Deadly, Dangerous, and Also Really Cute | Animals Series Nonfiction

The 15 sets below use varied approaches, with different levels of success, to showcase the fascinating world of animals.


Animal nonfiction is a perennial favorite. The best of this season’s series offer strong examples of how to match reader interest and abilities with compelling text and visual content. Books for the youngest reader feature limited vocabularies and highly appealing photographs to provide just the right amount of information. Older children can process more details and may have prior knowledge. They can digest straightforward facts supported by images, but adding comparisons, surprising research, and creative visual approaches can engage them in ways that will lead to deeper and more effective learning experiences. The 15 sets below use varied approaches, with different levels of success, to showcase the fascinating world of animals.



Brinker, Spencer. Baby Giraffes. ISBN 9781642809565.
––––. Baby Goats. ISBN 9781642809572.
––––. Baby Llamas. ISBN 9781642809596.
Shanley, Margaret. Baby Dogs. ISBN 9781642809558.
––––. Baby Horses. ISBN 9781642809589.
––––. Baby Sloths. ISBN 9781642809602.
ea vol: 24p. (Animal Babies). Bearport/Bearcub. Aug. 2020. Tr. $26.99.
K-Gr 2 –These titles for younger readers provide appealing photographs supported by just the right amount of information. Each title focuses on the animal’s earliest years. Baby Horses, for example, covers birth, first steps, diet, and growth; the conclusion reveals when the grown animal will be ready for mating and giving birth. Facts are explained in simple, direct sentences and presented in large type. Full-page and two-page photographs take full advantage of the topic’s high potential for cuteness. Different types and breeds are depicted over the course of the animal’s stages, providing a nicely varied visual experience. Occasional insets highlight a particular feature, such as the giraffe calf’s long tongue and the llama’s toenail. A captioned photo at the back of the title identifies key body parts. VERDICT The well-executed combination of text and photographs is a good fit for young readers and browsers.

Hansen, Grace. Flying Foxes. ISBN 9781098202491.
––––. Gavials. ISBN 9781098202507.
––––. Giant Centipedes. ISBN 9781098202514.
––––. Goblin Sharks. ISBN 9781098202521.
––––. Hairy Frogfish. ISBN 9781098202538.
––––. Shoebills. ISBN 9781098202545.
ea vol: 24p. (Spooky Animals). ABDO/Abdo Kids Jumbo. Aug. 2020. Tr. $29.93.
PreS-Gr 2 –Each title examines physical features, habitats, and behaviors. Two or three sentences per spread are nicely supported by a large photograph. Particularly intriguing traits and behaviors, such as the giant centipede’s piercing claws and how shoebills swallow their prey, are especially appealing thanks to the well-chosen images. While the “spooky” element is not the primary focus of the text, the covers and some of the interior photographs depict the unusual appearances of the animals. VERDICT Engaging animal profiles. Children’s books about gavials, shoebills, and hairy frogfish are especially uncommon, so these could fill subject gaps in larger collections.

Leaf, Christina. Dolphins. ISBN 9781644873243.
––––. Sea Turtles. ISBN 9781644873274.
––––. Sharks. ISBN 9781644873281.
––––. Whales. ISBN 9781644873298.
Zobel, Derek. Jellyfish. ISBN 9781644873250.
––––. Octopuses. ISBN 9781644873267.
ea vol: 24p. (Ocean Animals). Bellwether/Blastoff! Beginners. Aug. 2020. Tr. $25.95.
PreS-Gr 2 –These introductory titles focus almost exclusively on the main physical features of an animal group. Sharks, for example, identifies fins, gills, and teeth, with facts about the function of each part: “Sharks have fins. Tail fins make sharks go.” This limits the breadth of information but also keeps the text easily digestible for readers who are just beginning to read nonfiction. Simple vocabulary and basic sentence structure, paired with large, double-spaced type, also aids accessibility. Layouts feature a full-page photograph and bubble-like circles on each spread. These are generally not dynamic but provide useful examples of the featured body part, often noted with captions. Smaller insets depict details of species and foods. VERDICT Appealing additions to nonfiction collections for new readers.

