Biomes, Breeds, and Behaviors: Animals Series Nonfiction

Animal books continue to be among the most popular titles in nonfiction collections, both for school assignments and general interest. The series below provide interesting information and useful visual content, so selectors should find strong candidates for purchase. 

Animal books continue to be among the most popular titles in nonfiction collections, both for school assignments and general interest. The series below provide interesting information and useful visual content, so selectors should find strong candidates for purchase, depending on collection needs. Several sets arrange animals by topics, including biomes, migration behaviors, and geographical locations. Others provide more straightforward profiles of individual animal types, including pets, wild animals, and dinosaurs. First-rate titles on common topics like dogs or lions will make sense for most collections, while books about slow lorises or cave animals might fill key subject holes. Series with limited depth of information can still earn their place in a collection through dynamic photographs and eye-catching layouts that could draw visual learners or new readers. In different ways, the following sets have strong ­potential for learners.

 

ELEMENTARY

Arnold, Quinn M. Aye-ayes. ISBN 9781640261167.
––––. Barn Owls. ISBN 9781640261174.
––––. Flying Foxes. ISBN 9781640261181.
––––. Luna Moths. ISBN 9781640261198.
––––. Slow Lorises. ISBN 9781640261204.
––––. Tasmanian Devils. ISBN 9781640261211.
ea vol: 24p. (Creatures of the Night). glossary. index. maps. photos. websites. Creative Education. Sept. 2019. Tr. $29.95.
Gr 1-3 –Readers learn how particular characteristics, such as the barn owl’s unevenly set ears and the tail of the luna moth, help the creatures thrive in the dark. In some cases, basic data like the animal’s size is not provided. For example, in Luna Moth the body length is given and not the wingspan. Vivid photographs capitalize on the nighttime environments, often showing the animals set dramatically against dark backgrounds. A useful closing spread presents a full animal view with captions and insets to highlight key body parts. Images do not always directly match the text. The statement “older aye-ayes live alone,” for example, accompanies a photo of two together with an egg. VERDICT Appealing to browsers and could fill some subject holes.

Cleave, Andrew. Curious Creatures. 80p. ISBN 9781422243053.
––––. Giants of the Sea. 72p. ISBN 9781422243060.
––––. Seals & Sea Lions. 72p. ISBN 9781422243091.
––––. Seashells. 72p. ISBN 9781422243084.
––––. Sharks. 80p. ISBN 9781422243107.
––––. Whales & Dolphins. 80p. ISBN 9781422243114.
Hastings, Derek. Penguins. 72p. ISBN 9781422243077.
Rue III, Dr. Leonard Lee. Alligators & Crocodiles. 80p. ISBN 9781422243046.
ea vol: (Creatures of the Ocean). photos. Mason Crest. Sept. 2019. Tr. $32.95.
Gr 2-6 –Deep and thorough information makes this series a good choice for readers ready to move beyond the elementary level into more serious animal science. After opening pages that focus on history and taxonomy, each title explores multiple aspects of many individual species. The fairly sophisticated writing style is clear and engaging, providing detailed explanations of physical characteristics and behaviors. Statistics, scientific research, and current data about survival threats are covered within the animal descriptions. Useful photographs provide excellent support for specific topics as the alligator’s tooth patterns or the perching posture of a marabou stork. Images vary from quarter-page spots to full spreads; all include extended captions. Not all of the species in Alligators & Crocodiles are truly “creatures of the ocean,” but including the broader crocodilian order makes sense. VERDICT High-quality resources for middle school and high school collections.

