Dangerous, Cute, and Just Plain Amazing | Animals Series Nonfiction

The library’s animal section can serve as an endless source of fascination to curious kids.

The library’s animal section can serve as an endless source of fascination to curious kids. Sometimes that comes in the form of new looks at familiar animals, from the cuteness of a baby llama and the beauty of a bird to the distinct personalities of various cat breeds. Nonfiction can also introduce creatures most kids have never heard of, like the cookie-cutter shark and the red-lipped batfish. Exploring animal behaviors such as hunting and migration offer further insights into the natural world. Humans can be part of animal study as well, with impacts on species survival that can be harmful or helpful. These topics are all addressed in a variety of creative ways by the new series below, all of which attempt to satisfy the curiosity of young learners who love animals.



Amstutz, Lisa. Cranes. ISBN 9781645490968.
––––. Flamingos. ISBN 9781645490975.
––––. Herons. ISBN 9781645490982.
––––. Ostriches. ISBN 9781645490999.
––––. Storks. ISBN 9781645491002.
––––. Swans. ISBN 9781645491019.
ea vol: 16p. (Spot Big Birds). Amicus/Spot. Jul. 2022. Tr. $29.95.
K-Gr 2 –Strong visual content and simple text introduce these larger representatives of the avian world. Two or three short sentences per spread direct readers toward the accompanying photograph, with minimal statements (“Look at that sharp bill”), or questions (“See the mud nests?”). The basic level of information is appropriate for the intended audience of new readers while the eye-catching photos add a more engaging element. Each photo spans a full two-page spread. Some depict the bird in the wild, while others show its body set off clearly against a white background. The images effectively highlight particular features and behaviors such as the ostrich’s eyelashes and the mating dance of the crane. VERDICT Accessible and appealing nonfiction choices for new readers.

Farley, Taylor. What Kind of Bird Am I? Bk. 1. ISBN 9781039660151.
––––. What Kind of Bug Am I? Bk. 2. ISBN 9781039660168.
––––. What Kind of Mammal Am I? Bk. 3. ISBN 9781039660175.
––––. What Kind of Reptile Am I? Bk. 4. ISBN 9781039660182.
ea vol: 24p. (What Am I?). Crabtree/Crabtree Seedlings. Sept. 2022. Tr. $27.93.
PreS-Gr 1 –Verbal and visual clues introduce young learners to five animals per title. An initial spread provides one or two facts about the creature, with a full page photograph showing a portion of its body. The alligator, for example, has “a big mouth and sharp teeth;” the accompanying photo shows the eye and a bit of its head. A page-turn reveals the creature’s name along with a two-page image of the full body. A closing “glossary” spread provides a bit more information about each animal. The simple concept is well-executed. Young readers will likely guess some, but not all of the animals, and the images on both the clue and answer pages arevisually ­engaging. However, What Kind of Bug Am I?, breaks the pattern by using graphic images as clues for two animals, instead of photographs. VERDICT The engaging interactive element adds appeal to the concept of animal recognition for young readers.

Jaske, Julia. Calves. Bk. 1. ISBN 9781668908808.
––––. Donkeys. Bk. 2. ISBN 9781668908785.
––––. Ducklings. Bk. 3. ISBN 9781668908839.
––––. Foals. Bk. 4. ISBN 9781668908815.
––––. Goats. Bk. 5. ISBN 9781668908822.
––––. Llamas. Bk. 6. ISBN 9781668908846.
––––. Piglets. Bk. 7. ISBN 9781668908792.
––––. Skunks. Bk. 8. ISBN 9781668908778.
ea vol: 16p. (So Cute! Baby Animals). Cherry Lake. Aug. 2022. pap. $11.36.
PreS-Gr 1 –Simple sentences, all with the same structure, describe general behaviors of baby animals in terms of what they like to do: Ducklings for example, starts with “­Ducklings like to swim. Ducklings like to walk...” That pattern is repeated with 10 more things that the animals like, adding one per page. Though not especially engaging, the repetition and limited vocabulary make the text accessible to the newest readers. A large photo provides visual clues that help with decoding the text. The images capture the cuteness theme fairly reliably, though a few examples, such as running llamas and hugging donkeys don’t represent the description as strongly as they might. Each book ends with a satisfying view of the baby animal sleeping or resting. VERDICT Accessible, if unexciting choices for brand new readers who love animals.