Meister, Cari. Who Chomps with These Teeth? ISBN 9781977125361.
––––. Who Hears with These Ears? ISBN 9781977125316.
––––. Who Sees with These Eyes? ISBN 9781977125323.
––––. Who Sniffs with This Nose? ISBN 9781977125330.
––––. Who Walks with These Feet? ISBN 9781977125354.
––––. Who Wiggles This Tail? ISBN 9781977125347.
ea vol: 32p. (Whose Is This?). Capstone/Pebble. Aug. 2020. Tr. $29.32.
PreS-Gr 2 –This series combines guessing games with animal facts. Each title highlights a different animal body part. The page on the right side shows a close-up image of the appendage, with the title question (“Who hears with these ears?”). A turn of the page reveals a full-page photo of the animal, along with a sentence identifying a feature of that particular body part, such as the camel’s closable nostrils. The last question and answer section depicts a human child; the photos include children who are BIPOC. The close-ups, set inside a round black border, vividly capture details such as an eagle’s claws and a rattlesnake’s fangs. The full-body images are equally effective. There is a range in the difficulty of questions. There are easy answers (a frog’s feet) to more challenging mysteries (the eyes of a shrimp). VERDICT Strong visual appeal combined with a well-conceived interactive element. A good choice for young learners and STEM story times.

Nelson, Jake. I’m a Brachiosaurus. ISBN 9781534168503.
––––. I’m a Mosasaurus. ISBN 9781534168534.
––––. I’m a Pterodactyl. ISBN 9781534168497.
––––. I’m a Spinosaurus. ISBN 9781534168527.
––––. I’m a Stegosaurus. ISBN 9781534168510.
––––. I’m a Triceratops. ISBN 9781534168480.
––––. I’m a Tyrannosaurus Rex. ISBN 9781534168466.
––––. I’m a Velociraptor. ISBN 9781534168473.
ea vol: illus. by Jeff Bane. 24p. (My Dinosaur Adventure). Cherry Lake. Aug. 2020. Tr. $28.50.
K-Gr 2 –The dinosaurs speak to readers in this series, providing information in one or two sentences per page: “My horns are very useful. They are what makes me a Triceratops!” A realistic image of the creature appears on the opposite page. These are generally engaging though quite different from the cartoon style of the book covers. Visual comparisons to modern animals serve mainly as filler. At times the information is vague; for example, the stegosaurus says its plates “keep predators away,” but then adds that they “may have been just for looks” and “are pretty cool.” On some pages, a cartoon child dressed in safari gear asks questions to prompt reader interaction, though it’s not always clear if it’s the reader or the dinosaur that is being addressed. The children are drawn with pale, tan, and dark skin tones. VERDICT Consider other series to fill the need for dinosaur titles for new readers.

Riggs, Kate. Baby Dolphins. ISBN 9781640262454.
––––. Baby Foxes. ISBN 9781640262461.
––––. Baby Giraffes. ISBN 9781640262478.
––––. Baby Gorillas. ISBN 9781640262485.
––––. Baby Kangaroos. ISBN 9781640262492.
––––. Baby Pandas. ISBN 9781640262508.
––––. Baby Seals. ISBN 9781640262515.
––––. Baby Tigers. ISBN 9781640262522.
ea vol: 16p. (Starting Out). The Creative Company/Creative Education. Aug. 2020. Tr. $27.10.
K-Gr 2 –Young animals narrate their lives in simple, sometimes playful terms: “I was as small as a stick of butter!” says the panda. Each title provides information about birth, followed by quick facts related to physical features and behavior. With one or two sentences per page, the content is limited but strongly supported by visuals. Well-designed layouts use white space, photographs, and fonts effectively. Photos of the newborns as well as images of slightly older animals in action provide high visual appeal. A “Speak and Listen” section provides a URL to a YouTube video of animal sounds. Most feature sound clips only; two are narrated informational videos, which include sounds (Baby Tigers; Baby Seals). VERDICT Engaging photographs and concise information make the series a good fit for new readers.

