November 22, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

A Fresh Look at the Familiar: Animals | Series Nonfiction

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SMS1504-Animals1-FamilarThere won’t be any problem refreshing or supplementing animal sections with this season’s selections. While most of these creatures have been covered multiple times in the past, continuing trends such as presenting this material to younger audiences, giving it fresh treatments, and including instructional or reading tools make these titles different. The always-popular topics, plus the continuing infusion of nonfiction devices such as charts, maps, and graphs, load these works with value in multiple ways. Photographs seem to be getting more careful consideration, a change everyone will appreciate. Another noteworthy addition is the inclusion of questions that will engage readers as they move through the texts. Overall, publishers have responded to the demand for books that fulfill more needs and that are targeted at earlier reading levels. Librarians can do the same by pumping up collections with many of these selections.

Preschool to Grade 4

Ang, Karen. Collared Lizard. ISBN 9781627245371; ISBN 9781627246217.

Goldish, Meish. Bark Scorpion. ISBN 9781627245357; ISBN 9781627246200.

––––. Bobcat. ISBN 9781627245388; ISBN 9781627246231.

––––. Camel. ISBN 9781627245364; ISBN 9781627246187.

Macgregor, Eloise. Roadrunner. ISBN 9781627245333; ISBN 9781627246224.

––––. Sidewinder. ISBN 9781627245340; ISBN 9781627246194.

ea vol: 24p. (Science Slam: Desert Animals Searchin’ for Shade). further reading. glossary. map. index. photos. websites. Bearport. 2015. lib. ed. $23.93. ebk. $30.60.

Gr 1-3 –At first glance, this series looks similar to Bearport’s “Arctic Animals” series, but necessarily, the information varies, dropping seasonal changes, and is inconsistent from book to book. Every title includes a map of the animal’s range, with only camels found outside the Western hemisphere. Anticipatory questions are included, but only Camel attempts to relate data in ways that will resonate with readers. The concluding “Science Lab” suggestions mostly include reports and dioramas. Photos are labeled, with insets used over full-page images, which tie in well with the text. Smaller photos provide more detail or context. Collared Lizard is the weakest of the series because of some awkward phrases and questions. VERDICT Though this set isn’t quite as strong as other series by this publisher, these popular animals will still intrigue readers.

Borgert-Spaniol, Megan. Black Bears. ISBN 9781626171862.

––––. Grizzly Bears. ISBN 9781626171909.

––––. Red Foxes. ISBN 9781626171930.

––––. Red-tailed Hawks. ISBN 9781626171947.

Bowman, Chris. American Bison. ISBN 9781626171848.

––––. Bald Eagles. ISBN 9781626171855.

––––. Pronghorn. ISBN 9781626171923.

––––. White-tailed Deer. ISBN 9781626171954.

Leaf, Christina. Gray Squirrels. ISBN 9781626171879.

––––. Gray Wolves. ISBN 9781626171886.

––––. Great-horned Owls. ISBN 9781 626171893.

––––. Jackrabbits. ISBN 9781626171916.

ea vol: 24p. (North American Animals). bibliog. charts. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Bellwether. 2015. lib. ed. $22.95.

Gr 1-4 –This varied collection of animals combines appealing design with clear information. Four or five succinct chapters cover range, habitat, and appearance (size, diet, enemies, and young). Many topics (identification, diet, predators, young) are reinforced through charts. A map shows the animal’s range, alongside a chart showing its conservation status. A graph compares the average animal’s size to that of an average human. The text contrasts nicely with the faintly patterned background, which is overlaid with brightly bordered photographs and colorful charts and graphs. Photos are dynamic, including a hugely exaggerated wide-angle shot in Black Bears. Other than some contradictory information between Black Bears and White-Tailed Deer (White-Tailed Deer leads readers to believe that bears are a major predator of deer, while Black Bears doesn’t list deer as a food source) and the mistakenly identified eastern Greenland in Gray Wolves, these books are well edited. VERDICT Attractive additions.

Borth, Teddy. Blue Animals. ISBN 9781629706948; ISBN 9781629707389. LC 2014943666.

––––. Green Animals. ISBN 9781629706955; ISBN 9781629707396. LC 2014943665.

––––. Orange Animals. ISBN 9781629706962; ISBN 9781629707402. LC 2014943662.

––––. Red Animals. ISBN 9781629706979; ISBN 9781629707419. LC 2014943668.

––––. White Animals. ISBN 9781629706986; ISBN 9781629707426. LC 2014943704.

––––. Yellow Animals. ISBN 9781629706993; ISBN 9781629707433. LC 2014943707.

ea vol: 24p. (Animal Colors). glossary. index. photos. websites. ABDO. 2015. lib. ed. $28.50. ebk. $28.50.

