November 17, 2017

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Kittens & Deathstalker Scorpions: 14 Animal Series Sure To Pique Interest

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The greatest animal series include plenty of information about the topics kids ask for most often, as well as some mention of creatures many may not have even heard of. This season’s picks cover a wide range of critters, from pet dogs and elephant calves to axolotls and the deathstalker scorpions. Grouping unrelated animals based on shared behaviors, such as home construction, or physical features can also be an effective avenue for young people to explore the natural world. Learning how scientists discover new information about species provides another intriguing perspective. The series below employ a variety of approaches; the best of the bunch present information with careful combinations of words and images that will draw the attention of readers, then provide them with meaningful knowledge and a deeper understanding of the animal kingdom.

Elementary

Amstutz, Lisa J. Kings of the Deserts. ISBN 9781515780649; ISBN 9781515780700.

––––. Kings of the Jungles. ISBN 9781515780632; ISBN 9781515780694.

Rake, Jody S. Kings of the Oceans. ISBN 9781515780663; ISBN 9781515780724.

––––. Kings of the Rivers. ISBN 9781515780687; ISBN 9781515780748.

Rissman, Rebecca. Kings of the Mountains. ISBN 9781515780670; ISBN 9781515780731.

––––. Kings of the Skies. ISBN 9781515780656; ISBN 9781515780717.

ea vol: 24p. (Animal Rulers). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Capstone. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $25.32. pap. $6.95.

Gr 2-4 –Organized by general habitat type, this series provides a brief profile of nine animals or groups in each title. A single text page introduces each creature with several key facts, accompanied by a full-page photograph. The “animal ruler” designation refers to either the creature’s predatory qualities or its size. Coverage ranges from specific species such as the Northern goshawk to broader groups such as “Alligators and Crocodiles.” All descriptions note where the subject lives, though usually no more specifically than the continent (the Patagonian gray fox is described as “South American,” which is true but not very precise). Some descriptions do not include an indication of size, so readers unfamiliar with wolverines or hyenas, for example, will lack that context. Photographs provide good visual support; most are clear, full-body views of the creature. VERDICT Some browsing appeal, but lack of specifics and consistency limits usefulness.

Andres, Marco. Bearded Dragons. ISBN 9781508154181; ISBN 9781508154242.

Bennett, Mia. Ferrets. ISBN 9781508154167; ISBN 9781508154228.

Hely, Patrick. Tarantulas. ISBN 9781508154136; ISBN 9781508154198.

Houser, Grace. Chinchillas. ISBN 9781508154174; ISBN 9781508154235.

Shofner, Melissa Raé. Hedgehogs. ISBN 9781508154150; ISBN 9781508154211.

Tasker, Pamela. Potbellied Pigs. ISBN 9781508154143; ISBN 9781508154204.

ea vol: 24p. (Our Weird Pets). glossary. index. photos. websites. PowerKids. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $23.60. pap. $8.25.

Gr 3-5 –Kids interested in less common pets can find some useful information in these introductions. Key topics, including selection, feeding, medical care, and safety concerns, are covered in each book. Some also include a page about the animal’s life in the wild. Spreads consist of a couple of paragraphs of text, a full-page photograph, and two extra fun facts. Visuals include appealing views of the animals, some highlighting physical features or behaviors, as well as images of children interacting with them. As overviews to potential new pets, the books are successful, though some details of care are vague. Readers learn that bearded dragons need a “big tank” and chinchillas need “large cages,” for example, but no dimensions or photos of the homes are provided. VERDICT Good for introducing pets and filling subject holes, though not in-depth care guides.

Dellaccio, Tanya. The Return of the Manatee. ISBN 9781508156161; ISBN 9781508156239.

Machajewski, Sarah. The Return of the Mountain Gorilla. ISBN 9781508156154; ISBN 9781508156222.

McAneney, Caitie. The Return of the Gray Wolf. ISBN 9781508156185; ISBN 9781508156253.

Morlock, Theresa. The Return of the American Bison. ISBN 9781508156208; ISBN 9781508156215.

Niver, Heather Moore. The Return of the Bald Eagle. ISBN 9781508156192; ISBN 9781508156260.

Shofner, Melissa Raé. The Return of the Green Sea Turtle. ISBN 9781508156178; ISBN 9781508156246.

ea vol: 32p. (Bouncing Back from Extinction). index. photos. websites. PowerKids. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $26.25. pap. $10.

