November 22, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

Creatures Large and Small, Far and Near: Animals | Series Nonfiction

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1611-sms-animals2-creaturesBooks about animals are big circulators in most libraries, and this season’s crop of titles makes filling out or updating collections pretty easy. Marine animals get some special treatment this year, and there are plenty of new pet books. Eye-popping layouts and brilliant color photography are the highlights of many series. There are books for those looking to find out more about critters right around the corner and ones about mysterious and elusive animals, offering up a little something for everyone this time around.

Elementary

Amstutz, Lisa J. Ants. ISBN 9781515719366; ISBN 9781515719403.

––––. Butterflies. ISBN 9781515719359; ISBN 9781515719397.

––––. Earthworms. ISBN 9781515719380; ISBN 9781515719427.

––––. Ladybugs. ISBN 9781515719373; ISBN 9781515719410.

ea vol: 24p. (Little Critters). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Capstone. Aug. 2016. lib. ed. $16.49. pap. $6.95.

K-Gr 2 –A simple introduction to backyard insects. Text is limited to two or three sentences per spread and often addresses readers directly (“Look! What is flying by? It is a butterfly.”). Divided into three or four chapters, each book covers the subject’s physical appearance, diet, and young. The photos are bright and clear and match the text well. The design and layout are in keeping with similar series for this age group and are therefore fine, if a bit underwhelming. VERDICT Because the content is neither new nor unique, these titles are best suited to libraries looking to update collections or where insects are of special interest.

Boothroyd, Jennifer. Meet a Baby Pig. ISBN 9781512407990.

––––. Meet a Baby Rabbit. ISBN 9781512408027.

––––. Meet a Baby Sheep. ISBN 9781512408003.

Silverman, Buffy. Meet a Baby Chicken. ISBN 9781512408034.

––––. Meet a Baby Cow. ISBN 9781512407983.

––––. Meet a Baby Horse. ISBN 9781512408010.

ea vol: 32p. (Lightning Bolt Books: Baby Farm Animals). ebook available. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Lerner. Aug. 2016. lib. ed. $26.65.

Gr 1-4 –A cute look at a variety of animals common to farms. The tone is accessible and friendly, and the text provides plenty of details for young researchers. Since the focus of this series is baby animals, each title is organized around the birth of the animal, how it is cared for by its mother, how long it takes to grow up, and the purpose they serve on the farm. Full-color photographs accompany each spread, many with captions that identify the action taking place in the photo. Although mostly successful, these captions do occasionally fall short. For instance, while the cross section of a cow’s stomach in Cow is interesting, without labels pinpointing the four different stomachs, students will not be able to discern the digestion process the image is meant to convey. However, this is a small flaw in an otherwise solid selection. VERDICT A good choice for libraries looking to update their farm animal collections.

Gardeski, Christina Mia. Cats: Questions and Answers. ISBN 9781515703563; ISBN 9781515703631.

––––. Dogs: Questions and Answers. ISBN 9781515703556; ISBN 9781515703624.

––––. Hamsters: Questions and Answers. ISBN 9781515703525; ISBN 9781515703594.

––––. Pet Birds: Questions and Answers. ISBN 9781515703549; ISBN 9781515703617.

––––. Pet Fish: Questions and Answers. ISBN 9781515703532; ISBN 9781515703600.

––––. Pet Rabbits: Questions and Answers. ISBN 9781515703426; ISBN 9781515703587.

ea vol: 24p. (Pet Questions and Answers). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Capstone. Aug. 2016. lib. ed. $19.99. ebk. $6.95.

Gr 1-3 –Basic information about the most common of household pets. The question -and-answer format is a good choice for young animal lovers, as each question offers up brief but important facts about caring for pets such as what they eat, where they should live, and other tidbits. The text on plain backgrounds makes for an easy reading experience, and the accompanying photographs of the animals are serviceable and varied. VERDICT There’s not much that is new here, but for libraries looking for a fresh face, this is a fine choice.

Hansen, Grace. Becoming a Butterfly. ISBN 9781680805079; ISBN 9781680806755.

