A mix of titles currently on my shelves.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Lizards in the Sky -- Yikes!

Most kids like books about animals, especially critters that are cute or unusual. For a certain subset of young readers – primarily, but not always, boys – interest in odd animals borders on obsession.

These young enthusiasts know far more about animals than I ever will. Lizards in the Sky: Animals Where You Least Expect Them by Canadian Claire Eamer is perfect for such kids, as well as general-interest readers. Though it has plenty of eye-catching and informative pictures, this is at heart a science book, not fluff. The theme of the book is animals that live in unexpected places and the adaptations they make to survive. With hooks like “A snake, flat as a ribbon, gliding overhead?” and “Bomb-throwing worms” to lure readers into the main text, the book knows its audience. Organized into chapters based on general environment – water, land, desert, air, darkness, and cold – it covers a range of creatures, from microscopic to large, looking at the kinds of adaptations they use to live in various habitats.

One thing I really like about the book is that although the tone is conversational, it doesn’t talk down to kids. An appendix gives the scientific names for each animal discussed, chapter by chapter. A list of books for “Further Reading” is included, as well as a “Selected Bibliography” and a thorough index, details that are much appreciated by librarians and budding scientists.

One aspect of the book I don’t care for is the use of spot illustrations by Sir John Tenniel, from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. The intent was probably to enliven the format with a bit of fun and fancy. But to me, the juxtaposition of fanciful with scientific is incongruous. Nonetheless, this is a small quibble and quite possibly a personal preference.

Author Claire Eamer is a science writer who lives in the Yukon. Her previous books include Spiked Scorpions & Walking Whales; Super Crocs & Monster Wings and Traitor’s Gate and Other Doorways to the Past.

I’ll put this book in my school library, knowing full well it will prompt a conversation something like this:

     Future biologist earnestly informs me, “Mrs. Dixon, did you know that naked mole rat queens give birth to more than a thousand babies?”
     I gasp.
     “Not all at once,” he goes on to explain, delighted.
     “Thank goodness!” I reply.

And thank goodness for writers like Claire Eamer, who make exploring the natural world so interesting.

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