Cool Comparisons, Guessing Games, and Fascinating Facts | Animals Series Nonfiction

This season’s animal series present information and learning concepts in a variety of ways.


This season’s animal series present information and learning concepts in a variety of ways. Some use a question-and-answer format, which can engage readers and encourage observation skills. Comparing species in the context of shared behavior, contrasting environments, or even imagined battles may draw in learners who are less comfortable with more conventional presentations of straightforward facts. Creative use of text and visual content can make learning about animals both exciting and informative, whether the subject matter consists of familiar creatures like pets and sharks, or less commonly covered species ranging from cassowaries to capybaras. The most successful series match the chosen style with strong execution to create material that will truly engage and educate young learners.



Boothroyd, Jennifer. Basking Shark. ISBN 9781636915289.
––––. Mako Shark. ISBN 9781636915333.
London, Martha. Hammerhead Shark. ISBN 9781636915326.
––––. Whale Shark. ISBN 9781636915357.
Rose, Rachel. Bull Shark. ISBN 9781636915296.
––––. Goblin Shark. ISBN 9781636915302.
––––. Great White Shark. ISBN 9781636915319.
––––. Tiger Shark. ISBN 9781636915340.
ea vol: 24p. (Shark Shock!). Bearport. Jan. 2022. Tr $26.99.
Gr 3-5 –These engaging overviews use lively text and effective photos to introduce shark species. Each book opens with the animal hunting and finding food. Subsequent pages describe physical features, key behaviors, and mating habits, along with threats and interactions with humans where relevant. Text and pictures also highlight features unique to each species. In Goblin Shark, the clear description of the goblin shark’s teeth, for example, is neatly complemented by a vivid close-up image. Most photographs ably depict the textual content, highlighting physical features and showing the sharks in action, despite occasional missed opportunities. There are no pictures of basking sharks jumping in Basking Shark, or hammerheads actually catching or eating prey, for example. A useful range map and occasional diagrams and insets aid the visual presentation. VERDICT Fine choices to beef up the perennially popular shark species collections.

Coppolino, Marla. Ant vs. Gorilla. ISBN 9781623107284.
––––. Beaver vs. Piranha. ISBN 9781623107291.
––––. Jellyfish vs. Cobra. ISBN 9781623107307.
Duling, Kaitlyn. Pteranodon vs. Eagle. ISBN 9781623107314.
––––. Pufferfish vs. Hippo. ISBN 9781623107321.
––––. Slow Loris vs. Koala. ISBN 9781623107338.
ea vol: 24p. (Versus!). Black Rabbit/Hi Jinx. Jan. 2022. Tr $31.35.
Gr 2-4 –This animal series pairs unlikely opponents in imagined battles. Text presents each duo’s physical characteristics and behaviors side-by-side, accompanied by a mish-mash of photographs and cartoons. Comparisons are not always clear: eagles and Ptreranodons are both called “serious lightweights,” in Pteranodon vs. Eagle for example, but readers also learn that the reptile weighs four times as much as the bird. The eventual “battle” repeats a few key facts about each combatant, but stops short of naming the likely winner. Readers usually do not learn where the animals live (except in Jellyfish vs. Cobra) or whether or not they might actually meet and fight in the wild. The visual presentation combines photographs of varied quality along with cartoon creatures that often react to or interact with the photo images. These match the text’s playful tone, but create a disjointed visual presentation. VERDICT Inconsistent text and visuals limit appeal.

Culliford, Amy. Ears. ISBN 9781039644373.
––––. Eyes. ISBN 9781039644403.
––––. Feet. ISBN 9781039644380.
––––. Horns. ISBN 9781039644410.
––––. Nose. ISBN 9781039644427.
––––. Tail. ISBN 9781039644397.
ea vol: 16p. (What Animal Has These Parts?). Crabtree Publishing/Crabtree Roots. Jan. 2022. Tr $23.93.
PreS-Gr 1 –These short titles introduce the same body part in three different animals per book. An initial spread shows a photograph of the part with a question; a page-turn reveals a full-body image, along with the answer to the question. Repetitive text structure supports new readers. The three questions in Ears, for example, read: “What animal has these little ears?”… “What animal has these big ears?”… “What animal has these black-and-white ears?” Answer pages provide the animal name, with no further information about how the highlighted part functions (“A hamster!” “An elephant!” etc). The lack of specificity may be confusing. For instance, in Nose, the “monkey” with the “red nose” is a baboon, which looks very different from most other monkeys; in Tail, “hairy” is used to describe a cat’s tail, rather than the more common adjective “furry.” Readers may be disappointed to find just three animals per book. VERDICT Accessible to newer readers, though the slight content limits use.