––––. Becoming a Dragonfly. ISBN 9781680805086; ISBN 9781680806762.

––––. Becoming a Frog. ISBN 9781680805093; ISBN 9781680806779.

––––. Becoming a Grasshopper. ISBN 9781680805109; ISBN 9781680806786.

––––. Becoming a Jellyfish. ISBN 9781680805116; ISBN 9781680806793.

––––. Becoming a Salamander. ISBN 9781680805123; ISBN 9781680806809.

ea vol: 24p. (Changing Animals). glossary. index. photos. websites. ABDO. Aug. 2016. lib. ed. $19.95. ebk. $34.95.

Gr 1-3 –This fabulous series introduces the concept of metamorphosis in the animal kingdom through creatures like the jellyfish, salamander, and butterfly. Chapters are labeled as “Stages,” which mirror the actual chronological process of metamorphosis. The accompanying photographs are detailed and close-up, offering an excellent complement to the brief but informative text. In Dragonfly, the photo set of a nymph molting on land is particularly fascinating. Different species are featured, but are generally identified by their different traits as opposed to their names (e.g., “Some salamanders grow lungs. Some keep their gills.”). Vocabulary words are highlighted within the text and then defined in the glossary. VERDICT An excellent thematic series to introduce the concept of metamorphosis.

Heos, Bridget. Do You Really Want To Meet a Badger? ISBN 9781607539445; ISBN 9781681510620.

––––. Do You Really Want To Meet a Camel? ISBN 9781607539452; ISBN 9781681510637.

––––. Do You Really Want To Meet a Hippopotamus? ISBN 9781607539469; ISBN 9781681510644.

––––. Do You Really Want To Meet a Wolf? ISBN 9781607539490; ISBN 9781681510675.

––––. Do You Really Want To Meet an Orca? ISBN 9781607539476; ISBN 9781681510651.

––––. Do You Really Want To Meet an Owl? ISBN 9781607539483; ISBN 9781681510668.

ea vol: illus. by Daniele Fabbri. 24p. (Do You Really Want To Meet…?). further reading. glossary. maps. websites. Amicus. Jul. 2016. lib. ed. $20.95. ebk. $42.80.

Gr 1-4 –One of the few informational series to incorporate the use of illustrations instead of photographs into the narrative, the style of which matches the text well. The titles follow a pattern of a child going off to “meet” or see a particular animal in the wild, learning more about their behavior and habitats along the way, and answering the question of why one may or may not want to meet one of these wild creatures. This structure makes the series well suited to share with a group. There is a nice mix of subjects, from orcas to badgers, camels to owls. VERDICT Because of its uncommon format (for series nonfiction), this is a pleasant addition to animal collections for the very young.

Hunt, Santana. Name That Fish! ISBN 9781482447453; ISBN 9781482447316.

––––. Name That Mammal! ISBN 9781482447460; ISBN 9781482447385.

––––. Name That Reptile! ISBN 9781482447477; ISBN 9781482447408.

Jackson, Demi. Name That Amphibian! ISBN 9781482447415; ISBN 9781482447224.

––––. Name That Bird! ISBN 9781482447422; ISBN 9781482447262.

––––. Name That Bug! ISBN 9781482447446; ISBN 9781482447286.

ea vol: 24p. (Guess That Animal!). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Gareth Stevens. Aug. 2016. lib. ed. $22.60. ebk. $22.60.

Gr 2-4 –In a “clue and answer” format, this is a strong series for a general introduction to some popular species within animal groups. A close-up photo of a part of the creature and a brief cluelike description are provided before a page-turn reveals a large full-body photo along with more information. Each title covers about five creatures (four plus the one on the cover). For beginning readers, the text has some complexity, but the simple sentence structure and engaging style will keep them reading. The premise of the series in combination with the use of black font on a plain background makes this fun for sharing either one-on-one with a child or with a group. VERDICT Use these titles in read-alouds to get little ones interested in animals.

Kenan, Tessa. Look, a Clown Fish! ISBN 9781512414226.

