February 25, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

National Geographic documents the ways of wildlife in “Best of Nature” collection| DVD Pick

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bestofnatureGreat Migrations. 200 min. Dist. by National Geographic. 2010. $44.95. (as part of the Best of Nature Collection). ISBN 9781426340000.
Gr 5 Up–This three-DVD set features six of the seven Great Migrations episodes that aired on the National Geographic channel in 2010. Disc 1 offers two episodes: “Born to Move,” featuring the migratory behavior of wildebeests, sperm whales, monarch butterflies, and the red crab; and “Need to Breed,” with flying foxes, kob antelope, army ants, and the albatross, penguins, and elephant seals of the Falkland Islands. Disc 2 contains “Race to Survive,” which focuses on the seasonal migrations of zebra, walrus, pronghorn sheep, whale sharks, and a variety of primates that travel to a fig tree in Borneo. “Feast or Famine” follows different species of birds, great white sharks, elephant seals, desert dwelling elephants, and a singular species of jellyfish in their search for sustenance. Both of these visually stunning discs showcase the variety of animals that must move vast distances and overcome deadly obstacles in order to survive as a species, and provide a general understanding of some of the reasons behind migratory behavior. However, the narration, with its overall poetic quality and attempts at profundity, is noticeably lacking in informative content. The third disc may be of more practical use to educators, with “Science of Migrations” demonstrating some of the ingenious ways scientists have solved the problem of tracking certain species, and “Behind the Scenes” of the cameramen’s often dangerous quests for the spectacular footage that comprises this award-winning series. A must for public libraries with definite potential for use in the classroom.–Cary Frostick, formerly at Mary Riley Styles Public Library, Falls Church, VA

Secret Life of Predators. 180 min. Dist. by National Geographic. 2013. $44.95, as part of the Best of Nature Collection. $19.97 separately. ISBN 9781426344886.
Gr 5 Up–Although the four 48-minute programs on this DVD have rather provocative titles,“Wet,” “Stealth,” “Naked,” and “Exposed,” there is nothing inappropriate about it at all—if one doesn’t worry about footage of polar bear mating. Focusing on how rough life can be for predators, the series includes a wide variety of animals, and what those animals need to do to survive in their environments. Since almost every animal preys on some other animal, the program’s definition of predator includes everything from cheetahs to birds, from hedgehogs to wolves, even frogs and spiders. The usually impeccable National Geographic photography is better than ever. New technology allows for astonishing images. Smaller, remote cameras get right into the action, giving an animal’s eye view on the ground, underwater, in the sky, and beneath the earth. The close-ups from inside a weasel’s den are as amazing as the eagle’s view of flight (the camera must have been attached to its neck). Young baboons playing with a remote camera lead to charming close-ups. Especially astonishing is footage of a pride of lions helping an elderly lioness with a deformity survive. The program does not shy away from showing the violence of nature, so be prepared to see adorable animals killed and eaten. This DVD may change the way students think of animals. By focusing on how they care for their families, the program also generates sympathy for creatures we sometimes think of as villains.–Geri Diorio, Ridgefield Library, CT

Untamed Americas. 180 min. Dist. by National Geographic. 2012. $44.95, as part of the Best of Nature Collection. $27.99 separately. ISBN 9781426343605.
Gr 5 Up–This in-depth look at the utter wildness of nature is both terrifying and amazing. Each episode explores a different ecosystem and the animals that live there. From exotic bats to exhibitionist flamingos, Untamed Americas provides an up-close look at fascinating animals and their struggles to survive. The filmmakers have been careful to show these intense struggles in a suspenseful and thrilling way, practically guaranteeing that viewers will be truly captivated. In the desert, the sweet-looking, unassuming grasshopper mouse protects her babies, while the spindly poisonous desert scorpion approaches. Surprisingly, the grasshopper mouse is a skilled killer, and after ripping the stinger from the scorpion’s body, she drags the scorpion into her den to feed her young. Some parts are humorous, such as with the Humboldt penguin, who makes his home in a mountain of penguin poo. Other segments are downright upsetting—the grizzly bear who dines on the young deer who has been separated from its mother. Though more sensitive viewers may be disturbed by some of the harsh realities depicted, Untamed Americas is an exciting documentary that will draw and educate viewers. However, this film may not be ideal for younger viewers, who may be more affected by violence, death, and a “toad sex romp.”–Jenny Ventling, Greene County Public Library, OH