Cocca, Lisa Colozza. Boreal Forest Animals. ISBN 9781731614391.
––––. Deciduous Forest Animals. ISBN 9781731614407.
––––. Desert Animals. ISBN 9781731614414.
––––. Estuary Animals. ISBN 9781731614421.
––––. Freshwater Pond Animals. ISBN 9781731614438.
––––. Grassland Animals. ISBN 9781731614445.
––––. Ocean Animals. ISBN 9781731614452.
––––. Tundra Animals. ISBN 9781731614469.
ea vol: 32p. (Biome Beasts). glossary. index. Rourke/Bridges. Sept. 2019. Tr. $31.36.
Gr 3-6 –After a general introduction to the featured biome, including a location map, numerous animals from the environment are pictured and described. Different varieties of each biome are neatly grouped into separate chapters. Freshwater Pond Animals, for example, looks at animals that live on the bottom of a pond, in the middle, on the surface, and at the edges. Each book highlights at least 10 creatures, providing a few selected facts. In some cases just a single attribute is noted, such as the caribou’s migration pattern. Other profiles examine multiple attributes; a spread on argali sheep, for instance, mentions herds, diet, and coats. Photographs provide solid support, with varied layouts and views that highlight the animal and its environment. VERDICT Brief, but engaging information makes this a good choice for browsers.

Donohue, Moira Rose. Tree Frogs: Life in the Leaves. ISBN 9780531229934.
Grunbaum, Mara. Octopuses: Clever Ocean Creatures. ISBN 9780531229927.
Herrington, Lisa M. Kangaroos: Amazing Jumpers. ISBN 9780531229903.
Knopf, Susan. Armadillos: Dynamite Diggers. ISBN 9780531229880.
Roome, Dr. Hugh. Lions: Kings of the ­Grasslands. ISBN 9780531229910.
Unwin, Cyndy. Birds of Paradise: Winged ­Wonders. ISBN 9780531229897.
ea vol: 48p. (Nature’s Children). glossary. index. photos. Scholastic/Children’s Press. Sept. 2019. Tr. $30.
Gr 3-5 –These high-quality resources offer thorough coverage of each animal in an appealing, accessible format. Physical features, behaviors, feeding habits, and life cycles are described in clear, direct language. Key facts and figures flow smoothly within the narratives, and differences between individual species are carefully noted whenever applicable. Fascinating examples of behaviors such as kangaroo cooling strategies and the swimming techniques of armadillos provide engaging details in ways that readers will remember. Most photographs are a full page or larger and successfully depict highlighted features, behaviors, or species varieties. Additional visual support includes a distribution map, size comparisons, a full-page photo with key body parts labeled, and a family tree showing related species. Though some animals have been covered in previous editions of this series, all content is completely new. VERDICT Top-notch animal profiles for report writers and browsers.

Emminizer, Theresa. This Book Has Teeth! ISBN 9781538233610.
Machajewski, Sarah. This Book Charges! ISBN 9781538233573.
––––. This Book Scratches! ISBN 9781538233696.
McAneney, Caitie. This Book Hisses! ISBN 9781538233658.
––––. This Book Stings! ISBN 9781538233733.
Shea, Therese M. This Book Can Poison! ISBN 9781538233528.
ea vol: 24p. (Beastly Books for the Brave). glossary. index. photos. Gareth Stevens. Aug. 2019. Tr. $22.60.

Gr 2-5 –Conversational text introduces readers to animals that share especially dangerous features. Six or seven creatures are presented in a couple of engaging and informative paragraphs. Some highlight a single species while others examine the attributes of a group, such as bear claws. The writing finds a good balance between general information and fascinating, more specific details. A full-page photo shows the animal demonstrating the featured ­behavior, sometimes accompanied by a smaller inset image. A “Facts for the Fearless” box on each spread adds extra data, as do succinct photo captions. Though many of the animal attributes are fearsome, some more benign examples, such as beaver teeth, are also included. Catchy chapter titles (“Stay Away from the Stingray!”) and pages with a tattered effect add to the lighthearted tone without detracting from the well-presented array of information. VERDICT Strong choice for browsers.