––––. Look, a Dolphin! ISBN 9781512414240.

––––. Look, a Jellyfish! ISBN 9781512414219.

––––. Look, a Ray! ISBN 9781512414202.

––––. Look, a Shark! ISBN 9781512414196.

––––. Look, a Starfish! ISBN 9781512414233.

ea vol: 24p. (Bumba Books: I See Ocean Animals). chart. diag. ebook available. glossary. index. photos. Lerner. Oct. 2016. lib. ed. $25.32.

K-Gr 2 –Gorgeous close-up photographs adorn the pages of this series, allowing the various textures of the different creatures and their underwater habitats to be brought to life. Simple text (two or three sentences per page) describes each of the animals, offering up very basic information such as life span, habitat, eating habits, and self-defense. Critical thinking questions are peppered throughout the text, asking readers to consider, for instance, why rays might swim in groups or how sharks’ teeth help them hunt. Beginning readers will find these titles interesting and browsable, but budding researchers will need to look elsewhere for more depth. VERDICT A fine addition where animal books are popular.

Leaf, Christina. Humpback Whales. ISBN 9781626174177; ISBN 9781681032009.

––––. Jellyfish. ISBN 9781626174184; ISBN 9781681032016.

––––. Octopuses. ISBN 9781626174191; ISBN 9781681032023.

––––. Sea Horses. ISBN 9781626174207; ISBN 9781681032030.

Pettiford, Rebecca. Crabs. ISBN 9781626174153; ISBN 9781681031989.

––––. Great White Sharks. ISBN 9781626174160; ISBN 9781681031996.

––––. Sea Stars. ISBN 9781626174214; ISBN 9781681032047.

––––. Stingrays. ISBN 9781626174238; ISBN 9781681032061.

Schuetz, Kari. Bottlenose Dolphins. ISBN 9781626174139; ISBN 9781681031965.

––––. Clown Fish. ISBN 9781626174146; ISBN 9781681031972.

––––. Sea Turtles. ISBN 9781626174221; ISBN 9781681032054.

––––. Walruses. ISBN 9781626174245; ISBN 9781681032078.

ea vol: 24p. (Ocean Life Up Close). diag. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Bellwether. Aug. 2016. lib. ed. $24.95. ebk. $22.95.

Gr 2-4 –An excellent series for adept young readers that focuses on ocean animals including sea stars, sea horses, stingrays, and many others. Chock-full of interesting details, weird facts, helpful diagrams, and color photographs, these books offer plenty of information for reports or general browsing. The writing here is engaging but does employ longer sentences and more advanced vocabulary, making these titles perfect for those ready to move on from early readers. Highlights include an eye-catching layout and a species spotlight “Catch of the Day” sidebar that shows what each creature feeds on. VERDICT Highly recommended for collections interested in aquatic life.

Morey, Allan. Boston Terriers. ISBN 9781515719632.

––––. Miniature Pinschers. ISBN 9781 515719687.

––––. Papillons. ISBN 9781515719656.

––––. Pomeranians. ISBN 9781515719670.

––––. Shih Tzus. ISBN 9781515719649.

––––. Yorkshire Terriers. ISBN 9781 515719663.

ea vol: 24p. (Tiny Dogs). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Capstone. Aug. 2016. lib. ed. $19.99.

Gr 1-3 –This is a solid selection for those interested in small breed dogs. Each title highlights the unique physical characteristics and temperament of the individual breed and provides info about life span, grooming, and training. The images and design are attractive, and the short, simple sentences keep things moving and interesting. After reading this series, students will have all the know-how they need to convince their caregivers that it’s time for a dog—with the knowledge of what’s right for their family, too. VERDICT Considering the general popularity of dog books, this series should be in demand.

O’Brien, Lindsy J. Chipmunks. ISBN 9781 608186976.

––––. Frogs. ISBN 9781608186983.

––––. Squirrels. ISBN 9781608187027.

Riggs, Kate. Mice. ISBN 9781608186990.

––––. Moles. ISBN 9781608187003.