Easton, Marilyn. Fennec Fox or Arctic Fox. ISBN 9781338799392.
––––. Red-Eyed Tree Frog or Wood Frog. ISBN 9781338799484.
––––. Sun Bear or Polar Bear. ISBN 9781338799361.
Geron, Eric. Desert Hare or Arctic Hare. ISBN 9781338799453.
––––. Galápagos Penguin or Emperor Penguin. ISBN 9781338799521.
––––. Spotted-Eagle Owl or Snowy Owl. ISBN 9781338799422.
ea vol: 32p. (Hot and Cold Animals). Scholastic Library Publishing/Children’s Pr. Mar. 2022. Tr $25.
Gr 3-5 –These titles provide plenty of information about two similar species from widely different environments through contrasts and comparisons. Some spreads alternate between the two animals. A fennec fox hunting at night in the desert, for example, is followed by an arctic fox’s successful lemming hunt in Fennec Fox or Arctic Fox. Other spreads examine features or behaviors side-by-side, such as the size comparison between Galápagos and emperor penguins in Galápagos Penguin or Emperor Penguin. Strong visual content includes photographs that are both appealing and useful, including a large captioned close-up photo to highlight key physical features and range maps for each species. Brief fact boxes appear throughout each book with additional data. A final “You Decide” page invites readers to choose which animal’s preferences most match their own. VERDICT Engaging ­animal profiles, strengthened by the concept of comparing similar species.

Stratton, Connor. Falcons. ISBN 9781637381427.
––––. Harriers. ISBN 9781637381434.
––––. Kites. ISBN 9781637381458.
––––. Ospreys. ISBN 9781637381465.
Golkar, Golriz. Eagles. ISBN 9781637381410.
––––. Owls. ISBN 9781637381472.
Gendell, Megan. Hawks. ISBN 9781637381441.
––––. Vultures. ISBN 9781637381489.
ea vol: 32p. (Birds of Prey). North Star Editions/Apex. Jan. 2022. Tr $28.50.
Gr 3-5 –Well-organized information and complementary visuals highlight these avian overviews. An opening chapter describes a particular bird in pursuit of prey, with photographs showing flight and capture. Subsequent sections describe physical features, habitats, and behaviors. Information includes general facts that apply to all or most of the bird family, along with more specific data related to individual examples within the group. Species are identified in many of the photos, often in relation to facts from the text. In Falcons, for example, a description of the general wingspan range of falcons is coupled with a captioned photograph showing the impressive wings of the gyrfalcon, the largest species. Images are clear and nicely varied, ranging from smaller views set in circular frames to full spreads. VERDICT Appealing and informative introductions to the world of raptors.

Jaske, Julia. I See Ants. ISBN 9781534198890.
––––. I See Butterflies. ISBN 9781534198883.
––––. I See Dragonflies. ISBN 9781534198852.
––––. I See Fireflies. ISBN 9781534198869.
––––. I See Honey Bees. ISBN 9781534198838.
––––. I See Ladybugs. ISBN 9781534198845.
––––. I See Moths. ISBN 9781534198906.
––––. I See Walking Sticks. ISBN 9781534198876.
ea vol: 16p. (Bugs in My Backyard). Cherry Lake/Cherry Blossom. Jan. 2022. Tr $11.36.
PreS-Gr 1 –Simple, patterned text introduces insects to new readers. One sentence per page, each with a repeated structure, highlights different animal qualities or activities: “I see a walking stick hiding…I see a green walking stick.” (Walking Sticks). ­Accompanying full-page photographs match the words with well-chosen images that alleviate the sameness of the text. These are visually engaging and often provide intriguing examples of the insects’ behaviors. For example, a “playing” dragonfly perches on a frog’s head in Dragonflies, while “helping” ants work together to form a bridge between leaves in Ants. The photos also support comprehension, since some of the vocabulary words, such as “camouflaging” and “exploring,” are challenging for beginning readers. A word list at the end and a text-only repetition of all 12 sentences support the books’ roles as early reading texts. VERDICT Visually appealing additions to beginning nonfiction shelves.

