A Bevy of Pet Choices & More: Animals | Series Nonfiction

Whether kids are wondering what pet to get or eager for information on more exotic options, these titles will satisfy their needs and keep them coming back for more.

SMS1511-Animals2This fall’s selections include traditional treatments as well as new approaches that encourage reader-to-text interactions and extend the use of nonfiction beyond the obvious. A growing trend is the inclusion of the animal’s conservation status. On a more positive note, several series for younger readers respond to this summer’s big question: “What Pet Should I Get?” Librarians, educators, and other adults will have a growing bounty of choices to help enthusiasts answer that question. To this reviewer’s mind, what more could we hope for?


Beaton, Kathryn. Discover Beluga Whales. ISBN 9781633625969; ISBN 9781633626867.

––––. Discover Moray Eels. ISBN 9781633626010; ISBN 9781633626911.

Gray, Susan H. Discover Jellyfish. ISBN 9781633626003; ISBN 9781633626904.

––––. Discover Rays. ISBN 9781633626041; ISBN 9781633626942.

James, Helen Foster. Discover Octopuses. ISBN 9781633626027; ISBN 9781633626928.

––––. Discover Penguins. ISBN 9781633626034; ISBN 9781633626935.

––––. Discover Sea Horses. ISBN 9781633626058; ISBN 9781633626959.

––––. Discover Sea Stars. ISBN 9781633626065; ISBN 9781633626966.

Loh-Hagan, Virginia. Discover Bottlenose Dolphins. ISBN 9781633625976; ISBN 9781633626874.

––––. Discover Great White Sharks. ISBN 9781633625983; ISBN 9781633626881.

––––. Discover Hammerhead Sharks. ISBN 9781633625990; ISBN 9781633626898.

––––. Discover Sea Turtles. ISBN 9781633626072; ISBN 9781633626973.

ea vol: 24p. (Splash!). ebook available. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Cherry Lake. 2015. lib. ed. $24.21. pap. $16.95.

Gr 2-4 –The content varies across the series, but all the titles cover appearance, characteristics and behaviors, senses, and diet. Young are mentioned, except in Great White Sharks, Jellyfish, and Rays. Predators are mostly glossed over, but human impact is referenced in Penguins, Sea Horses, and Sea Stars. Insets with titles such as “Make a Guess,” “Create,” “Think,” “Look,” and “Ask Questions” encourage readers to interact with the text. Additional “Think About It” activities are appended. While the photos are clear and bright, they don’t always work well with the text and in some cases lack appropriate labels. VERDICT With many other options available, these slight offerings can be overlooked.

Bell, Samantha S. Meet a Baby Elephant. ISBN 9781467779760.

––––. Meet a Baby Giraffe. ISBN 9781 467779753.

––––. Meet a Baby Lemur. ISBN 9781 467779722.

––––. Meet a Baby Lion. ISBN 9781 467779746.

Owings, Lisa. Meet a Baby Hippo. ISBN 9781 467781152.

––––. Meet a Baby Zebra. ISBN 9781 467781145.

Powell, Marie. Meet a Baby Ostrich. ISBN 9781467779715.

Schuh, Mari. Meet a Baby Chimpanzee. ISBN 9781467779739.

ea vol: 32p. (Lightning Bolt Books: Baby African Animals). chart. ebook available. further reading. glossary. index. maps. photos. Lerner. 2015. lib. ed. $26.65.

K-Gr 2 –Each volume opens with the birth of an African animal and concludes with a mature animal. In between, topical chapters focus on diet, development, and habitat, muddling the progression of ages and stages. Overall, the writing is uneven, with awkward phrasing and grammar. Layout and color choices follow the format of this ongoing series. The photos miss opportunities to support the text: the books include almost exclusively full-body shots of the animals rather than close-ups. Elephants includes images of Asian elephants at least twice but never clarifies that there are two species. The African continent is mentioned only in the range map at the end of each title. Back matter includes “Habitat in Focus” and “Fun Facts” pages, which largely repeat information found earlier. VERDICT Readers may find these offerings confusing.