PreS-Gr 2 –This series features the happy melding of two popular early childhood topics: colors and animals. The opening spreads provide brief information on the color (whether it’s primary or secondary) and include a color wheel and mixing chart. White is described as the starting point for color, with pigments added to make different colors. Eight animals are featured per book, divided into three sections: land, air, and water. Land is, not surprisingly, the most popular group, while Green Animals stretches to include the mainly earthbound mantises under air. Readers will find definitions helpful, such as the explanation for albinism in White Animals: “some animals can be born all white.” Each spread is comprised of a large, close-up photo of the animal and two to three descriptive sentences. A selection of extensions is available on the ABDOKids.com site. VERDICT These will be great additions to color units and popular for individual use as well as for group sharing.

de la bédoyère, Camilla. The Wild Life of Bears. ISBN 9781477755143.

––––. The Wild Life of Big Cats. ISBN 9781477754900.

––––. The Wild Life of Frogs. ISBN 9781477755181.

––––. The Wild Life of Lizards. ISBN 9781477754948.

––––. The Wild Life of Monkeys. ISBN 9781477755129.

––––. The Wild Life of Owls. ISBN 9781477755082.

––––. The Wild Life of Penguins. ISBN 9781477755020.

––––. The Wild Life of Sharks. ISBN 9781477754986.

ea vol: 24p. (The Wild Side). charts. glossary. index. photos. websites. Windmill. 2015. lib. ed. $23.60.

K-Gr 3 –These slight overviews introduce different animals through seven interview-style questions, such as “What are you?” and “What do you eat?” The questions serve as chapter headings, followed by the animal’s first-person response (“I eat juicy bugs!”). The remaining spread space is full of examples or variations on the answer, a groaner joke, various insets, and an occasional life-cycle flow chart. Separate “Activity Time” and “Puzzle Time” sections include a varied mix of age-appropriate projects, including crafts, mazes, rhyming words, imaginative play, and (very simple) recipes. The titles end with a story about the animal, original or adapted from a folk- or fairy tale. The oversize font, brightly colored labels, and call-out boxes, plus vivid, close-up photos that vary from full page to silhouette against white add to the appeal. The indexes miss multiple entries, so they won’t offer much help to researchers. VERDICT A treat for browsers and cover-to-cover readers.

Dunn, Mary R. California Condors. ISBN 9781491420898.

––––. Ospreys. ISBN 9781491420911.

––––. Turkey Vultures. ISBN 9781491420942.

Hill, Melissa. Golden Eagles. ISBN 9781491420904.

––––. Peregrine Falcons. ISBN 9781491420928.

––––. Red-Tailed Hawks. ISBN 9781491420935.

ea vol: 24p. (Birds of Prey). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Capstone. 2015. Tr $24.65.

K-Gr 2 –Using a familiar format, these books describe different birds in four-to-six brief chapters. Information includes size and appearance, diet, habitat, reproduction, young, predators, and current status and is consistent throughout, with minor gaps among the volumes. The covers show dramatic close-ups of each bird, except for the full-body shot on Red-Tailed Hawks. Overall, the photos inside are closely linked to the text. An inset map illustrates the bird’s range. A concluding “Critical Thinking Using the Common Core” set of two questions do an excellent job going beyond simple recall. That, plus a word count and reading level, may make these worth considering where those features are important. VERDICT Suitable additions.

Gibbs, Maddie. Chickens. ISBN 9781 499400649.

––––. Cows. ISBN 9781499400823.

––––. Ducks. ISBN 9781499400984.

––––. Goats. ISBN 9781499401349.

––––. Horses. ISBN 9781499401431.

––––. Pigs. ISBN 9781499401684.

ea vol: 24p. (Farmyard Friends). glossary. index. photos. websites. PowerKids. 2015. lib. ed. $23.60.

K-Gr 2 –These slight books reach big, attempting to cover tons of material. They address the usual information: names for the different genders, appearance, diet, behaviors, and purpose for raising them, as well as three different species of each animal. With no more than three short sentences per spread, the content is decidedly abrupt. Claims like “[Chickens] make great pets” are never verified or supported, and “Pigs are friendly. Pet one…” may not be sound advice. The three-to-four word picture glossary choices seem arbitrary, neglecting to highlight some important terms. From the animals peering out from the covers to the full-page images inside, the photos are well chosen. The pumped-up colors and contrast—at times veering on the surreal—make them really pop. VERDICT With so many farm animal series already available—“Animals on the Farm” (Bullfrog) and “Pebble Plus Farm Animals” (Capstone)—these aren’t necessary purchases.