Gleisner, Jenna Lee. Angel Shark. ISBN 9781641289559.
––––. Blue Shark. ISBN 9781641289573.
––––. Great White Shark. ISBN 9781641289610.
––––. Hammerhead Shark. ISBN 9781641289634.
––––. Mako Shark. ISBN 9781641289658.
––––. Tiger Shark. ISBN 9781641289672.
––––. Whale Shark. ISBN 9781641289696.
ea vol: 24p. (Shark Bites). glossary. index. photos. Jump!/Bullfrog. Aug. 2019. Tr. $25.65.
K-Gr 3 –Vivid photographs and minimal text work together in this set for younger readers. Basic descriptions of shark attributes include questions and answers, along with occasional interjections: “What is this? A mako shark! Wow!” Though occasionally awkwardly worded, the loose, simple narrative is accessible to beginning readers and strongly supported by excellent photographs that show exactly what the reader needs to see. The whale shark, for example, is described as spotted, flat, white-bellied, and huge: Four photographs, varied between ocean settings and white backgrounds, are perfectly chosen to highlight each of those features. Action scenes depicting hunting, feeding and breaching provide further visual appeal. Selective use of labels links text to pictures where needed. Each book closes with a photo highlighting body parts and a brief picture glossary. VERDICT Good choice for younger readers with high ­visual appeal.

Kline, Carol. All About Asian Bengal Tigers. ISBN 9781680204025.
––––. All About Asian Giant Pandas. ISBN 9781680204049.
––––. All About Asian Komodo Dragons. ISBN 9781680204087.
––––. All About Asian Orangutans. ISBN 9781680204100.
––––. All About Asian Pangolins. ISBN 9781680204063.
––––. All About Asian Yaks. ISBN 9781680204124.
ea vol: 24p. (Animals Around the World: Asia). further reading. glossary. index. maps. photos. websites. Mitchell Lane/EZ Readers. Sept. 2019. Tr. $25.70.
Gr 1-3 –Each spread includes a single eye-catching image that fills a page and a half. A text box on the side offers two or three simple sentences describing physical characteristics and behaviors. Pangolins, for example, highlights the animal’s scales and tongue, while also describing diet, defenses, and homes. Language is usually clear and direct, although the statement that Komodo dragons “eat dead animals and humans too” could use elaboration. Large photographs show the animals in varied settings and situations, although some details mentioned in the text, such as tiger paws and newborn pandas, are not represented visually. Threats to survival are noted at the end of Bengal Tigers and Giant Pandas but not in Orangutans. VERDICT Serviceable introductions for elementary school students.

Klukow, Mary Ellen A Bat Colony’s Search for a New Home. illus. by Romina Martí. ISBN 9781681517001.
––––. A Bee’s Difficult Search for Food. ISBN 9781681517032.
––––. A Frog’s Dangerous Home. ISBN 9781681517018.
––––. A Sparrow’s Disappearing Home. ISBN 9781681517049.
––––. A Turtle’s Dangerous Journey. ISBN 9781681517056.
––––. A Wild Cat’s Shrinking Home. ISBN 9781681517025.
ea vol: 24p. (Animal Habitats at Risk). glossary. Amicus/Amicus Illustrated. Sept. 2019. Tr. $29.95.
K-Gr 3 –Each title in this series follows an animal or a group in search of a new habitat. The present tense narrative describes the journeys, most of which include a bit of danger and some promising, but ultimately unsuitable possibilities, until the ideal site is finally located. The bumblebee scout, for example, encounters a neighborhood without flowers, a landscaper’s pesticides, and a human who fears bees, then discovers a garden that fits perfectly. Some of the animals come across humans who are helping the environment, including scientists and habitat restorers. Appealing illustrations use a simple cartoon style to infuse a bit of personality into the animals without going too far. Animal and plant features are represented accurately. Each story ends with a gentle warning about the dangers of habitat damage, followed by suggestions of what people can do to help. VERDICT Effective use of ­illustrated ­narrative in animal nonfiction.

Murray, Julie. Burrows. ISBN 9781532185212.
––––. Caves. ISBN 9781532185229.
––––. Dens. ISBN 9781532185236.
––––. Nests. ISBN 9781532185243.
––––. Trees. ISBN 9781532185250.
––––. Webs. ISBN 9781532185267.
ea vol: 24p. (Animal Homes). glossary. index. photos. ABDO/ABDO Kids Junior. Aug. 2019. Tr. $27.07.
PreS-K –Simple overviews describe the features of various animal homes, along with a few examples of creatures that inhabit them. In one or two sentences per page, the text provides the most basic information in language that is accessible to early readers. Structure varies slightly within the series. Nests focuses on animals and the locations of their homes, for example, while Webs looks more at the actual structures, without naming the different inhabitants. Photos present useful views of both the home and the animal. In most cases, but not all, the animal shown is identified within the text. VERDICT Solid choices to fill subject holes in early nonfiction sections.

Topacio, Francine. Creatures in a Dark Cave. ISBN 9781725304284.
––––. Creatures in a Hot Desert. ISBN 9781725304345.
––––. Creatures in a Wet Rain Forest. ISBN 9781725304383.
––––. Creatures in the Icy Tundra. ISBN 9781725304420.
––––. Creatures of a Colorful Coral Reef. ISBN 9781725304468.
––––. Creatures on a Towering Mountain. ISBN 9781725304505.
ea vol: 24p. (Wild! Exploring Animal Habitats). glossary. index. photos. websites. Rosen/PowerKids. Aug. 2019. Tr. $23.60.
Gr 2-4 –The qualities of different habitats and the animals that thrive in them are covered in this set. Facts about the environment and its unique qualities alternate with more in-depth data about individual animals. Hot Desert, for example, highlights meerkats, rattlesnakes, Gila monsters, and roadrunners on separate spreads. Animal information often focuses on behaviors and characteristics impacted by the habitat, such as the ways in which tundra animals survive the cold. Descriptions and examples convey the geographical variety within each broad habitat. One or two photographs per spread depict the featured animals within their environments. A concluding page looks at current environmental threats, including climate change and human incursions. This set updates the “Exploring Habitats” series from 2011; text, photographs, and layouts are all fully revised. VERDICT Solid information about how animals and habitats interact.

Weakland, Mark. Armored Dinosaurs: Ranking Their Speed, Strength, and Smarts. ISBN 9781680728217.
––––. Duck-Billed Dinosaurs: Ranking Their Speed, Strength, and Smarts. ISBN 9781680728224.
––––. Flying Reptiles: Ranking Their Speed, Strength, and Smarts. ISBN 9781680728231.
––––. Horned Dinosaurs: Ranking Their Speed, Strength, and Smarts. ISBN 9781680728248.
––––. Long-Necked Dinosaurs: Ranking Their Speed, Strength, and Smarts. ISBN 9781680728255.
––––. Two-Legged, Meat-Eating Dinosaurs: Ranking Their Speed, Strength, and Smarts. ISBN 9781680728262.
ea vol: 32p. (Dinosaurs by Design). chart. glossary. index. maps. photos. websites. Black Rabbit/Bolt. Sept. 2019. Tr. $32.80.
Gr 2-6 –Text, illustrations, and infographics combine to identify and compare selected physical features of dinosaurs. After a general introduction and location map, each book profiles seven dinosaurs. One or two paragraphs offer a few key facts, accompanied by a full-page or larger illustration of the creature in action. Three “Feature Facts” compare specific attributes, including dinosaur lengths and heights, along with one other area such as speed or horn length. A concluding spread gathers that data into three different graphs so readers can note the variations through a clear visual representation. Some graphs show all seven dinosaurs; others highlight three or four. Readers will need to look elsewhere for standard data such as group names or geologic eras, but the focus on specific features with supporting graphic content provides an effective format for comparing and contrasting. VERDICT Limited facts presented in a way that might grab visually oriented learners.

 

UPPER ELEMENTARY TO MIDDLE SCHOOL

Drimmer, Stephanie Warren & Dr. Gary Weitzman. Cat Breed Guide. ISBN 9781426334399.
Resler, T.J. & Dr. Gary Weitzman. Dog Breed Guide. ISBN 9781426334450.
ea vol: 288p. (Breed Guide). glossary. index. photos. National Geographic Kids. Sept. 2019. Tr. $19.99.
Gr 3-7 –Breed descriptions, general information, and fascinating facts are combined to present highly appealing references to popular pets. Cat Breeds devotes at least a spread to each of more than 60 breeds, covering history, physical features, and behavior characteristics. A clear full-page photograph includes labels for key body parts. Dog Breeds, on the other hand, covers nearly 400 breeds: Most receive brief profiles with a small photo, while better known breeds expand to fuller treatments over a full page or more. Engaging topical features complement the straightforward breed information. These range from scientific (“The Cat Brain”) to historical (“Hero Hounds”) to entertaining (“Cat Hotels”), adding useful and interesting content, especially in Cat Breeds, where there is room for fuller details and images. Final sections shift to pet ownership, covering breed choice, care, and training. VERDICT First choices for pet sections.

Hudak, Heather C. Epic Migrations by Water. ISBN 9780778763697.
Hyde, Natalie. Epic Migrations by Air. ISBN 9780778763673.
––––. Unusual Animal Journeys. ISBN 9780778763703.
Newland, Sonya. Epic Migrations by Land. ISBN 9780778763680.
ea vol: 32p. (Epic Animal Journeys). Crabtree. Aug. 2019. Tr. $27.60.
Gr 4-7 –After an opening chapter that introduces animal migration and some of the challenges involved, the journeys of several specific animals are explored. Air, Land, and Water each highlight five journeys representing a nice variety of species and geography. Unusual Animal Journeys rounds out the set with brief looks at uncommon or irregular migrations. Well-organized chapters examine the reasons each group migrates, describing the physical characteristics and behaviors that help them along the way. Challenges to success are identified, including a “Human Roadblocks” text box, balanced neatly with examples of the work of scientists and conservationists. Concepts such as adaptation and climate change are integrated smoothly into the text. A route map and well-varied photographs add useful support. A concluding chapter in each title summarizes current conservation efforts and lists ways that readers can help. VERDICT Useful resources where subject coverage is needed.

Sabelko, Rebecca. Ankylosaurus. ISBN 9781644870860.
––––. Diplodocus. ISBN 9781644870877.
––––. Stegosaurus. ISBN 9781644870884.
––––. Triceratops. ISBN 9781644870891.
––––. Tyrannosaurus Rex. ISBN 9781644870907.
––––. Velociraptor. ISBN 9781644870914.
ea vol: 24p. (The World of Dinosaurs). glossary. index. Bellwether. Aug. 2019. Tr. $19.95.
Gr 3-7 –Dinosaur profiles offer key facts about popular species, accompanied by engaging illustrations. One or two short paragraphs per spread describe size, physical characteristics, diet, and predation, with concluding pages on extinction and fossils. Written content appears in carefully placed text boxes, leaving room for a single illustration within each spread. Images depict different behaviors, and many scenes include several dinosaurs in action. The large-scale visual approach adds drama but also means readers do not get close-up views of features described in the text, such as Ankylosaurus plates or the nostrils of Diplodocus. VERDICT Readers will need to look elsewhere for more in-depth details about dinosaur species, but these are functional and appealing introductions. Solid choices to beef up the 567’s.


Highlights from this fall’s animal ­series stand out for different reasons. The two titles in National ­Geographic’s “Breed Guides” set are terrific references for all pet collections. “Nature’s Children” (Scholastic/Children’s Press) continues as reliable first-choice resources for wild animal profiles aimed at upper elementary grades, while “Creatures of the Ocean” (Mason Crest) exemplifies high-quality presentation for older readers. “Beastly Books for the Brave” (Gareth Stevens) successfully combines playfulness with facts and could draw reluctant readers. “Dinosaurs by Design” (Black Rabbit/Bolt) and “Shark Bites” (Jump!/Bullfrog) offer limited textual content but provide strong visuals to introduce perennially popular topics. The illustrated narrative approach in “Animal Habitats at Risk” (Amicus/Amicus Illustrated) offers a different format from typical animal nonfiction that could reach less traditional learners.

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