Borgert-Spaniol, Megan. American Beavers. ISBN 9781626172562.

––––. Bighorn Sheep. ISBN 9781626172579.

––––. Moose. ISBN 9781626172609.

––––. Nine-banded Armadillos. ISBN 9781626172616.

Bowman, Chris. Coyotes. ISBN 9781 626172593.

––––. Raccoons. ISBN 9781626172630.

Leaf, Christina. Brown Bats. ISBN 9781 626172586.

––––. Porcupines. ISBN 9781626172623.

ea vol: 24p. (North American Animals). ebook available. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Bellwether. 2015. lib. ed. $22.95.

Gr 1-3 –These selections continue the series begun in spring 2015. While the books are designed for early fluency, the authors don’t shy away from using more technical terms, and the addition of charts and graphs extends the information nicely. Topics covered include appearance and size (accompanying charts provide more context and highlight unique features), diet, predators and defenses, and names for the male, female, and infant versions of the species. Most of the titles end with the next generation ready to enter adulthood. VERDICT These attractive volumes pack a lot of material into a compact package that will be useful in a variety of ways for young readers and adults working with them.

Brett, Flora. A Cat’s View of the World. ISBN 9781491450505.

––––. A Dog’s View of the World. ISBN 9781491450499.

––––. A Horse’s View of the World. ISBN 9781491450444.

––––. A Reptile’s View of the World. ISBN 9781491450512.

ea vol: 24p. (Pet Perspectives). ebook available. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Capstone. 2015. lib. ed. $24.65.

Gr 2-4 –These informative books are narrated by a generic animal, though the first and last pages are written in the third person. Several of the eight chapters in each volume focus on the animal’s senses and communication, explaining topics such as why dogs sniff each other’s bottoms. The author also covers care and training. While Cats, Dogs, and Horses close by introducing a special trait or quality, Reptiles concludes with a section describing popular individual species including bearded dragons, corn snakes, and red-eared sliders. Definitions of highlighted words are listed at the bottom of the spread on which they appear as well as in the glossary: a reader-friendly feature. Two or three critical thinking questions, linked to the Common Core, are included in the back matter. While the conceit of writing these titles from the point of view of the animals feels forced, the focus on senses and communication sets this series apart. VERDICT Solid contenders.

Daly, Ruth. Mandrills. ISBN 9781489628824.

Friesen, Helen Lepp. Chimpanzees. ISBN 9781489628701.

Marshall, Deb. Orangutans. ISBN 9781 489628862.

McDowell, Pamela. Gorillas. ISBN 9781 489628787.

Roumanis, Alexis. Baboons. ISBN 9781 489628664.

Yasuda, Anita. Gibbons. ISBN 9781489628749.

ea vol: 24p. (Amazing Primates). chart. diags. ebook available. glossary. index. photos. websites. Weigl. 2015. lib. ed. $26.66.

Gr 3-5 –These attractive volumes offer a comprehensive look at some popular animals. Standard information is covered, along with charts and diagrams that introduce additional material. A chart called “Comparing Primates,” for example, describes each of the six superfamilies. Physical features and life cycle are described as well. “History” and “Myths and Legends” pages add further context, while an “Activity” page and review questions help readers to consider what they’ve learned and dig deeper. A conservation page explains what is being done to help save threatened and endangered animals and their habitats. The large, clear photos are carefully chosen. In addition, a trove of pass-coded online resources specific to each title is promised. VERDICT Readers and report writers will not be disappointed.

Franchino, Vicky. Black Mambas. ISBN 9780531213926.

Gregory, Josh. Hedgehogs. ISBN 9780 531213902.

––––. Moose. ISBN 9780531213933.

––––. Sloths. ISBN 9780531213919.

Marsico, Katie. Leeches. ISBN 9780 531213940.