Neuenfeldt, Elizabeth. Arctic Animals. Bk. 1. ISBN 9781644877258.
––––. Forest Animals. Bk. 3. ISBN 9781644877272.
––––. Mountain Animals. Bk. 5. ISBN 9781644877296.
––––. Wetlands Animals. Bk. 8. ISBN 9781644877326.
Sabelko, Rebecca. Desert Animals. Bk. 2. ISBN 9781644877265.
––––. Grassland Animals. Bk. 4. ISBN 9781644877289.
––––. Ocean Animals. Bk. 6. ISBN 9781644877302.
––––. Rain Forest Animals. Bk. 7. ISBN 9781644877319.
ea vol: 24p. (What Animal Am I?). Bellwether/Blastoff! Readers. Aug. 2022. Tr. $26.95.
K-Gr 2 –Each title introduces four animals from the featured environment with a guessing game element. One spread provides a few basic facts alongside an outline of the creature’s body with just one portion visible through a magnifying glass’ circle. Spot images show two other body parts, while a range map provides more information. A page turn reveals the animal with two photographs and a couple more facts. The visual presentation is generally effective, though not especially eye-catching. Some of the challenges are more difficult than ­others For example, Desert tortoise shell is a clear clue (Desert); platypus paw is harder to make a guess from (Wetlands)], but in most cases, the combination of verbal and visual clues will be enough for readers to make a solid guess about the animal’s identity. VERDICT Effective use of the question-and-answer format to introduce animal features and behaviors.

Rajczak Nelson, Kristen. Blue Jays. Bk. 1. ISBN 9781538275139.
––––. Hummingbirds. Bk. 2. ISBN 9781538275177.
––––. Parrots. Bk. 3. ISBN 9781538275214.
––––. Peacocks. Bk. 4. ISBN 9781538275252.
––––. Robins. Bk. 5. ISBN 9781538275290.
––––. Woodpeckers. Bk. 6. ISBN 9781538275337.
ea vol: 28p. (Beautiful Birds). Rosen/Gareth Stevens. Aug. 2022. Tr. $23.60.
PreS-Gr 1 –Large print, simple sentence structure, and plentiful white space welcome new readers, with strong support from photographs. With just one or two sentences on most pages, facts are at the most basic level. While the text can be overly general: (“Parrots are birds. They can be green.”), there is enough information about physical features and behaviors to provide a simple introduction to each bird. Each page of text is accompanied by a full-page photographs; many are quite eye-catching. The photos that depict hummingbirds in flight, woodpecker babies, and a robin in flight are strong examples of how well-chosen visuals can support basic content. VERDICT Appealing and accessible choices for new readers of nonfiction.

Ruby, Rex. Inside a Badger’s Burrow. Bk. 1. ISBN 9798885091367.
––––. Inside a Chipmunk’s Home. Bk. 2. ISBN 9798885091374.
––––. Inside a Fox’s Den. Bk. 3. ISBN 9798885091381.
––––. Inside a Groundhog’s Burrow. Bk. 4. ISBN 9798885091398.
––––. Inside a Prairie Dog’s Hideaway. Bk. 5. ISBN 9798885091404.
––––. Inside an Armadillo’s Burrow. Bk. 6. ISBN 9798885091411.
ea vol: 24p. (Underground Animal Life). Bearport/Bearport Books. Aug. 2022. pap. $26.99.
Gr 2-4 –Solid introductions to six mammals that live in underground homes. Photos show the animals in or near their homes, followed by a description and a clear two-page diagram showing tunnels and various rooms. Dimensions of the underground spaces are provided for some, but an inset scaled photo of the creature conveys the size adequately. Subsequent text examines the ways that their home affects the creatures’ life cycles, ranging from child rearing to evading predators. Full-page ­photographs provide solid visual context for physical features and behaviors described in the text, though the armadillo is the only animal depicted in the act of actually digging out its underground home. VERDICT Useful additions to animal ­habitat sections.