Storm, Marysa. Lions. ISBN 9781623101503.
––––. Orangutans. ISBN 9781623101510.
––––. Owls. ISBN 9781623101527.
––––. Penguins. ISBN 9781623101534.
––––. Ring-Tailed Lemurs. ISBN 9781623101541.
––––. Sloths. ISBN 9781623101558.
ea vol: 24p. (Awesome Animals Lives). Black Rabbit/Bolt Jr. Aug. 2020. Tr. $29.95.
PreS-Gr 2 –After an opening spread that describes each animal in action, these brief profiles examine behavior, physical characteristics, and life cycles. Attractive layouts are built around one main photo per spread, with a short informational paragraph. One spread identifies the body parts of the animal. However, some key features, such as the lion’s mane and the orangutan’s hands and feet, are not labeled. A closing “Bonus Facts” section provides compelling data set against an appealing action-oriented photo. The flow of information isn’t always smooth. In Sloths, readers learn “several animals eat them” on page seven, but examples of predators are not offered until page 16. The two-page map shows the animal’s range, though no textual context is given for the orangutan’s tiny ­habitat. ­VERDICT ­Serviceable for subject needs.

Stratton, Connor. Animal Coverings. ISBN 9781646191734.
––––. Animal Ears. ISBN 9781646191741.
––––. Animal Eyes. ISBN 9781646191758.
––––. Animal Horns. ISBN 9781646191765.
––––. Animal Legs. ISBN 9781646191772.
––––. Animal Mouths. ISBN 9781646191789.
––––. Animal Noses. ISBN 9781646191796.
––––. Animal Tails. ISBN 9781646191802.
ea vol: 24p. (Animal Parts). North Star Editions/Little Blue Readers. Aug. 2020. Tr. $27.07.
K-Gr 2 –Clear photographs and simple descriptions convey a variety of animal features. Large type and short, direct sentences make facts accessible to new readers, but the level of information is limited in some cases, focusing on the appearance of the appendage with little or nothing about the ways animals use them. For example, Animal Horns does not describe how horns are used; Animal Noses only mentions smell. Photographs feature close-ups and full-body views, usually with captions to identify the relevant body part, such as the snake’s “split tongue” and the spines of a porcupine. The selection of animals accentuates the diversity within each topic. Animal Legs, for example, jumps neatly from a giraffe to a centipede to a dog’s paw with each turn of the page. Some of the featured animals are not identified, including some that will be unfamiliar to most young readers, such as the star-nosed mole. VERDICT Strong visuals with text that falls short in some instances.

Woodson, Cameron L. Abyssinians. ISBN 9781645274438.
––––. American Shorthairs. ISBN 9781645274452.
––––. Birmans. ISBN 9781645274476.
––––. Maine Coons. ISBN 9781645274490.
––––. Persians. ISBN 9781645274513.
––––. Ragdolls. ISBN 9781645274537.
––––. Siamese. ISBN 9781645274551.
––––. Sphynx. ISBN 9781645274575.
ea vol: 24p. (Cat Club). Jump!/Bullfrog. Aug. 2020. Tr. $25.65.
K-Gr 3 –The visual appeal of cats comes through in these breed introductions. They are not meant to be care guides; instead they touch upon the most prominent features of each breed, such as fur, size, and coloring. The simple, enthusiastic text identifies general physical characteristics: “This is a Maine coon! These cats are big.” General behavior traits are also noted. For example, “[Birmans] love to play!” Highly engaging photographs capture each breed’s charm, depicting varieties of colors and markings, different ages, and a mix of still and action views. Most include at least one kitten photo; all show children with different skin tones interacting with cats as pets. Each book closes by asking readers if they would like to own the featured cat. VERDICT ­Popular pets depicted with strong visuals and just a bit of information.



