Epic Battles and New Species | Animals Series Nonfiction

Grouped by surprising and unique shared features, these animal books will introduce readers to unfamiliar species and shed new light on old favorites.

This season’s animal series demonstrate how a strong collection can provide useful information in a variety of ways. There are field guides that cover hundreds of animals, along with books that focus on groups of animals, both wild and domestic. Some sets highlight the unique features that animals may share, including great size, methods of moving, and the use of electricity. There are also series covering animal battles, keystone species, predators, newly discovered species, and comic book tales of heroic pets. The best of these utilize clear and lively writing paired with well-chosen visual content to engage young readers and provide opportunities for them to learn about the always fascinating world of animals.



BLACK, Sonia W. Just Discovered Mammals. ISBN 9781339020297.
CAPRIOLI, Claire. Just Discovered Fish. ISBN 9781339020099.
DENEGA, Danielle. Just Discovered Amphibians. ISBN 9781339020051.
LESLIE, Jay. Just Discovered Reptiles. ISBN 9781339020419.
ea vol: 32p. (Learn About: Animals). Scholastic/Children’s Pr. Jan. 2024. Tr. $25.
Gr 3-5–Kids likely won’t know anything about the species introduced in this series, because they were only recently discovered. Most were unknown until the 2000s and more than half were first identified in the past five years. Each title introduces five of these “just discovered” animals in four-page chapters. Entries provide a physical description, including size, and an explanation of its name if relevant, as with the vibranium fairy wrasse, whose name is derived from a Marvel movie (Fish). Many, but not all, include a bit about how the animal was discovered. Well-chosen photographs provide clear images of the creatures. Some images capture the unique features of these rare animals, such as the Orinoco mata mata turtle’s shell (Reptiles) and the skin of the Mashpi glass frog (Amphibians). VERDICT Engaging profiles of rare animals with high appeal for young animal enthusiasts.

BOW, James. Tarantulas. ISBN 9781637387771.
GENDELL, Megan. African Wild Dogs. ISBN 9781637387702.
––––. Spotted Hyenas. ISBN 9781637387764.
KIRKMAN, Marissa. Bull Sharks. ISBN 9781637387719.
––––. Leopard Seals. ISBN 9781637387733.
ROSS, Melissa. Polar Bears. ISBN 9781637387740.
WILSON, Libby. Gray Wolves. ISBN 9781637387726.
––––. Pythons. ISBN 9781637387757.
ea vol: 32p. (Predators). North Star Editions/Apex. Jan. 2024. Tr. $31.35.
Gr 3-5–An opening chapter describes a predator or its group on the hunt, finishing with a large photo showing the hunter and its captured prey. A couple of other chapters provide broader information about the featured animal, describing physical features, habitats, and life cycles in text that is clearly written and keeps to an introductory level. Most spreads include an inset box that includes either basic data, like the life span of wolves (Gray Wolves), or more specific fun facts, like the hyena’s ability to bite through a bowling ball (Spotted Hyenas). The predator theme returns with one more chapter that fills in some details about the animal’s hunting methods. Layouts are nicely varied: some photos fill most of a spread, while smaller captioned images show the animals alone, in groups, and sometimes interacting with their prey. VERDICT Simple but appealing profiles of hunting animals.

BRODY, Walt. Capybaras. ISBN 9798765608401.
––––. Chinese Giant Salamanders. ISBN 9798765608418.
––––. Japanese Spider Crabs. ISBN 9798765608425.
FENMORE,Taylor. Anacondas. ISBN 9798765608388.
––––. Blue Whales. ISBN 9798765608395.
GOLUSKY, Jackie. Komodo Dragons. ISBN 9798765608432.
––––. Saltwater Crocodiles. ISBN 9798765608449.
––––. Whale Sharks. ISBN 9798765608456.
ea vol: 24p. (Lightning Bolt Books— Nature’s Most Massive Animals). Lerner Jan. 2024. Tr. $29.32.
Gr 3-5–Each of the featured species is the largest in its group. Capybaras, for example, are the largest rodents and the Japanese spider crab is the biggest arthropod. Height and sometimes weight are noted, both at birth and full-grown stages, and occasionally compared to other massive animals. The bulk of the text, though, focuses on life cycles and habitats. Every page includes a large photograph; some of these use captions to highlight key features or add extra facts. The use of a large font, with key sentences sometimes printed in different colors, adds some visual appeal. Endangered status is noted when applicable. A simple labeled body diagram and additional fun facts appear in a final spread. VERDICT Solid animal profiles where subject coverage is needed.