Gr 4-6 –Each title traces population decline and eventual recovery of an animal threatened with extinction. Animal habitats, characteristics, and behaviors are well described, with good support from mostly half-page photos. History and causes of population decline follow, with enough dates and statistics to provide a fairly clear picture. Readers learn about the impacts of humans and habitat loss along with the positive effects each creature has on its ecosystem. Details of recovery efforts trace the roles of government and nonprofit programs, as well as continued challenges to species survival. Some individuals, such as Dian Fossey and Rachel Carson, are briefly noted. The combination of history, science, and social issues provides a well-rounded picture of the challenges of species preservation, though the extent of the recovery is not always fully clear. For instance, the gray wolf population number in Yellowstone is given, but there is no indication of endangered status. ­VERDICT Useful overviews of species recoveries.

Duhaime, Darla. Eels. ISBN 9781683423256; ISBN 9781683424215.

––––. Flying Fish. ISBN 9781683423263; ISBN 9781683424222.

––––. Octopuses. ISBN 9781683423270; ISBN 9781683424239.

––––. Sea Horses. ISBN 9781683423287; ISBN 9781683424246.

ea vol: 24p. (Ocean Animals). glossary. index. photos. websites. Rourke. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $29.93. pap. $8.95.

Gr 2-4 –The focus of these sea creature profiles is on physical characteristics, with some data about behavior and life cycles. In Sea Horses, for example, readers learn how the animal’s tail, ridges, eyes, and pouch help it thrive. The progression of facts doesn’t always flow smoothly from one spread to the next, but the information is generally engaging. Photos are often quite effective. In Octopuses, for instance, images of suction cups and color changing are visually striking, though the depiction of the animal’s home is less successful. Of the four titles, Flying Fish is overly vague, lacking substantial information about habitat and size, as this is an animal not often covered for this age group. ­VERDICT Acceptable choices where subject coverage is needed.

Hamilton, John. Raptor Rescue. ISBN 9781532110061.

Hamilton, S.L. Eagles. ISBN 9781532110016.

––––. Falcons. ISBN 9781532110023.

––––. Hawks. ISBN 9781532110030.

––––. Owls. ISBN 9781532110047.

––––. Vultures. ISBN 9781532110054.

ea vol: 32p. (Xtreme Raptors). glossary. index. photos. websites. ABDO. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $27.07.

Gr 3-5 –Engaging text, strong organization, and highly effective visual layouts are the highlights of this set. After an overview of the bird, which includes a clear delineation of groups and species, each book shifts to more specific examples, focusing on superlative characteristics such as “fastest” or “biggest.” The writing is lively and ably supported by photographs. Layouts vary in effective ways, ranging from close-ups of raptor beaks to a series of three images depicting different eating practices. Even the index, glossary, and table of contents include neatly placed photographs. Nearly all images include species identification within a caption. Most spreads include an interesting “Xtreme Fact” inset, some accompanied by spot photos. Closing pages look at the endangered status of each group. Raptor Rescue offers an engaging look at rehabilitation procedures for injured birds, complementing the species-focused books in the set. VERDICT High-quality nonfiction with strong visual appeal for upper elementary schoolers.

Kenney, Karen Latchana. Ants. ISBN 9781620316917.

––––. Beavers. ISBN 9781620316924.

––––. Bees. ISBN 9781620316931.

––––. Birds. ISBN 9781620316948.

––––. Moles. ISBN 9781620316955.

––––. Spiders. ISBN 9781620316962.

––––. Termites. ISBN 9781620316979.

ea vol: 24p. (Animal Architects). diag. glossary. index. photos. websites. Jump!/Pogo. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $25.65.

Gr 3-5 –A variety of animal houses are introduced, supported with excellent visuals. After a bit of general information about the topic group, the content focuses on their homes and how they create them. Some titles, such as Birds and Ants, provide a little bit about the living quarters of a variety of species. Others, such as Beavers, focus more on one particular type of structure. The writing is mostly concise and focused, covering the building process, the function of the home, and how humans and the environment are impacted. High-quality and large photographs switch neatly from broad views to close-up details of animals at work. Clear diagrams complement the photographs, presenting details that are harder to show, such as the ventilation shafts of a termite mound and the tunnels and chambers built by a mole. VERDICT Consider this series for its solid writing and eye-catching visuals.

