History, Animals, and Zombies | Reference

This month’s reference titles offer a detailed look at U.S. history that’s ideal for young readers, two animal-related guides, and, for readers who can’t get enough of all things undead, Encyclopedia of the Zombie.


de la Bédoyère, Camilla & Philip Whitfield, eds. Firefly Encyclopedia of Animals: A Comprehensive Look at the World of Animals with Hundred of Superb Illustrations. 256p. glossary. illus. index. Firefly. 2014. pap. $19.95. ISBN 9781770854574.

Gr 5 Up –This guide attempts the Herculean task of fitting the entire animal kingdom into a single volume, with limited success. Though it’s certainly chock-full of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, insects, and other creatures, there are glaring omissions that seem puzzling for a work that calls itself “a comprehensive look at the animal kingdom.” For instance, while there’s a section on “Horses and Tapirs,” which covers Przewalski’s horse, the ancestor of the modern horse, the domestic horse isn’t mentioned. Further, the organization is also problematic, with entries grouped by variables, such as distinguishing features (“Hoofed Mammals”) or poetic whimsy (“Birds of the Trees and Masters of the Air”). Those familiar with taxonomy might find the organization self-evident, but casual researchers will not. Readers seeking material on a specific animal need to consult the index, which at times presents further problems: a search for parakeet turns up a photograph of two unidentified birds (presumably parakeets). Each animal gets a brief entry, which mentions its size, geographic range, and habitat, and there are scattered entries discussing aspects of animal behavior. However, the work lacks a chapter explaining its methodology and intended audience, which is unclear. Featuring attractive illustrations and a magazinelike layout, it seems aimed at browsers, but the information is more appropriate for report writers. VERDICT Though aesthetically pleasing, this overly ambitious title attempts to do too much.–Kara Schaff Dean, Walpole P.L., MA

King, David C. Children’s Encyclopedia of American History. 320p. appendix. chron. illus. index. maps. photos. reprods. DK. 2014. Tr $29.99. ISBN 9781465428431.

Gr 3 Up –This revised edition takes a look at U.S. history, from the exploration of the New World in the 1400s to the present day. For the most part, this edition is similar to the previous one (published in 2003). New content includes the Boston bombing of 2013, the War on Terror, the death of Osama Bin Laden, and a focus on globalization and sports. Natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina, and additional environmental concerns are detailed. Presidential coverage is expanded to incorporate the election of Barack Obama, while other new topics include the growth of the Tea Party Movement and controversy regarding guns. The book has increased in size, allowing for larger images, font, and charts, and the color quality is enhanced as well. Visually attractive, the volume features more than 750 images directly related to the text that will draw in readers, giving them the feeling that they’re walking through the Smithsonian seeing countless photographs, objects, advertisements, posters, artwork, maps, and diagrams for themselves. Arranged chronologically into 18 chapters, each section begins with a time line and an overview of the period. VERDICT Though not much has changed in terms of content, most students will find this book an enticing introduction to American history.–Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area School District

Palmer, Douglas. Firefly Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals: A Comprehensive Look at the Prehistoric World with Hundreds of Superb Illustrations. 256p. glossary. illus. index. Firefly. 2014. pap. $19.95. ISBN 9781770854604.

Gr 5 Up –With the popularity of dinosaurs among young readers, this title should be well positioned to attract an enthusiastic audience. However, the book attempts to combine the density of an academic volume with the browsability of a DK Eyewitness book, falling short on both fronts. The book begins with a focus on “Ancient Worlds,” introducing various periods and natural events that have left their mark on Earth and molded the planet we inhabit today. It then moves on to discussions about prehistoric fish, reptiles, dinosaurs, avian dinosaurs (or birds), synapsids (the first animals to show mammal characteristics), mammals, and humans. Most of the animals in this book will not be familiar to readers with only a casual knowledge of the subject. In fact, the term prehistoric becomes blurred at times, particularly during the discussion of birds, several of which became extinct only a few hundred years ago at the hands of humans. The book would have benefited greatly from a guide explaining the methodology used to organize the information. Although a glossary is included, basic terminology isn’t sufficiently defined for those not already well versed in the subject. The attractive illustrations, though, bring these long-lost creatures to life and will provide some interest to browsers. But there are too many gaps in the information that will leave layreaders confused. VERDICT Strictly additional.–Kara Schaff Dean, Walpole P.L., MA

Pulliam, June Michelle & Anthony J. Fonseca, eds. Encyclopedia of the Zombie: The Walking Dead in Popular Culture and Myth. 381p. Greenwood. 2014. Tr $89. ISBN 9781440803888; ebk. $89. ISBN 9781440803895. LC 2014000163.

Gr 8 Up –Blending familiar icons with lesser-known but equally fascinating items, this comprehensive collection documents 225 notable representations of zombies in popular culture. Arranged alphabetically, each entry, ranging from several hundred to several thousand words, offers well-researched background information and specific details that will undoubtedly keep both casual readers and fans of the subject engaged; “see also” cross-references at the end of each entry further enhance the reading experience. Thorough yet concise examples from television (The Walking Dead, Dead Set), film (Night of the Living Dead, Zombieland), literature (Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend), and folklore (Mesopotamian epic “Gilgamesh”), and cultural phenomena, such as zombie walks and video games, illustrate how pervasive zombie culture continues to be. Although heavy on text, the volume includes numerous black-and-white photos that break up the dense passages, but the lack of color is noticeable, and those expecting vibrant images of gore will be sadly disappointed. The book’s purpose, however, is not to titillate but rather to examine and explore the subject’s cultural and historical significance from a scholar’s perspective. Two appendices—one chronicling zombie films from 1920 to 2014, the other listing academic books and articles on the subject—as well as a “Further Reading” section present additional research opportunities while simultaneously providing credibility and validity to the growing interdisciplinary field of zombie studies. VERDICT Strong in content but lacking eye-catching visual appeal, the resource will be best appreciated by serious zombie connoisseurs.–Audrey Sumser, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Mayfield, OH

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