EMMINIZER, Theresa. Crawling Centipedes. ISBN 9781978537293.
––––. Legless Lizards. ISBN 9781978537323.
––––. Slimy Snails. ISBN 9781978537354.
––––. Slippery Newts. ISBN 9781978537385.
––––. Slithering Snakes. ISBN 9781978537415.
––––. Wiggly Worms. ISBN 9781978537446.
ea vol: 24p. (Animals That Slither and Slide). Enslow. Dec. 2023. Tr. $24.27.
Gr 2-4–The shared “slithering and sliding” trait is described in each of these books, but more general features are also covered, including physical features, behaviors, and life cycles. The groups encompass multiple species, but the text clearly notes which elements are common to all, such as snakes’ forked tongues (Snakes), while also highlighting the particular qualities of a specific species, like the giant centipede’s venomous claws (Centipedes). A full-page photograph accompanies each page of text, which consists of three or four sentences of information. The images are clear, bright, and well varied. Some provide views of different species while others highlight key body parts, like the worm’s setae (Worms) and snail antennae (Snails). VERDICT High appeal for browsers and report writers.

GUNASEKARA, Mignonne & Charis Mather. Brutal Birds. ISBN 9798889165736.
––––. Fierce Fish. ISBN 9798889165743.
––––. Mighty Mammals. ISBN 9798889165750.
––––. Ruthless Reptiles. ISBN 9798889165767.
ea vol: 24p. (Powerful Predators). Bearport/Roar!. Jan. 2024. Tr. $28.50.
Gr 2-4–Each title in this series introduces eight separate examples of predators from the animal group. Two-page spreads include descriptive titles emphasizing the dangerous aspect of the creature, such as “Lethal Lions” (Mammals) and “Killer King Cobras” (Reptiles). A few sentences focus almost exclusively on the ways that each animal hunts and the qualities that help them succeed. Usually there is just enough information in the brief text to introduce the animal, though in some cases readers do not learn what the predator actually hunts (for example, Birds , Mammals). A large photo on each page, set in a jagged-edged frame with claw marks in the background, depicts the predator fairly effectively. Most images capture features that help the animal hunt, though many do not show them interacting with prey. VERDICT Appealing introductions to younger browsers.

HOFER, Charles C.Crocodile vs. Deinosuchus. ISBN 9781669065135.
––––. Great White Shark vs. Megalodon. ISBN 9781669065111.
––––. Rhinoceros vs. Triceratops. ISBN 9781669065128.
––––. Siberian Tiger vs. Saber-Tooth Cat. ISBN 9781669065104.
ea vol: 32p. (Beastly Battles). Capstone. Jan. 2024. Tr. $31.32.
Gr 3-5–In a fun twist in the animal battles field, this set pits a modern-day creature against a prehistoric beast that shares some similar traits. Short two-page chapters compare key features of each animal. Siberian Tiger vs. Saber-Tooth Cat, for instance, looks at size, teeth, claws, and hunting methods. The use of past tense for the prehistoric creatures helps readers navigate the alternating presentations. Photos and illustrations highlight the text effectively: a close-up photo shows the rhinoceros’s thick skin, for example, while a captioned drawing notes the triceratops’ frill and scales (Rhinoceros vs. Triceratops). Final spreads set up the battle, though no winner is revealed. Readers are asked to speculate, aided by a table providing direct comparisons between the two animals. The last spread includes large images of the battlers on facing pages, but nothing shows them actually interacting. VERDICT The prehistoric element should appeal to animal battle fans.