Leaf, Christina. Baby Foxes. ISBN 9781644875735.
––––. Baby Giraffes. ISBN 9781644875742.
Rathburn, Betsy. Baby Ducks. ISBN 9781644875728.
––––. Baby Pandas. ISBN 9781644875766.
Sabelko, Rebecca. Baby Deer. ISBN 9781644875711.
––––. Baby Koalas. ISBN 9781644875759.
ea vol: 24p. (Too Cute!). Bellwether Media /Blastoff! Beginners. Jan. 2022. Tr $25.95.
PreS-Gr 1 –Close-up photos of baby animals highlight this set. Simple text describes the animals’ behavior in the early stages of life, with one or two sentences per page. Large fonts and double-spaced text are aimed at early readers. So is the simple text: “Fawns nurse. They drink milk from mom” ( Baby Deer). Photographs show newborns and capture the early phases of growth along with behaviors such as napping and eating. Most show the animals in their natural environment, often interacting with family members. In some cases the page design, which uses extensive decorative shapes, limits the size and effectiveness of the photos. Readers never get a full view of a duck’s nest in Baby Duck, for instance, nor a sense of the height of the trees inhabited by pandas in Baby Panda . VERDICT Imperfect, but acceptable choices for early ­nonfiction collections.

Osborne, M. K. Curious about Cats. ISBN 9781681519654.
––––. Curious about Dogs. ISBN 9781681519661.
––––. Curious about Hamsters. ISBN 9781681519678.
Sherman, Jill. Curious about Birds. ISBN 9781681519692.
––––. Curious about Horses. ISBN 9781681519685.
––––. Curious about Rabbits. ISBN 9781681519708.
ea vol: 24p. (Curious about Pets). Amicus/ Curious About. Jan. 2022. Tr $31.35.
Gr 3-5 –Aimed at kids who already own pets and those who are curious about them, these guides use a question-and-answer format to explore the animals’ behaviors and habits. Spreads include one question, which is answered in a few sentences. Some function as pet owner advice: “Do pet birds get bored?” for instance, leads into several activities to keep the pets engaged ( Birds). Others address more general curiosity, such as “How do cats land on their feet when they fall?” (Cats). One or two large photographs per spread depict the pets demonstrating the question’s topic. Varied breeds and species are shown in each book; most are not identified by name within the main text, but a “Popular Breeds” page shows five examples with photos and captions. This page is not given in Hamsters, which is appropriate since their breed names are less known and rarely used. VERDICT A solid mix of general information and care data to supplement pet collections.

Rice, Jamie. Cheetah or Leopard? ISBN 9781636903439.
––––. Frog or Toad? ISBN 9781636903460.
––––. Rabbit or Hare? ISBN 9781636903491.
––––. Turtle or Tortoise? ISBN 9781636903521.
––––. Wolf or Coyote? ISBN 9781636903552.
Zimmerman, Adeline J. Alligator or Crocodile? ISBN 9781636903347.
––––. Bee or Wasp? ISBN 9781636903378.
––––. Butterfly or Moth? ISBN 9781636903408.
ea vol: 24p. (Spot the Differences). Jump!/Bullfrog. Jan. 2022. Tr $26.99.
K-Gr 2 –Engaging animal comparisons are presented in a question-and-answer format. Text provides simple facts about the two animals. Readers examine the accompanying photograph, then try to identify it based on the words and image: “A frog has webbed feet. A toad does not. Which is this?” ( Frog or Toad?). The accompanying photograph shows a frog with its webbed hind feet in clear view. Answers appear in smaller print, upside down, at the bottom of the page. Sentence length and structure are generally appropriate for early readers; harder ­vocabulary words, such as “rosette” in ­Cheetah or ­Leopard? and “fringe” in Alligator or Crocodile? are defined in a picture glossary. ­Eye-catching photos do an excellent job of showing the physical features highlighted within the text. A closing “See and Compare” spread shows both animals with captions to identify key physical features, reinforcing the earlier learning. VERDICT Visually appealing books that successfully foster observation skills and animal knowledge.