Leaf, Christina. Butterflies. ISBN 9781 626176591.

––––. Cicadas. ISBN 9781626176607.

––––. Damselflies. ISBN 9781626176614.

––––. Fireflies. ISBN 9781626176645.

––––. Honeybees. ISBN 9781626176669.

––––. Ladybugs. ISBN 9781626176676.

Perish, Patrick. Ants. ISBN 9781626176577.

––––. Aphids. ISBN 9781626176584.

––––. Dragonflies. ISBN 9781626176621.

––––. Earwigs. ISBN 9781626176638.

––––. Grasshoppers. ISBN 9781626176652.

––––. Wasps. ISBN 9781626176683.

ea vol: 24p. (Insects Up Close). diag. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Bellwether. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $24.95.

Gr 1-3 –Common and lesser-known insects are described in these straightforward, easy-to-follow introductions. Each spread features a text box alongside a photograph that spans a page and a half. A couple of sentences present basic facts: “Wasps are great hunters. Many of these insects have sharp stingers.” The simple sentences and double-spaced lines make the text inviting to younger readers. Physical features, habitats, and life cycles are introduced effectively through the words and pictures. The photos match the text quite effectively. When readers learn that cicadas “have four clear wings” or that “dragonflies have huge eyes,” a vivid image depicts those features clearly. Insets highlight “favorite food,” life span, and an actual-size diagram. VERDICT Fine insect profiles for beginners, featuring some types not often covered in children’s books, such as aphids, earwigs, and damselflies.

Markovics, Joyce. Polish Chicken. ISBN 9781684022625.

Merwin, E. Luna Moth. ISBN 9781684022595.

––––. Snub-Nosed Monkey. ISBN 9781684022632.

Oldfield, Dawn Bluemel. Axolotl. ISBN 9781684022618.

––––. Horned Lizard. ISBN 9781684022601.

Rudolph, Jessica. Platypus. ISBN 9781684022649.

ea vol: 24p. (Weirder and Cuter). diag. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Bearport. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $25.64.

Gr 2-4 –With a few sentences per page and a variety of well-chosen photos, these books introduce animals that will be new to many readers. Children’s books on axolotls, snub-nosed monkeys, and Polish chickens are particularly hard to find. The text provides general data on physiology, behavior, and life cycles while also highlighting unique features, such as the platypus’s hunting techniques and the healing ability of the axolotl. Related species are noted and sometimes pictured, and there are images and brief descriptions of more “weird animals” at the end of each book. Visual support is effective: each book opens with an impressive two-page photograph; subsequent pages include large pictures, inset images, and size comparison diagrams, with captions and labels included where needed. VERDICT Strong appeal for curious kids interested in unusual creatures and to fill subject holes in more comprehensive animal collections.

Murray, Julie. Ducklings. ISBN 9781532100017.

––––. Elephant Calves. ISBN 9781532100024.

––––. Kittens. ISBN 9781532100031.

––––. Koala Joeys. ISBN 9781532100048.

––––. Penguin Chicks. ISBN 9781532100055.

––––. Puppies. ISBN 9781532100062.

ea vol: 24p. (Baby Animals). glossary. index. photos. websites. ABDO. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $27.07.

PreS-Gr 1 –The simplest of facts accompanied by appealing full-page photos introduce popular baby animals. One to three short sentences per page present basic information: “The joey drinks its mother’s milk. It grows.” The large photographs are well chosen, emphasizing the sheer cuteness of each young subject. A closing feature shows the animal in four stages of growth, from birth to adulthood. Kitten and puppy images include a variety of breeds, all equally endearing. Elephant calves, joeys, and other wild animals are shown in natural settings. Information is at the most basic level, but text brevity, sentence structure, and mostly simple vocabulary make these accessible to early readers. VERDICT The visual appeal alone makes the series worth considering for beginning readers of nonfiction.

Silverman, Buffy. Angel Sharks in Action. ISBN 9781512433814.

––––. Great White Sharks in Action. ISBN 9781512433777.

––––. Hammerhead Sharks in Action. ISBN 9781512433791.

––––. Mako Sharks in Action. ISBN 9781512433784.

––––. Tiger Sharks in Action. ISBN 9781512433807.

Tunby, Benjamin. Whale Sharks in Action. ISBN 9781512433821.

ea vol: 24p. (Lightning Bolt Books: Shark World). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Lerner. Sept. 2017. lib. ed. $25.32.