––––. Lice. ISBN 9780531213957.

ea vol: 48p. (Nature’s Children). further reading. glossary. index. maps. photos. Children’s Pr. 2015. lib. ed. $28.

Gr 3-5 –These additions to this ongoing series follow a tried-and-true format: text on one page facing a full-page photo. An opening “Fact File” breaks down info such as taxonomy, habits, habitats, and diets and provides a preview for the information that will be covered. Five chapters are broken down into several single-page sections. The first chapter depicts an encounter with the animal and describes a typical behavior. The rest of the book delves further into the topics brought up in the “Fact File.” Sophisticated scientific terms such as bilateral symmetry or anticoagulant are often defined in-text. “Fun Fact” boxes are scattered throughout, and photos are captioned but not labeled. Graphics include a size comparison to an average adult and a range map (the map in Moose is inaccurate). VERDICT Those researching animals will find these offerings helpful.

Gagne, Tammy. Black Bears. ISBN 9781607537731; ISBN 9781681520247. LC 2014043592.

––––. Sloth Bears. ISBN 9781607537779; ISBN 9781681520285. LC 2014043617.

––––. Spectacled Bears. ISBN 9781607537786; ISBN 9781681520292. LC 2014043618.

––––. Sun Bears. ISBN 9781607537793; ISBN 9781681520308. LC 2014043619.

Trueit, Trudi Strain. Giant Pandas. ISBN 9781607537748; ISBN 9781681520254. LC 2014043599.

––––. Grizzly Bears. ISBN 9781607537755; ISBN 9781681520261. LC 2014043615.

––––. Polar Bears. ISBN 9781607537762; ISBN 9781681520278. LC 2014043616.

ea vol: 24p. (Wild Bears). ebook available. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Amicus. 2015. lib. ed. $28.50. pap. $8.99.

K-Gr 2 –These serviceable introductions to seven of the eight living species of bear include simple sentences and brief chapters. The usual material—habitat, size, appearance, diet, behaviors, young, and conservation status—is chunked into single-page chapters of five short sentences. “Fun Fact” boxes with tidbits such as “Sloth bears also eat fruit” are scattered throughout. The information on size listed in the culminating “Bear Facts” page provides huge ranges with no qualifiers. Photos take up more than half of each spread; however, these images offer no sense of perspective. VERDICT Suitable options, especially for early readers.

Hansen, Grace. Bonobos. ISBN 9781629708959; ISBN 9781629709451. LC 2014958408.

––––. Bottlenose Dolphins. ISBN 9781629708911; ISBN 9781629709468. LC 2014960325.

––––. Chimpanzees. ISBN 9781629708928; ISBN 9781629709475. LC 2014958399.

––––. Elephants. ISBN 9781629708935; ISBN 9781629709482. LC 2014958397.

––––. Gorillas. ISBN 9781629708942; ISBN 9781629709499. LC 2014958553.

––––. Rats. ISBN 9781629708966; ISBN 9781629709505. LC 2014958404.

ea vol: 24p. (Animal Friends). glossary. index. photos. ABDO. 2015. Tr. $28.50. ebk. $28.50.

PreS-Gr 2 –The animals in this well-designed series have been hand-picked for their positive social behaviors. After briefly covering appearance, diet, habitat, and social structure, the author uses the remaining pages to explore a noteworthy trait, such as dolphins’ helpfulness or elephants’ kindness. Gorillas uses poaching traps to demonstrate how gorillas care for one another (many of them have learned to destroy these harmful contraptions, rather than avoiding them, to keep others safe), while Rats presents lab animals only and describes an experiment that illustrates how the rodents often share. Each spread features a single, concise nugget of information along with a carefully chosen, attractive photo. Terms such as matriarch, bond, and aggressive are presented in bold and defined in the text. The concluding “More Facts” page provides exactly what it promises. VERDICT Great introductions to pro-social behavior for young animal lovers.

Kenney, Karen. Rat. ISBN 9781634304351; ISBN 9781634305358; ISBN 9781634306249.