Rusick, Jessica. Animals Hidden in the Desert. ISBN 9781666315509.
––––. Animals Hidden in the Forest. ISBN 9781666315455.
––––. Animals Hidden in the Ocean. ISBN 9781666315400.
––––. Animals Hidden in the Snow. ISBN 9781666315356.
ea vol: 32p. (Animals Undercover). Capstone/Pebble. Jan. 2022. Tr $29.32.
Gr 2-4 –Each book introduces 13 animals from a common habitat through a spot-the-animal feature. A photograph on the right-hand page shows the hard-to-see ­creature in its environment, along with one or two facts and the question: “What is it?” A page turn reveals a clear, full-body view; the name of the animal; and a bit more information about its features and behavior. The visual presentation effectively shows the different ways animals can hide. In some examples, a portion of the body is clearly visible, but not the whole thing, like the Gila monster in Desert and the polar bear in Snow; others highlight the way colors and surroundings can create effective camouflage, like the cuttlefish in Ocean and the common frog in Forest. In some, but not all, examples, the data provided on the second page relates to the creature’s ability to hide, like the dead leaf butterfly in Forest and the harp seal in Snow. In a few cases, the two or three sentences offer interesting bits of information that are not related to disguise, like the black-tailed jackrabbit in Desert and the snowy owl in Snow. VERDICT Engaging and interactive titles for browsers.


Upper Elementary to Middle School

Ginis, Elizabeth. World’s Most Freaky Animals. ISBN 9781538274736.
McGhee, Karen. World’s Most Deadly Animals. ISBN 9781538274613.
––––. World’s Most Endangered Animals. ISBN 9781538274651.
––––. World’s Most Extreme Animals. ISBN 9781538274699.
ea vol: 32p. (The World’s Most). Rosen/Gareth Stevens. Jan. 2022. Tr $26.60.
Gr 5-8 –These fact-filled titles are a treat for older readers in search of fun animal information. Each book features several dozen brief animal profiles, grouped by continent. Most spreads include a full page focused on a single creature, alongside briefer passages on three or four other animals that are each accompanied by at least one photograph. World’s Most Extreme Animals highlights a uniquely superlative characteristic of each featured animal, such as the klipspringer’s jumping ability. Deadly Animals focuses on the animals’ dangerous qualities and how they utilize them in the wild. World’s Most Freaky Animals examines especially unusual physical features and behaviors. The tone necessarily shifts from fun to dire with World’s Most Endangered Animals, which looks at critically endangered species, including the causes for their scarcity and, in some cases, conservation efforts. VERDICT A wealth of facts on a wide array of species makes this a strong set for browsers.

Hale, K. A. Essential Reptiles. ISBN 9781532195556.
Krekelberg, Alyssa. Essential Fish. ISBN 9781532195525.
––––. Essential Invertebrates. ISBN 9781532195532.
Pearson, Marie. Essential Amphibians. ISBN 9781532195501.
––––. Essential Mammals. ISBN 9781532195549.
Ringstad, Arnold. Essential Birds. ISBN 9781532195518.
ea vol: 112p. (Essential Animals). Abdo/Essential Library. Jan. 2022. Tr $38.50.
Gr 5-8 –Covering the five vertebrate classes, plus invertebrates, these well-organized titles include a lot of information. An introduction describes the broad characteristics of each group, followed by 22 four-page species profiles. A brief narrative of an animal in action is followed by clear descriptions of physical features, behaviors, environment, and life cycles. Interactions with humans and species threat levels are treated when relevant. A “Fun Fact” inset and a list of key data rounds out each profile. Visual support typically includes three half-page photos. A distribution map at the end shows locations for all featured animals, while an “Essential Facts” spread reviews the key characteristics of their common group. Species coverage ranges from well-known examples, such as the “blue whale” in Essential Mammals and the “mallard” in Essential Birds, to many that are rarely treated in children’s books, such as the “olm” in Essential Amphibians and the “cactus moth” in Essential Invertebrates. VERDICT Useful resources for kids studying animals at the upper elementary and middle school levels.

Standout titles from this group include creative content for younger readers and wide-ranging animal facts for older ones. Both “Spot the Differences” (Jump/Bullfrog) and “Animals Undercover” (Capstone/Pebble) utilize well-conceived interactive elements to engage and educate younger readers about animals. The equally effective use of animal comparisons highlights the usefulness and appeal of Scholastic’s “Hot and Cold Animals.” Though they use very different approaches, both “World’s Most” (Rosen/Gareth Stevens) and “Essential Animals” (Abdo/Essential Library) provide engaging information on a wide variety of animals, including many that are not often covered in children’s nonfiction. Both are first-rate choices for upper elementary and middle school age readers. “Birds of Prey” (North Star/Apex) and Bearport’s “Shark Shock” use more conventional approaches, but both offer solid content on animals that are always popular.

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