Hirsch, Rebecca E. African Elephants: Massive Tusked Mammals. ISBN 9781467755764.

––––. Gray Wolves: Howling Pack Mammals. ISBN 9781467755771.

––––. Grizzly Bears: Huge Hibernating Mammals. ISBN 9781467755788.

––––. Humpback Whales: Musical Migrating Mammals. ISBN 9781467755795.

––––. Mountain Grorillas: Powerful Forest Mammals. ISBN 9781467755801.

––––. Platypuses: Web-Footed Billed Mammals. ISBN 9781467755818.

––––. Siberian Tigers: Camouflaged Hunting Mammals. ISBN 9781467758789.

––––. Vampire Bats: Nighttime Flying Mammals. ISBN 9781467758796.

ea vol: 32p. (Comparing Animal Traits). bibliog. charts. ebook available. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Lerner. 2015. lib. ed. $26.65.

Gr 3-5 –After establishing basic concepts, four chapters cover physical characteristics, habitat, unique behaviors and life cycle. Each chapter begins with a description of the titled animal, then goes on to compare the subject with several different animals. Grizzly bears are compared to wolverines, three-banded armadillos, wild boars, black-footed ferrets, striped skunks, American bison, jaguars, and titi monkeys. A chart in each chapter summarizes traits of the featured animal with one of the compared animals. A final chart uses six traits to compare all nine animals, three of which are characteristic of all mammals, the others of which are more species specific, such as hibernation (for grizzlies). Other than quibbles with the inconsistent use of scientific terms in the glossaries, the information is, for the most part, clear and consistent. VERDICT The unusual comparison of mammal traits makes this a series worth considering.

Leaf, Christina. Baby Cheetahs. ISBN 9781 626171688.

––––. Baby Elephants. ISBN 9781626171695.

––––. Baby Gorillas. ISBN 9781626171701.

––––. Baby Orangutans. ISBN 9781626171718.

––––. Baby Owls. ISBN 9781626171725.

––––. Baby Tigers. ISBN 9781626171732.

ea vol: 24p. (Super Cute!). bibliog. glossary. index. photos. Bellwether. 2015. Tr $22.95.

K-Gr 2 –The “Aw” factor is big in these introductions to the adorable young of popular warm-blooded animals. Three simple chapters with no more than two sentences per spread describe what these creatures eat, how they learn and play, and how their mothers care for them. The books don’t indicate which specific species or subspecies are depicted in photographs, and only Orangutan references habitat. Each title opens with the appropriate term for the baby in question—owlet for owls, infant for gorillas and orangutans—and ends with an exclamatory sentence related to the action on the page (“Time to run!”). Vocabulary isn’t minced; terms include ambush, pounce, camouflage, and mantle. Loaded with kid appeal, photographs fill the entire spread and are carefully aligned to avoid the gutter. The simple text is overlaid in a brightly outlined box on the verso. VERDICT These charming titles will tumble off the shelf into the hands of eager animal lovers.

Markert, Jenny. Tigers. ISBN 9781 631437526; ISBN 9781631438530.

McDonald, Mary Ann. Boas. ISBN 9781 631437014; ISBN 9781631438332.

––––. Toucans. ISBN 9781631437533; ISBN 9781631438547.

Murray, Peter. Chameleons. ISBN 9781631437038; ISBN 9781631438349.

Rothaus, Don P. Pythons. ISBN 9781 631437519; ISBN 9781631438523.

Woods, Theresa. Jaguars. ISBN 9781631437489; ISBN 9781631438509.

ea vol: 24p. (Animals of the Rainforest). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. The Child’s World. 2015. Tr $27.07. ebk. $14.95.

Gr 3-6 –These books introduce each animal with a scene describing an interesting activity in its life. Information includes appearance, habitat, lifestyle, food, self-defense, growth and development, and current status. The appealingly uncluttered presentation describes the basics in the main text while examples, facts, and captions fill the page borders, which are neatly defined by lightly dotted lines. (Boas and Pythons, for instance, include lots of facts about the size of these snakes.) Clear, full-page photos show the variety within the group—although Piranhas focuses almost exclusively on the common red-bellied species. No other visuals are included. Flaws mar an otherwise nicely done series: Tigers mistakenly lists lions as a predator of their young, and Chameleons contains conflicting material about the life spans of these creatures when kept in captivity. VERDICT Apart from some errors, these titles are worth consideration.

Phillips, Dee. Arctic Fox. ISBN 9781 627245302; ISBN 9781627246156.

––––. Collared Lemming. ISBN 9781627245289; ISBN 9781627246132.

––––. Harp Seal. ISBN 9781627245319; ISBN 9781627246163.