––––. Sugar Glider. ISBN 9781634304368; ISBN 9781634305365; ISBN 9781 634306256.

Matzke, Ann. Hedgehog. ISBN 9781 634304337; ISBN 9781634305334; ISBN 9781634306225.

––––. Mini Horse. ISBN 9781634304344; ISBN 9781634305341; ISBN 9781 634306232.

Reed, Cristie. Ferret. ISBN 9781634304320; ISBN 9781634305327; ISBN 9781 634306218.

––––. Mini Pig. ISBN 9781634304313; ISBN 9781634305310; ISBN 9781634306201.

ea vol: 32p. (You Have a Pet What?!). glossary. index. photos. websites. Rourke. 2015. Tr. $29.95. pap. $8.95. ebk. $22.95.

Gr 2-4 –This collection of exotic pets introduces these animals, covering history, natural habitat, care, and characteristics both positive and negative. Restrictions on ownership and any special housing and health care requirements are carefully pointed out. The animals’ personalities are described, and information on bonding and communication is provided. A short list of “Things to Think About...” encapsulates all the issues and concludes each book. Supplementary material includes a nicely organized set of “Before & After Reading Activities” and “Show What You Know” questions that can be used for reading comprehension instruction. Photos frequently incorporate humans along with the animals. Each volume includes a spread with a full-body shot of the animal with body parts and physical traits identified. “Fun Fact” and “Pet Pointer” boxes appear where needed. VERDICT Well written, with a clean design, these titles will be useful for educators and popular with potential pet owners.

Lawrence, Ellen. Enormous Ears and Soft Brown Hair (Moose). ISBN 9781910549186; ISBN 9781910549193.

––––. A Giant Egg and Fluffy Feathers (Ostrich). ISBN 9781910549209; ISBN 9781910549216.

––––. A Spiny Back and Green Scaly Skin (Iguana). ISBN 9781910549223; ISBN 9781910549230.

––––. A Tiny Beak and Spiky Feathers (Cockatiel). ISBN 9781910549247; ISBN 9781910549254.

––––. Tiny Fingers and Fuzzy Orange Hair (Orangutan). ISBN 9781910549261; ISBN 9781910549278.

––––. Tiny Paws and Big Black Eyes (Giant Panda). ISBN 9781910549285; ISBN 9781910549292.

ea vol: 24p. (Whose Little Baby Are You?). glossary. index. photos. websites. Bearport. 2015. lib. ed. $23.93. ebk. $37.27.

K-Gr 3 –A page featuring a photograph and listing unique descriptors and a habitat are used to introduce each newborn before the animal in question is identified. Each title takes readers through the stages of development, from infancy to adulthood. A Giant Egg breaks that pattern, spending more time on the nesting and incubation process and the parents’ appearance than on infant development. Vivid, carefully selected photos fill each page, labels highlight details, and the text is set on bright backgrounds. A closing “Fact File” spread adds further information, including a size comparison to adult humans and a world map of the animal’s range. The endangered status of pandas in Tiny Paws and orangutans in Tiny Fingers is addressed. The indexes are more extensive than usual for introductory titles. VERDICT Solid options, especially for educators teaching index use.

Schuh, Mari. The World’s Biggest Amphibians. ISBN 9781620312094.

––––. The World’s Biggest Birds. ISBN 9781620312063.

––––. The World’s Biggest Fish. ISBN 9781620312070.

––––. The World’s Biggest Insects. ISBN 9781620312087.

––––. The World’s Biggest Mammals. ISBN 9781620312049.

––––. The World’s Biggest Reptiles. ISBN 9781620312056.

ea vol: 24p. (The World’s Biggest Animals). ebook available. glossary. index. photos. websites. Jump! 2015. lib. ed. $25.65.