Bankston, John. Caring for My New Ferret. ISBN 9781584151050.
––––. Caring for My New Guinea Pig. ISBN 9781584151586.
––––. Caring for My New Iguana. ISBN 9781584151609.
––––. Caring for My New Mouse. ISBN 9781584151623.
––––. Caring for My New Parakeet. ISBN 9781584151661.
––––. Caring for My New Turtle. ISBN 9781584151883.
ea vol: 32p. (How to Care for Your New Pet Set 2). Mitchell Lane/Little Mitchie. Aug. 2020. Tr. $27.86.
Gr 3-6 –These titles cover key areas of pet ownership, including selection, habitats, feeding, and care. Each spread provides several paragraphs of information and a single large photograph. Conversational prose addresses the prospective pet owner, exploring the challenges as well as the pleasures of each animal: “Now picture a toddler that slips between the refrigerator and a wall. That’s a ferret.” History, safety tips, and guidelines for choosing the right pet are included. Discussion of topics such as homes and cleaning methods offers specific details that are helpful and concise. Appealing photographs depict a good variety of types within each group, though specific breeds are usually not identified. Most images of pet habitats show only partial views. VERDICT Useful pet guides with some limitations.

Barder, Gemma. Be a Cat Expert. ISBN 9780778780151.
––––. Be a Dog Expert. ISBN 9780778780168.
––––. Be a Hamster and Guinea Pig Expert. ISBN 9780778780175.
––––. Be a Horse and Pony Expert. ISBN 9780778780182.
––––. Be a Rabbit Expert. ISBN 9780778780199.
––––. Be a Reptile Expert. ISBN 9780778780205.
ea vol: 32p. (Be a Pet Expert). Crabtree. Jul. 2020. Tr. $27.60.
Gr 4-6 –Pet care tips, breed characteristics, and fun facts make these titles both useful and entertaining. Information for pet ­owners includes the basics about selection, homes, feeding, and health. A helpful list of dos and don’ts is included as well as a list of foods, with spot images. The pet guidance is more limited with reptiles, since care varies depending on the chosen animal. Additional spreads feature history, record breakers, unusual facts, a quiz, and a flow chart to match your personality to the right pet. Inviting page layouts offer multiple photos per spread and neatly arranged text boxes. “Did you know?” insets appear throughout, adding statistics and fascinating data. VERDICT A wealth of information that will benefit prospective pet owners and appeal to animal fans in general.

de la Bédoyère, Camilla. Scary Sharks. ISBN 9780711255425.
––––. Shark Habitats. ISBN 9780711255418.
––––. Shark Life. ISBN 9780711255432.
––––. Weird and Wonderful Sharks. ISBN 9780711255449.
ea vol: 32p. (In Focus: Sharks). Quarto/QEB. Aug. 2020. Tr. $29.32.
Gr 2-5 –Four volumes provide information about sharks as well as profiles of specific families and species. Shark Life describes physical features and behaviors that are common to most sharks, with examples. The other three titles highlight between nine and 11 particular types of shark. Four paragraphs of text and a “bite-size fact” inset are arranged neatly within each spread. Scary Sharks features a “Silky Shark” section, which describes general physical features, with separate text blocks detailing speed, scales, teeth, and birth. The data highlights unique and fascinating traits, including the shark’s size. One large photograph and two smaller insets offer visual support. Layouts include multiple images and text blocks without appearing cluttered, though there are instances where the main photograph is partially obscured. VERDICT A useful introduction to sharks, which examines many species not typically covered in series nonfiction.