MALLORY, Louis. Echidnas Sense Electricity! ISBN 9781538292884.
––––. Electric Catfish Make Electricity! ISBN 9781538292914.
––––. Electric Eels Make Electricity! ISBN 9781538292945.
––––. Electric Rays Make Electricity! ISBN 9781538292976.
––––. Platypuses Sense Electricity! ISBN 9781538293003.
––––. Sharks Sense Electricity! ISBN 9781538293034.
ea vol: 24p. (Electric Animals). Gareth Stevens. Dec. 2023. Tr. $24.27.
Gr 2-4–The animals in these books use electricity in a variety of ways. Electric catfish, for example, use pulses to find their prey, communicate, and also scare animals away. Each book focuses mainly on the animal’s use of electricity, adding further details where relevant, like the way echidnas use claws and teeth after finding prey with their unique sensory ability (Echidnas). Each spread consists of a paragraph of text on one side, with a full-page photograph opposite. A couple of titles include a diagram identifying physical features related to electricity (Electric Eels; Electric Catfish). There is just enough written detail to convey the essentials of how electricity helps each creature. When behaviors vary from species to species, as with sharks, those differences are noted in the text (Sharks Sense). In some cases, a bit more background could be needed for young readers. For example, the length of electric eels is not mentioned. VERDICT Solid introductions to an intriguing animal group.

MURRAY, Julie. Herding Group. ISBN 9781098284015.
––––. Hound Group. ISBN 9781098284022.
––––. Non-Sporting Group. ISBN 9781098284039.
––––. Sporting Group. ISBN 9781098284046.
––––. Terrier Group. ISBN 9781098284053.
––––. Toy Group. ISBN 9781098284060.
––––. Working Group.ISBN 9781098284077.
ea vol: 24p. (Dog Groups). ABDO/Dash! Jan. 2024. Tr. $31.36.
Gr 1-3–Each title introduces one of the seven major dog groups recognized by the American Kennel Club. Two or three sentences per page describe the characteristics that are shared by most or all breeds in the group, including appearance, behaviors, and personalities. In Non-Sporting Group , for example, readers learn that the dogs are smart, playful, wary, loyal, and “make great pets.” Large photos convey some of the variety within each group. These are engaging images, usually showing the dogs in action, sometimes interacting with people. Most, but not all photos identify the breed with a caption. A closing page shows six more examples of dogs within the group. Kids will need other resources to find information about specific breeds, but this set succeeds as a beginning overview of dog groups. VERDICT Useful introductions with a broader focus than more breed-specific series.


Upper Elementary to Middle School

BARTH, Kelley. A Bask of Crocodiles. ISBN 9781503885066.
––––. A Cackle of Hyenas. ISBN 9781503885028.
––––. A Coalition of Cheetahs. ISBN 9781503885059.
––––. A Confusion of Wildebeests. ISBN 9781503885035.
––––. A Crash of Rhinos. ISBN 9781503885011.
––––. A Mob of Meerkats. ISBN 9781503884991.
––––. A Pride of Lions. ISBN 9781503884984.
––––. A Sounder of Warthogs. ISBN 9781503885042.
––––. A Tower of Giraffes. ISBN 9781503884960.
––––. A Troop of Gorillas. ISBN 9781503884977.
PARKIN, Michelle. A Dazzle of Zebras. ISBN 9781503885004.
––––. A Memory of Elephants. ISBN 9781503884953.
ea vol: 24p. (Safari Animal Families). Child’s World/Wonder Bks. Jan. 2024. Tr. $32.79.
Gr 4-6–Animal group dynamics are the central topic in this well-organized series. Readers learn how each animal family is structured, including leadership, hierarchies, and the various roles different members play. Details about behaviors, such as hunting, mating, and child rearing are all described within the context of the group. Zebras and wildebeests, for example, work together to avoid predation, while hyenas and cheetahs team up for hunting. Unique characteristics of the featured group, like the warthogs’ use of burrows (A Sounder of Warthogs), are noted in a short chapter. Visuals include multiple photos showing individual animals, young and full-grown, and larger groups, along with a range map and a size comparison diagram. A final chapter notes the importance of each group and current threats to their survival. All animals covered in this series exist in Africa, though several are found on other continents as well. VERDICT Well-rounded, useful information about wild animal families.