Gr 2-4 –Each book introduces the class of animals in question before moving on to two chapters, each of which focuses on a different “biggest” animal. Basic info, with an emphasis on size, is provided. The authors employ child-friendly comparisons: school buses, cars, and average child or adult weight or height are frequent standards. “Did You Know?” insets extend the facts, while labels, simple graphs, and a world range map add value. Photos are clear and well chosen. A final graphic contrasts the height, weight, or length of one or both of the animals with humans, inviting further exploration. A quick “Try This!” activity that concludes each volume continues the math integration. VERDICT Young readers will find both the topic and treatment inviting as they are encouraged to interact with the text through questions and extensions.

Stevens, Kathryn. Cats. ISBN 9781 631437267.

––––. Dogs. ISBN 9781631437274.

––––. Fish. ISBN 9781631437328.

––––. Hamsters. ISBN 9781631437281.

––––. Hermit Crabs. ISBN 9781631437298.

––––. Lizards. ISBN 9781631437335.

––––. Parakeets. ISBN 9781631437304.

––––. Turtles. ISBN 9781631437311.

ea vol: 24p. (Pet Care). ebook available. further reading. glossary. photos. websites. The Child’s World. 2015. lib. ed. $25.64.

Gr 1-3 –Attractive and well-designed primers. The close-up photographs of the animals’ faces on the covers entice readers, while the content cautions them to make careful choices when selecting a pet. The importance of commitment is emphasized, along with all of the basics on food, health, physical characteristics and needs, safety, and bonding. Fish, Hermit Crabs, and Lizards set realistic expectations on interaction. Concluding “Needs and Dangers” and “Fun Facts” lists recap the information and fill in any gaps. Photos are clear and bright and vary from full-page to insets. VERDICT These crisp, basic guides will provide a good introduction to potential pet owners.

Middle to High School

Tarbox, A.D. An Arctic Tundra Food Chain. ISBN 9781608185382.

––––. A Desert Food Chain. ISBN 9781608185399.

––––. A Mountain Food Chain. ISBN 9781608185405.

––––. An Ocean Food Chain. ISBN 9781608185412.

––––. A Prairie Food Chain. ISBN 9781608185429.

––––. A Rainforest Food Chain. ISBN 9781608185436.

ea vol: 80p. (Odysseys in Nature). bibliog. glossary. index. photos. Creative Education. 2015. lib. ed. $42.80.

Gr 5-8 –These reissues of “Nature’s Bounty” (Creative Education, 2009) have been repackaged. These offerings are smaller in size and feature new covers and titles and a rearrangement of photos; otherwise, they’re the same, including the selected bibliographies. Each volume examines a different food chain from a North American biome: for instance, Rainforest begins with the cacao tree, then discusses the leafcutter ant (which collects the cacao’s leaves), moves on to the anteater, and finishes with the boa constrictor (which preys upon the anteater). Full pages devoted to different animals are inserted throughout. While informative, these inclusions interrupt the flow of the main text. The well-written prose uses analogies such as “about the size of a sixth-grader’s thumb” to describe the size of a queen leafcutter ant and wonderfully descriptive phrases, including “salmon…pluck the sardines off like grapes” that will draw readers in. The captioned photos, while dramatic, play a minor supporting role. They often don’t provide wide full-body views of the subjects or labels. VERDICT Purchase these for the wealth of information in the writing.

For an answer to the perennial pet question, children will find The Child World’s “Pet Care” useful for typical pet choices, while Rourke’s “You Have a Pet What?!” is ideal for getting more familiar with the more unusual pet options. Add Capstone’s “Pet Perspectives” if your budget is generous, along with Bearport’s “Whose Little Baby Are You?” The youngest readers and their adults may appreciate the positive behavior messages in ABDO’s “Animal Friends.” Jump!’s “The World’s Biggest Animals” blends math and science, setting the stage for further exploration. You won’t go wrong with the new additions to Creative Education’s “Nature’s Children” and Bellwether’s “North American Animals.” If you don’t already own their previously published series, “Nature’s Bounty,” then Creative Education’s reissued “Odysseys in Nature” provides high-interest information for strong readers.

Carol S. Surges, formerly at Longfellow Middle School, Wauwatosa, WI

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