Gillespie, Katie. Wolf. ISBN 9781791120757.
Tomljanovic, Tatiana. Cougar. ISBN 9781791120795.
Webster, Christine. Deer. ISBN 9781791120870.
––––. Porcupine. ISBN 9781791120955.
Winnick, Nick Owl. ISBN 9781791120832.
Wiseman, Blaine. Beaver. ISBN 9781791120993.
––––. Lynx. ISBN 9781791120917.
ea vol: 24p. (Backyard Animals). Weigl/AV2. Aug. 2020. Tr. $28.55.
Gr 3-5 –These overviews examine key areas for each featured animal, including habitat, history, food, life cycles, and physical features. Straightforward text provides accurate information supported by relevant data and specific examples. Each spread focuses on one area, such as food or shelter, with one large photograph, plus spot images in some cases. The full-body photos offer some direct visual support to specific text. However, the lack of close-up images reduces the visual impact of physical details, such as the porcupine’s quills and the cougar’s teeth. Despite the title of this series, several of these animals are rarely seen in most backyards, but one spread describes the situations in which humans might encounter them. The final pages feature a note about the animal’s importance in myth and legend and a short story. VERDICT Solid ­resources that can fill subject needs.

Levy, Janey. Bull Sharks Bite! ISBN 9781538257920.
––––. Grizzly Bears Bite! ISBN 9781538257722.
––––. Hippos Bite! ISBN 9781538257760.
––––. Hyenas Bite! ISBN 9781538257883.
––––. Nile Crocodiles Bite! ISBN 9781538257807.
––––. Piranhas Bite! ISBN 9781538257845.
ea vol: 24p. (Deadly Biters). Rosen/Gareth Stevens. Aug. 2020. Tr. $22.60.
Gr 2-5 –This series provides broad overviews of each animal, including information about habitats, behaviors, and physical features. The informative, engaging writing presents well-chosen statistics and examples. Each spread features two paragraphs of text opposite a full-size photograph. White type against dark backgrounds and splashes of deep blues and purples match the slightly menacing tone of the series’ title. Additional facts appear in a “Chew on This” section at the bottom of each text-only page. Photos depict animals eating, with good views of their teeth, but not much in the way of ­active hunting or fighting. Final pages examine the dangers that people might face from each creature, along with the human threat to each animal’s survival. VERDICT Solid ­resources for upper-elementary readers.

Santos, Tracie. Bats and Other Mammals. ISBN 9781731638144.
––––. Sharks and Other Fish. ISBN 9781731638182.
––––. Snakes and Other Reptiles. ISBN 9781731638205.
––––. Spiders and Other Arthropods. ISBN 9781731638229.
––––. Toads and Other Amphibians. ISBN 9781731638243.
––––. Vultures and Other Birds. ISBN 9781731638212.
ea vol: 32p. (Dangerous... or Not?). Rourke/Escape. Aug. 2020. Tr. $28.50.
Gr 3-8 –Each title in this series introduces eight to 10 animals in terms of their potential danger to humans, other animals, and the environment. A few sentences describe the threats each animal poses, with selected statistics. A “danger meter” rates each one from low to high, and the chosen animals represent a wide spectrum. Invasive species like cane toads receive high danger ratings; mosquitoes rank higher due to the human deaths they cause. Great white sharks are ranked medium high because they “only bite five to ten people a year.” Animals that might look scary, such as turkey vultures and bats, receive low ratings, aptly demonstrating that appearances can be misleading. A single photograph fills each spread, effectively ­depicting the animals’ fearsome appearance. Some images show the dangerous ones interacting with humans or animals. VERDICT An engaging presentation with high appeal.

“How to Care for Your New Pet Set 2” (Mitchell Lane/Little Mitchie) is a fine pet ownership set, while ­Crabtree’s “Be a Pet Expert” offers practical tips, fun facts, and trivia. “Starting Out” (The Creative Company/Creative Education) and “Animal Babies” (Bearport/Bearcub) both feature highly appealing photos with different but equally effective narrative approaches. Some series offer particularly strong interactive elements. “Dangerous...or Not?” (Rourke/Escape) provides a “danger meter” to encourage readers to speculate and compare, supported by well-chosen facts. “Whose Is This?” (Capstone/Pebble) presents a guessing game format that also builds knowledge. “In Focus: Sharks” (Quarto/QEB), “Spooky Animals (ABDO/Abdo Kids Jumbo),” and “Deadly Biters” (Rosen/Gareth Stevens) all offer informative and ­appealing packages that discuss individual animal groups for elementary school readers.

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