––––. Polar Bear. ISBN 9781627245265; ISBN 9781627246118.

––––. Reindeer. ISBN 9781627245296; ISBN 9781627246149.

––––. Snowshoe Hare. ISBN 9781627245272; ISBN 9781627246125.

ea vol: 24p. (Science Slam: Arctic Animals: Life Outside the Igloo). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Bearport. 2015. lib. ed. $23.93. ebk. $30.60.

Gr 1-3 –The text flows smoothly in these strong introductions, which cover the requisite animal information: location, habitat, physical characteristics, diet, seasonal changes, and reproduction and life cycle. Many pieces of data are framed according to young readers’ life experiences (“Hold a quarter in your hand. The coin weighs just a little more than a baby lemming!”). Another stand-out feature is the use of anticipatory questions that neatly lead readers from one chapter to the next. Simple math and visual literacy activities use or extend the material just presented. The titles culminate in a “Science Lab,” which varies from book to book (a science experiment, designing a poster, a compare and contrast). Dynamic photos hold their own, supporting the text beautifully. A visual dictionary of six words finishes these off nicely. VERDICT These books will be a hit among students seeking informational texts and those looking for recreational reading.

Turnbull, Stephanie. Ponies. ISBN 9781625881816.

––––. Racehorses. ISBN 9781625881823.

––––. Show Horses. ISBN 9781625881830.

––––. Sports Horses. ISBN 9781625881847.

––––. Wild Horses. ISBN 9781625881854.

––––. Working Horses. ISBN 9781625881809.

ea vol: 24p. (My Favorite Horses). glossary. index. photos. Black Rabbit/Smart Apple Media. 2015. lib. ed. $27.10.

K-Gr 2 –Horses get a functional look in these early readers. Ten brief chapters focus on breeds and information unique to each category, avoiding the frequently covered care and riding tips. For example, Racing Horses includes chapters on thoroughbreds, gear, and different types of races while Wild Horses defines its subject, then goes into breeds from around the world, horse families, and “Taming and Training.” Overall the writing is clear as it weaves through and around the carefully chosen photos, sometimes seeming more like captions than the main text. At times, the flow can be challenging to follow. A brief glossary catches most of the vocabulary, although breed is only defined in Ponies. VERDICT Horse lovers will find much to admire here.

Grades 5 & Up

Hicks, Kelli. Animal Sanctuaries. ISBN 9781634300667.

––––. Companion and Therapy Animals. ISBN 9781634300681.

McKenzie, Precious. People Who Care for Animals. ISBN 9781634300698.

––––. Search and Rescue Animals. ISBN 9781634300674.

Summers, Alex. Rescue and Shelter Cats. ISBN 9781634300650.

––––. Rescue and Shelter Dogs. ISBN 9781634300643.

ea vol: 24p. (Animal Matters). ebook available. glossary. index. maps. websites. Rourke Educational Media. 2015. lib. ed. $31.06.

Gr 3-6 –These titles explore the working relationships between people and animals. Images and brief text depict real people, animals, and agencies. Photos vary from small to full page and sometimes are also used to recap information. Maps, “Furry Facts” boxes, and graphs add further information. The main text concludes with a “How Can You Help?” list of follow-up ideas (such as letting others know about the importance of spaying and neutering pets or starting a food drive to raise money for a local animal shelter). With its focus on career options, People Who Care for Animals may appeal to kids with aspirations to work with animals. Designed to work with the Common Core Literacy objectives, each title lists pre- and post-reading activities, including a “Show What You Know” list of questions. Some awkward phrasing mars these books, and a few potentially unfamiliar terms go undefined. VERDICT Overlook the small problems, and these titles may be useful to adults working with animal-loving youth.

Where early childhood materials are in demand, both Bellwether’s “Super Cute” and ABDO’s “Animal Colors” are strong choices. The early reading level of “Birds of Prey” and its inclusion of higher level questions make this set worth considering. For slightly older readers and larger collections, Windmill’s “Wild Side” and Smart Apple Media’s “My Favorite Horses” provide a fresh look at familiar content. Appealing design and graphics will make Bellwether’s “North American Animals” popular. Pick Bearport’s “Science Slam” for those who need the guidance of anticipatory questions. Child’s World’s “Animals of the Rainforest” enters a crowded field, but Pythons provides a detailed description of how these snakes capture and consume prey, while Jaguars explains the term endangered effectively: choose these two if you can’t justify the entire set. For intermediate grades, the charts and maps in Lerner’s “Comparing Animal Traits” will be useful when characteristics of nonfiction are taught and may provide a catalyst for further research and comparisons.

This article was published in School Library Journal's April 2015 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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