Upper Elementary to Middle School

Bonneau, Maxime & Joanne Mattern. Safe Travels for Squirrels. photos by Maxime Bonneau. Bk. 1. ISBN 9781643711881.
Mattern, Joanne & Maxime Bonneau. Caution: Turtles and Frogs Ahead. Bk. 2. ISBN 9781643711898.
Mattern, Joanne. Fantastic Homes for Flying Creatures. Bk. 3. ISBN 9781643711904.
––––. How Did the Creature Cross the Road? Bk. 4. ISBN 9781643711911.
ea vol: 28p. (Wildlife Rescue). Red Chair. Aug. 2022. Tr. $25.32.
Gr 3-5 –After introducing the ways in which humans have put animal survival at risk, the text shifts to actions people have taken to help the animals. Habitat loss for birds, bats, and butterflies, for example, has been addressed by the creation of new homes in boxes and gardens. Descriptions of particular examples, such as the “Nutty Narrows” squirrel bridge in Washington, provide useful real-life specificity. Photographs include scenes of the animals at risk and of the people working on solutions, as well as images of the finished project. A scene showing hordes of crabs crossing a high metal bridge is one of several effective images. Descriptions and photos offer an engaging, well-rounded introduction to innovative examples of humans helping animals. VERDICT Well-executed presentation of an intriguing wildlife preservation topic.

Bonnin, Elisa A. Endangered Sharks. Bk. 1. ISBN 9781678203641.
LaPierre, Yvette. Prehistoric Sharks. Bk. 2. ISBN 9781678203665.
Terp, Gail. Shark Attacks. Bk. 3. ISBN 9781678203689.
Xie, Chelsea. Shark Biology. Bk. 4. ISBN 9781678203702.
––––. Weird Sharks. Bk. 5. ISBN 9781678203726.
ea vol: 64p. (All About Sharks). ReferencePoint/BrightPoint Press. Sept. 2022. Tr. $32.95.
Gr 4-6 –Each book in this series presents a different shark-related topic. Endangered Sharks, for example, provides a clear overview of the causes and possible solutions to shark population loss, while Shark ­Attacks examines the causes and frequency of sharks harming humans. An opening “At a Glance” spread in each book provides a bullet-point summary of the main content that follows. Subsequent chapters introduce facts and concepts fairly clearly, with well-chosen examples and statistics. Quotes from current scientists and first-hand accounts of shark experiences enliven the text to some degree. Photographs are unspectacular, but provide useful visual context. Several highlighted species, however, are not represented with photos. VERDICT Solid overviews for older ­elementary ages.

Holmes, Parker. Hiding and Bluffing to ­Survive. Bk. 3. ISBN 9781532198519.
MacCarald, Clara. Getting Smelly to Survive. Bk. 2. ISBN 9781532198502.
––––. Hunting to Survive. Bk. 4. ISBN 9781532198526.
––––. Migrating to Survive. Bk. 5. ISBN 9781532198533.
––––. Working Together to Survive. Bk. 6. ISBN 9781532198540.
Perdew, Laura. Fleeing to Survive. Bk. 1. ISBN 9781532198496.
ea vol: 32p. (Animal Survival). ABDO/Kids Core. Sept. 2022. pap. $34.22.
Gr 3-5 –Each book touches on the survival strategies of several animals, grouped by the behaviors they have in common. General information about topics like migration and camouflage leads into a variety of specific examples from the animal kingdom. In most cases, descriptions are accompanied by a photograph of the creature, though a couple of the animals featured in Fleeing to Survive lack a supporting image. Inset text boxes add content related to the main text. Each book includes one or two “Primary Source” pages which feature quotations from scientists in the field and follow up questions. “Explore Online” boxes encourage further research and critical thinking. The introduction of brief, but specific information about several different animals may challenge some learners; others will ­appreciate the variety and fast pace. VERDICT Serviceable introductions to animal behavior.