BERGLUND, Bruce. Corporal Wojtek Supplies the Troops. illus. by Dolo Okecki. ISBN 9781669057734.
––––. Patron Sniffs Out Danger. illus. by Mark Simmons. ISBN 9781669057727.
MANNING, Matthew K. Scarlett Braves the Flames. illus. by Alessandro D’urso. ISBN 9781669057710.
––––. Trakr Searches for Survivors. illus. by Mark Simmons. ISBN 9781669057741.
ea vol: 32p. (Heroic Animals). Capstone. Jan. 2024. Tr. $36.65.
Gr 4-6–True stories of heroic animals are presented in graphic novel format, from a military bear in World War II to the bomb-hunting dog that saved lives in the current war in Ukraine. Text boxes provide introductions and background information, while word balloons carry the mostly fictionalized dialogue between characters; actual quotations appear in bold font. Comic book style illustrations provide visual backdrop, conveying events and personalities effectively. Panels consistently pace each story, while larger frames are used for more dramatic moments, showing kittens stranded in a fire (Scarlett Braves the Flames), for example, and a search dog arriving at Ground Zero(Trakr Searches for Survivors). While the animal exploits are the focus, their relationships with humans are also explored. VERDICT An appealing combination of true-to-life animal heroes and graphic novel storytelling.

CHRISTOPHER, Sophie. Prairie Dogs in Their Ecosystems. ISBN 9798889166313.
HAMMOND, Olivia. Bees in Their Ecosystems. ISBN 9798889166320.
––––. Mangrove Trees in Their Ecosystems. ISBN 9798889166306.
O’DOWD, Della. Beavers in Their Ecosystems. ISBN 9798889166276.
––––. Gray Wolves in Their Ecosystems. ISBN 9798889166283.
––––. Sea Otters in Their Ecosystems. ISBN 9798889166290.
ea vol: 32p. (Vital to Earth! Keystone Species Explained). Bearport. Jan. 2024. Tr. $29.95.
Gr 4-6–Each animal (plus one plant) is introduced primarily in terms of its crucial ecological role as a keystone species. In Sea Otters , for example, readers learn about the environmental importance of kelp forests, then discover the otters’ unique ability to hunt the sea urchins that feed on kelp. The second half of each book looks at threats to the keystone species, potential dangers if they can’t fill their roles, and efforts by humans to protect them. Clearly written text covers various ways that these species fit into their ecosystems. Prairie dogs, for instance, keep soil healthy, aiding grazers, birds, and insects, and also serve as the single food source for black-footed ferrets (Prairie Dogs). Large photographs depict the environments and the ways that animals interact with it. A final spread offers tips for readers to help preserve the species. VERDICT Clear, well-organized introductions to keystone species and their habitats.

GOLKAR, Golriz. Freshwater Fish. ISBN 9781098293086.
––––. Songbirds. ISBN 9781098293109.
RUSSO, Kristin J. Reptiles. ISBN 9781098293093.
––––. Tracks and Scat. ISBN 9781098293116.
ea vol: 112p. (North American Field Guides). ABDO/Field Guides. Jan. 2024. Tr. $44.21.
Gr 5-8–Each of these field guides includes exactly 100 entries, with one page per species presented in a consistent, easy-to-follow format. An opening paragraph describes the animal’s physical appearance, plus a bit about its environment and behavior. A “How to Spot” box lists size, range, habitat, diet. About half of the entries include an inset with a “fun fact” or additional information. One or two photographs per page usually provide clear visual details needed for identification; a few of the images are less effective. Captions identify songbird gender in many cases, especially when the visual differences are pronounced. Entries are arranged by category, such as “crocodilians” and “perch and darters.” Tracks and Scat uses broader groups, like “Mammals” and “Reptiles,” pairing a clear photo of the track or scat alongside the animal image. VERDICT Useful and well-organized field guides for older children.

While all the series reviewed have potential for most nonfiction shelves, a handful stand out, though not always for the same reasons. Scholastic’s “Learn About: Animals” adds information about new species that are not found in most collections. Capstone’s “Beastly Battles” joins the growing field of animal vs. animal series, with a prehistoric twist that sets it apart. High visual appeal and strong content make “Animals That Slither and Slide” (Enslow) a first choice for younger learners. And ABDO’s “North American Field Guides” fill a need for broad species coverage at the middle school level.


Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing