

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  • Also Available As:
    Binding Information: Paperback 
    ISBN: 978-1-57091-744-8
    Availability: In Stock
    Price: $7.95

      Kirkus Reviews - April 15, 2011
    When a lioness kills a zebra, the carcass becomes food not only for her pride but also for vultures, hyenas, jackals and, finally, meat-eating beetles that clean the skeleton, leaving it to turn to dust on Africa's Serengeti Plain.

    The cover illustration summarizes the narrative: A lioness, mouth open and long canines visible, reaches out with large clawed paws; lion, jackal and hyena are close behind. A vulture perches on the title page. This is a realistic depiction of predation in the wild. Aimed at elementary-school readers, this title has none of the sweetness of the Smithsonian mammologist’s earlier works about bumblebee bats, meerkats and baby belugas. Lunde’s explicit description doesn’t mince words: "[T]he lioness rips the carcass open and feeds on the soft internal organs first." Informational paragraphs, set off in a different type, accompany the narrative, adding intriguing details about each species. These dual texts are set on full-bleed double-page paintings done in pencil, watercolor and gouache. The jumble of animals around the kill is realistic; yellows and browns of the sunlit Serengeti landscape and red of the blood predominate. The action in these paintings moves relentlessly forward until the last arrivals, the lappet-faced vultures and beetles, finish the job.

    Pair this with Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen’s Flying Eagle, illustrated by Deborah Kogan Ray (2009), for more "nature red in tooth and claw" science.

      Richie's Picks - April 25, 2011
    "It is early in the morning, and a hungry lioness is on the prowl. She sees a herd of zebras grazing in the distance. Mmmm -- zebra! Her mouth begins to water."

    After the Kill is a picture book that stopped me in my tracks. Year after year, there are children's books set on the East Africa plain that look so posed, so static. This is the antithesis of those books. Page after page, this is a picture book that exudes vibrancy.

    "The lioness crouches in the grass and creeps forward.
    "One of the zebras seems weaker than the others, and she focuses on it. The zebra twitches its ears, but does not see her. The lioness creeps closer...closer...and then --"

    After the Kill portrays the tension between co-existing species -- predators, scavengers, and prey -- as the zebra killed by the lioness becomes, in turn, a meal for white-backed vultures, spotted hyenas, golden jackals, male lions, small lion cubs, lappet-faced vultures, and meat-eating beetles.

    Reading and re-reading this book that pulsates with life and power and timelessness, I wanted to know: How did this book come to feel so different from anything I've seen before? I decided to learn more about the author and the illustrator.

    From a web page of questions and answers about the author, I found out that Darrin Lunde is a mammalogist who first went out seeking knowledge about taxidermy and organizing collection data when he was a middle school student on Staten Island. Aided by his hard work in college, he grew up to successfully land his childhood dream job: working as an explorer for the American Museum of Natural History which, for both him and me, was a magical place to visit as a child. Of working there, he wrote:

    "Being part of the museum's unbroken chain of explorers is what means the most to me. The museum explorers before me who went out, suffered hardships, took risks, and discovered new things are my ultimate heroes. It's about more than adding nuggets of information to our vast storehouse of knowledge. It's about the struggle to reach unfamiliar territory and the hard work that goes into discovering new things. It's about continuing the tradition of exploration, and keeping the spirit of exploration alive."

    Now he is working at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

    I discovered that illustrator Catherine Stock grew up in Stockholm, Paris, South Africa, New Orleans, and San Francisco. In colleges over three continents she studied art, education, communications, and design. Of her younger years and a failed career she writes:

    "So then I decided to get my teaching certificate in London. What a shock! I couldn't control the tough young kids in London's East End at all, and later, the older students at the Loughton College of Further Education were so bored and unmotivated, only interested in snoggling with each other at the back of the class. Teaching suddenly became a matter of either discipline or entertainment. It was so different from Africa, where kids sometimes walk for hours every day to get to school."

    On her website, you can find photos of Catherine hanging out with lionesses. Her illustrations for After the Kill are done in pencil, watercolor, and gouache.

    "White-backed vultures are such clumsy fliers that they sometimes crash-land near a kill with a forward somersault. They have hooked tongues that keep other vultures from snatching slippery meat out of their mouths."

    There are two texts in After the Kill. There is the narrative, as the various creatures either chase one another away or sneak in for a piece of the kill. And there is the smaller-sized additional information about the different species who make up the story -- a story that does not even begin to stand still until the final page, when we are left with the white, bleached skeleton of the zebra on the Serengeti Plain.

    This is a significant work that is sure to inspire young artists, animal lovers, and ecologists.

      NC Teacher Stuff - July 11, 2011
    It's early morning on the Serengeti Plain and a lioness is crouching as she spots a weak member of a herd of zebras. The lioness springs and quickly tackles the zebra. With a bite to the zebra's throat, the lioness has started a sequence that will end up bringing food to a variety of species. Up to this point, After the Kill is similar to other predator/prey books that you find in the animal section of the library. Then author Darrin Lunde hooked me with this detail, "..the lioness rips the carcass open and feasts on the soft internal organs first." Whoa! This is one of those details that makes you sort of squeamish (if you're an adult) yet extremely fascinated at the same time. From pillar to post, After the Kill is a straight forward telling of what happens to a carcass on the plain. It's not unnecessarily graphic, but it doesn't pull punches either. You see the order in which animals (hyenas, jackals, vultures) approach the dead animal and what parts of the animal they take away. Older elementary students will appreciate the forthright approach chosen by Lunde and illustrator Catherine Stock. It is what sets this book apart from the other texts that you will find on this subject. Kids are watching these nature scenes on cable television (Discovery Channel, National Geographic, etc.), but while getting a great visual, these students don't walk away with much more. Books like After the Kill provide the information they need in conjunction with the visuals.

    Older reluctant readers would be a good audience for After the Kill as the content is mature, but the text is not too terribly difficult to decode. Lunde's captions for the illustrations add background information that students will be eager to share with others. After the Kill may make adults a little queasy, but you will find many students who will be mesmerized by this candid look at animal life in the wild.

      School Library Journal - July 12, 2011
    This accessible and compelling slice-of-life on the Serengeti Plain is aptly titled and remarkably dynamic as it describes what happens after a zebra is taken down by a lioness. A variety of predators and scavengers vies for the meat, including male and female lions, hyenas, jackals, and several species of vultures, concluding with meat-eating beetles that pick the bones clean. Students will move quickly from sympathy for the prey to fascination with the life-and-death survival drama that is playing out. Events are viewed with an air of objectivity that encourages closer inspection and discussion. Side notes in a different font provide further details about the animals, their adaptations to life on the plain, and their relationships to other animals. The writing is full of vivid descriptions and enticing action: "The hyenas devour the zebra in a frenzy of biting and pulling. They tear entire limbs and large pieces of meat from the carcass, making eerie laughing sounds as they squabble." The vibrant watercolor and gouache paintings are filled with vitality and movement, and the predominant yellows and browns reflect the setting. Pair this with Robert B. Haas's African Critters (National Geographic, 2008), which offers photographic counterpoint and plenty of facts on many of the same creatures to draw in animal lovers. This is a fascinating introduction to an intriguing topic and a must-have for all libraries catering to young readers.
      The Horn Book Magazine - July 1, 2011
    Catherine Stock eschews her typically delicate line-and-watercolor pictures for a more vigorously gestural approach in this blunt portrayal of animal life in the Serengeti. A lioness stalks a faltering zebra, kills it, and eats it with her family; meanwhile, white-backed vultures arrive: “The vultures reach deep inside the dead zebra with their long necks and tear off bits of meat and intestine.” Then come hyenas, jackals, two other types of vultures, and ultimately meat-eating beetles, until all that remains of the zebra is bones that “shine white under the setting African sun.” Given the inherent grisliness of the topic, the text is notably reined in and matter-of-fact, and the pictures, expansive horizontal spreads, are almost impressionistic, focusing more on the ferocity of the predators than on the details of their prey. Children who know that nature can be brutal will appreciate this honest approach (as will the more generally bloodthirsty); extra credit for any librarian who gives the book a go at story time.
      Confuzzled Books - July 1, 2011
    What is it About?

    A picture book about the way a zebra is used in the food cycle for animals Africa.

    My Thoughts:

    Definitely not a book for the squeamish child or adult. I think about The Lion King and the song Circle of Life. While that is a happy song this may not be the happiest topic but it is a fact of life. Lion kill zebras for food and other animals eventually share this food.

    While I am not a fan of watching the animal planet channel show about predators killing other animals I respect that they have to to live and this book is still an educational book for children.

    The art is pretty graphic and I would not recommend it for smaller children. Maybe for about the age of 7 and up depending on the child. You would need a child mature enough to understand and respect the nature of animals.

      BayViews - August 1, 2011
    Shades of Walt Disney’s early nature films which often focused on the violence in nature! Here, the author starts with a lioness on the prowl. She kills a zebra, and the feasting frenzy proceeds from there. The other lionesses, followed by vultures, hyenas, jackals, the male lions, bigger vultures, and at last, meat-eating beetles join to completely demolish the zebra. All that is left is the skeleton. The pencil, watercolor, and gouache illustrations vibrate with blood, gnashing teeth, roars, fighting, chasing—all in the African plains setting. There are many sidebars with more information about each animal group as it appears. This is a useful addition to the study of food chains, albeit a gory one.
      Waking Brain Cells - October 14, 2011
    Explore what happens after the lioness kills a zebra on the Serengeti Plain. While the hunt and the kill are part of the story, they are only the beginning. After the zebra is killed, the lion pride comes to eat and then other species start to gather. There are the vultures who share with the lions. Then the hyena clan that is able to drive the lions away and claim their share. Jackals use trickery to grab some food for themselves. The lions reclaim the carcass and continue to eat until they are sated. Other vultures arrive. The small scraps of flesh that remain are eaten by meat-eating beetles until the bones are white in the African sun.

    Lunde, a mammalogist at the Smithsonian Institute, creates a compelling story here. There is no shying away from predator and prey, just a frank description of the food chain. Nicely, Lunde injects his narrative with plenty of detail, noises, and an obvious love of his subject. He paints a verbal picture of what is happening, helping young readers better understand what is actually happening. The pieces of the book in the smaller font have additional scientific information that readers will find fascinating.

    Stock’s illustrations have a bright, hot quality to them thanks to the yellow tones throughout. The heat of Africa is built into every page. She also embraces the kill, the scavenging, and the story, creating a book filled with action-filled images.

    An unflinching look at the battle for food on the Serengeti Plain, this book will be riveting for young readers. Appropriate for ages 5-8, though this is a book that some children may find upsetting, so it is important to be aware of the sensitivity of the child you are sharing it with.

      Science - December 2, 2011
    If you live with a young person who likes blood, guts, and a bit of fighting, this one is for you. Mammalogist Lunde describes what happens on the Serengeti Plain of East Africa after a lioness springs from the grass and chases down a zebra. Her prey is gradually eaten by the pride of lions, white-backed vultures, and spotted hyenas—with some fighting among the attendees at the carcass. Eventually, “thousands of tiny meat-eating beetles swarm inside the skull, squeeze between the teeth, and wiggle inside the ears,” picking at the bones until the skeleton is clean. Stock’s slightly impressionistic illustrations (in pencil, watercolor, and gouache) are not too graphic, and short paragraphs scattered beneath them explain more of the science. Roar!
      Picturebook Reviews - November 13, 2011
    This book details the amazing, hard truth of how the carcass of a zebra passes through the food chain from the initial kill of a lioness to the scouring meat eating beetles that clean the last bits of meat from the bones. One carcass provides a meal for at least seven different species. No part of the remains are left to waste. The story of the wild is told in untamed, sketchy artwork that captures the continuous struggle of survival on the African plains without being overly graphic.
    Predation is a natural part of nature. It's part of every lesson on food chains, but teachers seldom spend a lot of time on it because the resources they might use are hard to find or unusually graphic.

    This book about predation doesn't "pull punches" but it does describe the role and adaptations of top predators in ways that are developmentally and scientifically appropriate. Its art is accurate without being gory. The author avoids the trap of insinuating predators are bad; the role of the top consumer in the energy cycle of a habitat is clear in both text and illustrations.

    Realistic scientific information about predation earned this book recognition as an NSTA/CBC Outstanding Trade Book. It fills an important gap in natural history books normally available for young people. As part of a classroom library or support for a unit on food webs, it will be especially appreciated at the middle elementary level.