Kissock, Heather. Maine Coon. Bk. 1. ISBN 9781791148096.
––––. Manx. Bk. 4. ISBN 9781791148188.
Wilson, Sierra. Bengal. Bk. 5. ISBN 9781791149178.
––––. Persian. Bk. 2. ISBN 9781791148126.
––––. Ragdoll. Bk. 6. ISBN 9781791149208.
––––. Sphynx. Bk. 3. ISBN 9781791148157.
ea vol: 24p. (Fantastic Cats). AV2/AV2 Nonfiction. May 2022. Tr. $32.84.
Gr 3-5 –Each cat breed profile covers history, physical qualities, and behavior, along with a bit of pet care. The focus is on the particular qualities of the featured breed. Descriptions of each animal’s personality traits and specific behaviors will be useful to prospective pet owners. While each breed’s uniqueness is appreciated, challenging aspects of cat care, such as the shedding tendencies of Persians (Persian) are also addressed. These are not cat owner manuals, but separate spreads that cover care and health provide useful introductions. Photographs are visually appealing; many highlight the breed’s physical traits, while some show the cats in action. The images in Sphynx, for example, feature the breed’s distinctive skin and fur, but also demonstrate their behavior traits of cuddling and playing. Inset text boxes with extra facts and a closing spread showing similar breeds add further content. VERDICT Useful and appealing, especially to kids hoping to own a cat.

Markle, Sandra. On the Hunt with Crocodiles. Bk. 1. ISBN 9781728456232.
––––. On the Hunt with Eagles. Bk. 2. ISBN 9781728456300.
––––. On the Hunt with Great White Sharks. Bk. 3. ISBN 9781728456249.
––––. On the Hunt with Grizzly Bears. Bk. 4. ISBN 9781728456270.
––––. On the Hunt with Lions. Bk. 5. ISBN 9781728456294.
––––. On the Hunt with Owls. Bk. 6. ISBN 9781728456256.
––––. On the Hunt with Polar Bears. Bk. 7. ISBN 9781728456287.
––––. On the Hunt with Wolves. Bk. 8. ISBN 9781728456263.
ea vol: 32p. (Ultimate Predators). Lerner. Aug. 2022. Tr. $30.65.
Gr 4-7 –Each series title examines the unique characteristics and behaviors of an apex predator. Clear, lively language takes readers right into the predator’s world with effective use of statistics, narrative descriptions, and analogies. Opening pages examine the particular qualities that make the featured animal a top hunter. Subsequent spreads take readers through a year or more of its life cycle, providing information on parent care, social structure, mating, and habitat, along with fascinating predator behaviors. Multiple aspects of predation are covered, ranging from hunting strategies and food sharing to the ways that parents train their young. Vivid photographs show the animals in their natural environment, with scenes of hunting and eating included. Some titles include a close-up view of a key physical feature, such as the teeth of the gray wolf. VERDICT First-rate presentations on a popular subject area.

Peterson, Megan Cooley. Extremely Beautiful Creatures. Bk. 1. ISBN 9781666355239.
––––. Freakishly Creepy Creatures. Bk. 2. ISBN 9781666355352.
––––. Incredibly Colorful Creatures. Bk. 3. ISBN 9781666355413.
––––. Unbelievably Weird Creatures. Bk. 4. ISBN 9781666355291.
ea vol: 32p. (Unreal but Real Animals). Capstone/Capstone Press. Aug. 2022. Tr. $29.32.
Gr 3-5 –Animals with especially unusual characteristics are highlighted in this series. Each two-page spread includes a paragraph identifying the creature, highlighting its distinctive aspects. In some cases, readers also learn how that uniqueness helps the animal in the wild. Coverage includes familiar creatures like tigers, and tarantulas, but most species will be new to young readers, and not frequently found on the animal shelves. One or two photographs per page provide clear visual examples within layouts that are neatly varied and uncluttered. Basic data on areas like range and size is usually skipped, but the engaging, informal tone of the text combined with the emphasis on fascinating traits and behaviors should draw readers. VERDICT Fun facts, unusual animals, and strong potential appeal to browsers.

Though all 12 series above merit consideration for the animal shelves, several stand out. Well-organized content and dynamic text make “Ultimate Predators” (Lerner) a first choice. “Unreal But Real Animals” (Capstone) captures the excitement of learning about unusual animals and their unique features. “What Am I?” (Crabtree) meets the needs of new readers by employing a guessing game element to add extra appeal to the beginner-level text. “Spot Big Birds” (Amicus) is another strong choice for that younger audience, with strong visuals to support the vocabulary. “Wildlife Rescue” (Red Chair) brings a fresh angle to the area of animal preservation with its focus on specific innovative approaches from around the world.

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