Gr 3-5 –This series provides readers with solid introductions to some fascinating shark species. Key areas are covered with clear language and decent visual support, including physical features, life cycles, and feeding behaviors. A bit of extra emphasis is given to distinctive elements, such as the whale shark’s unusual mouth. Photographs vary from half-page to full-page; these are useful but less dynamic than shark fans might hope for. Views of a tiger shark’s scales and the mako’s eyes support the text well, but the absence of close-up images of a great white’s teeth or a hammerhead in the act of hunting is disappointing. Insets provide additional facts, though these are used inconsistently. Some act as labels for the photographs, while others point to a photo but have no direct connection to the indicated image (in Mako Sharks, the text “Mako means ‘shark’ in the Maori language” is paired with a photo of a shark’s back). VERDICT Useful if not especially exciting options on high-demand topics.

Thomas, Isabel. Elephant vs. Rhinoceros. ISBN 9781484640722; ISBN 9781484640760.

––––. Lion vs. Tiger. ISBN 9781484640739; ISBN 9781484640777.

––––. Scorpion vs. Tarantula. ISBN 9781484640708; ISBN 9781484640746.

––––. Shark vs. Killer Whale. ISBN 9781484640715; ISBN 9781484640753.

ea vol: 24p. (Animal Rivals). charts. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Heinemann-Raintree. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $23.32. pap. $6.95.

Gr 3-5 –Animal comparisons are explored through imagined battles between two species. Opposing pages compare attributes such as speed, senses, and fighting skills. A few sentences provide key facts on each subject, accompanied by a single photograph highlighting the feature or behavior. A final chart assigns point values to categories with the total determining the likely winner. Information tends toward description rather than statistics. No numbers are provided for speed or size, for example, but in some cases visual or verbal comparisons provide useful context (rhinos can run “as fast as a galloping horse,” an emperor scorpion “would reach from your hand to your elbow”). The side-by-side format works well visually, with some especially well-chosen contrasts, such as the scorpion’s tail facing the tarantula’s fangs, although the facts provided do not always exactly match the page topic (the tarantula’s ability to blend in is under “Senses”). Some of the ratings may be debatable, but the focus on contrasting features creates an engaging introduction to each creature. VERDICT Appealing to browsers and fans of Jerry Pallotta’s “Who Would Win” series.

Middle to High School

Bayliss, Rebecca. Poodle. ISBN 9781422238592.

Britton, Ann. Labrador Retriever. ISBN 9781422238585.

Burns, Matthew. Golden Retriever. ISBN 9781422238578.

Clark, Laura. Boxer. ISBN 9781422238509.

Davies, Christine. Chihuahua. ISBN 9781422238530.

James, Michael. Yorkshire Terrier. ISBN 9781422238622.

Johnson, Julie. Rottweiler. ISBN 9781422238608.

Koster, Lucy. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. ISBN 9781422238523.

Lockwood, Robert. Siberian Husky. ISBN 9781422239483.

Lord, Pat. Shih Tzu. ISBN 9781422238615.

Lowe, Jennifer. Dachshund. ISBN 9781422238554.

Porter, Diana. Beagle. ISBN 9781422238493.

Simmonds, Jane. Cocker Spaniel. ISBN 9781422238547.

Stephenson, Beverley. Bulldog. ISBN 9781422238516.

Ward, Gill & John Ward. German Shepherd. ISBN 9781422238561.

Watson, Jennifer. French Bulldog. ISBN 9781422239452.

Williams, Ellen. Pug. ISBN 9781422239476.

Wilson, Jeanette. Miniature Schnauzer. ISBN 9781422239469.

ea vol: 128p. (The Dog Lovers’ Guides). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Mason Crest. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $35.93.

Gr 7 Up –Many pet series introduce just the basics to readers, but these handbooks explore all aspects of each breed with considerable depth. Coverage includes history, physical characteristics, breed standards, selection of the right dog, training, activities, and medical care. With over 100 single-spaced pages, there is a lot of information, but it’s conveyed in a lively, energetic tone with an emphasis on engaging and encouraging prospective dog owners. The level of detail is impressive and useful. Conversations about dog selection, for example, usually include discussions of male and female characteristics, color choices, and decisions about one dog versus two, along with good practical advice for working with websites, breeders, and rescue dogs as part of the process. Photographs, typically half-page, present breed varieties, highlight physical features, and show the canines in action. VERDICT Thorough handbooks covering all aspects of each breed with depth and clarity. Winners wherever dog books are in demand.

