What A Shell Can Tell

Phaidon. Jun. 2022. 48p. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781838664312.
Gr 3 Up–Scales encourages readers to unravel a shell’s secrets through observation and reasoning from the first sentence of this book: “A shell has many secrets to tell.” Through a series of questions and answers, readers learn that shells are home to mollusks, soft, boneless animals that grow tough outer shells for protection and live their lives inside the shell. Most mollusks are either gastropods, identified by their spiral shells, or bivalves, whose shells have two parts. A shell’s shape, pattern, color, or texture may offer clues to its age, its habitat, and how it evolved to hide from predators. Bumpy pink cowrie shells blend in with their coral reef habitats. Scales is not afraid to get into the details with young readers, explaining that shells can also reveal what an animal ate (and in some cases, what ate them!) and how it moved around. She covers how sea butterflies and argonauts, octopuses that live in the open sea, have developed the ability to swim, and how shelled animals became part of the fossil record. The book ends on a hopeful note, mostly because of the resilience of mollusks themselves. Most of the colorful digital illustrations and clearly labeled diagrams add appeal and detail to this wide-ranging overview.
VERDICT An engaging approach to this appealing topic, combined with colorful illustrations, should pique and hold the interests of inquisitive browsers and science-minded readers alike.

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