––––. Robins. ISBN 9781608187010.

ea vol: 24p. (In My Backyard). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Creative Education. Sept. 2016. lib. ed. $19.95.

Gr 2-4 –Fairly advanced for young readers, but full of great information about backyard creatures like robins, frogs, chipmunks, and moles. Each title describes how the animal looks, the types of habitat where they proliferate, and special behaviors that set it apart. Captions offer up other interesting facts, and the photographs provide a look at the animals in a variety of settings. Each title includes a fairly simple and doable activity that expands on the information in the text, giving kids a chance to explore the concepts in more depth. VERDICT Highly recommended to update primary animal collections.

Schuh, Mari. Abyssinian Cats. ISBN 9781607539667; ISBN 9781681510002.

––––. American Shorthair Cats. ISBN 9781607539674; ISBN 9781681510019.

––––. Birman Cats. ISBN 9781607539681; ISBN 9781681510026.

––––. Maine Coon Cats. ISBN 9781607539698; ISBN 9781681510033.

––––. Persian Cats. ISBN 9781607539704; ISBN 9781681510040.

––––. Ragdoll Cats. ISBN 9781607539711; ISBN 9781681510057.

––––. Siamese Cats. ISBN 9781607539728; ISBN 9781681510064.

––––. Sphynx Cats. ISBN 9781607539735; ISBN 9781681510071.

ea vol: 24p. (Favorite Cat Breeds). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Amicus. Jul. 2016. lib. ed. $20.95. ebk. $42.80.

Gr 1-3 –Young cat lovers will find plenty of information here to keep them interested. Each title highlights a different breed of cat. There is enough detail to satisfy cat-enthusiasts, but plenty of introductory information for the general browser. There are facts to help readers identify similarities and differences among cat breeds, as well as information about personality and care/dietary requirements. VERDICT Large fonts, plain backgrounds, and lots of big, colorful photographs make these a good choice for most libraries.

Middle to High School

Claybourne, Anna. Deadly Animals. ISBN 9781482450163; ISBN 9781482450170.

Parker, Steve. Amazing Sharks. ISBN 9781482450200; ISBN 9781482451917.

––––. Extreme Animals. ISBN 9781482450125; ISBN 9781482450132.

––––. Fierce Predators. ISBN 9781482450088; ISBN 9781482450095.

––––. Strange Bugs. ISBN 9781482450040; ISBN 9781482450057.

––––. Weird Animals. ISBN 9781482450002; ISBN 9781482450019.

ea vol: 40p. (Animals Are Wild!). futher reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Gareth Stevens. Aug. 2016. lib. ed. $31.95. ebk. $31.95.

Gr 4-7 –With such an eye-popping and busy layout, these titles are engaging from beginning to end. Each book covers a lot of creatures and a lot of ground. Each animal receives a spread that explains how it fits into the theme (how it is “fierce” or “strange”), along with a few introductory facts about them. The large images of each animal are often supplemented with smaller inset photos. Fierce and Deadly often feature bloody and brutal takedowns between animals, but are not overtly graphic. The writing is fairly advanced, and there is a lot of vocabulary covered throughout, but the comic book–style insets and brief captions ensure reader engagement. VERDICT This appealing series will be a welcome addition to any animal collection, especially where there are comic book fans.

Marine animals hold wide appeal with youngsters, and Bellwether’s excellent “Ocean Life Up Close” series is an all-around winner with strong visuals and engaging text. Metamorphosis is described in a way that even the youngest science lovers can understand in ABDO’s “Changing Animals,” and all are worth a second look. Amicus’s “Favorite Cat Breeds” and Capstone’s “Tiny Dogs” are strong contenders to update pet collections, and both offer up some focus on unusual breeds. Beautiful layouts and concise information make Creative Education’s “In My Backyard” a good choice for inspiring citizen scientists to explore their local habitats. The rest of the series all fill in gaps that will help keep animals collections updated and appealing.

Jody Kopple, Shady Hill School, Cambridge, MA

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This article was published in School Library Journal's November 2016 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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