Klepeis, Alicia Z. The Boomslang Snake. ISBN 9781502625892; ISBN 9781502625977.

––––. The Puffer Fish. ISBN 9781502625908; ISBN 9781502625953.

Sullivan, Laura. The Blue-Ringed Octopus. ISBN 9781502625946; ISBN 9781502625984.

––––. The Box Jellyfish. ISBN 9781502625939; ISBN 9781502625991.

––––. The Deathstalker Scorpion. ISBN 9781502625915; ISBN 9781502625960.

––––. The Poison Dart Frog. ISBN 9781502625922; ISBN 9781502626004.

ea vol: 32p. (Toxic Creatures). diag. further reading. glossary. index. maps. photos. websites. Cavendish Square. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $28.50. pap. $10.58.

Gr 5-8 –This series explores the physiology and behavior of toxic animals in fairly thorough detail. An opening chapter introduces each beast and how it lives in the wild. The focus then moves to its toxicity, with clear explanations of how that property aids the animal’s survival as well as its impact on humans. Each book notes the distinctions between creatures that are poisonous, such as puffer fish, and those that are venomous, like deathstalker scorpions. Descriptions of the dangers to people are presented with scientific clarity, avoiding sensationalism. Readers also learn about the potential benefits of animal toxins, such as the role of the deathstalker scorpion’s venom in cancer research. Most photographs are smaller than a half-page but provide useful views of the subject in the wild and specific features related to toxicity. Diagrams, range maps, and “Quick Facts” also contribute to the well-rounded presentation. VERDICT Strong choices for older readers looking for in-depth animal information.

Rodríguez, Ana María. The Secret of the Bird’s Smart Brain…and More! ISBN 9780766086234; ISBN 9780766088528.

––––. The Secret of the Deceiving Striped Lizard…and More! ISBN 9780766086258; ISBN 9780766088535.

––––. The Secret of the Scorpion-Eating Meerkats…and More! ISBN 9780766086272; ISBN 9780766088481.

––––. The Secret of the Scuba Diving Spider…and More! ISBN 9780766086296; ISBN 9780766088504.

––––. The Secret of the Squiggly Green Bombers…and More! ISBN 9780766086319; ISBN 9780766088498.

––––. The Shocking Secret of the Electric Eel…and More! ISBN 9780766087262; ISBN 9780766088511.

ea vol: 48p. (Animal Secrets Revealed!). charts. further reading. glossary. index. notes. photos. websites. Enslow. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $27.93. pap. $11.70.

Gr 4-7 –Each book presents five examples of scientists from around the world (most from the United States and Europe) working to discover new information about an animal. Each chapter starts with a moment that triggered the scientist’s curiosity about the animal’s behavior, then describes the process of developing experiments, analyzing results, and drawing conclusions. The animal “secrets” are all intriguing, as are the strategies used to unravel the mystery. The scientists’ own words, based on interviews with the author, capture the excitement of experimentation and discovery. Most of the research is current, though dates are usually provided only in the chapter notes. Some chapters include photographs of the scientists, sometimes interacting with their subjects, but others rely more on stock photos of animals. The stories themselves, though, are highly engaging, providing insight into modern scientific techniques and animal behaviors. VERDICT Fascinating animal science for readers not quite ready for the “Scientists in the Field” series.


The highest-quality series include unusual creatures along with the most common, addressing audiences ranging from beginning readers to middle schoolers. Even libraries with plenty of dog care material should consider Mason Crest’s “The Dog Lovers’ Guides,” which go far beyond most children’s pet books in terms of depth of information and breadth of topics. The strength of ABDO’s “Xtreme Raptors” lies in the overall presentation, in which words, images, and layout work together to introduce wild birds in an easy way that will draw readers. Enslow’s “Animal Secrets Revealed!” stands out for its lively exploration of contemporary scientists and their discoveries, while Bearport’s “Weirder and Cuter” provides accessible introductions to especially remarkable animals. For the youngest readers, Bellwether’s “Insects Up Close” makes good use of well-chosen visuals and easy-to-read texts.

Steven Engelfried, Wilsonville Public Library, OR

This article was published in School Library Journal's November 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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