Fur, Scales, Feathers, & Tails: Animals | Series Made Simple Fall 2013

This fall’s batch of animal books leans toward younger readers, and several sets include features to support Common Core learning.

This fall’s batch of animal books leans toward younger readers, and several sets include features to support Common Core learning. The subject matter guarantees interest, so the challenge lies in conveying the right amount of information for the targeted age levels in ways that are exciting, but also build new knowledge. Illustrations can play multiple roles: eye-catching images engage viewers, while layout, placement, labels, and captions can reinforce and expand on the words. Animal series have strong potential to be Common Core resources, particularly in the ways that animal study can elicit curiosity, questions, and speculation from young readers. Many of the books below will fly off the shelves based on their attractive covers and the popularity of the critters they feature, but looking within the covers reveals distinct strengths and weaknesses that separate the excellent from the average.

Preschool-Grade 4

ALPERT, Barbara. Apatosaurus. ISBN 978-1-60753-365-8. LC 2012035410.

––––. Pterodactyl. ISBN 978-1-60753-366-5. LC 2012036066.

––––. Stegosaurus. ISBN 978-1-60753-367-2. LC 2012045078.

––––. Triceratops. ISBN 978-1-60753-368-9. LC 2013001231.

––––. Tyrannosaurus Rex. ISBN 978-1-60753-369-6. LC 2013001230.

––––. Velociraptor. ISBN 978-1-60753-370-2. LC 2013001229.

ea vol: 32p. (Digging for Dinosaurs Series). further reading. glossary. illus. index. photos. reprods. websites. Amicus. 2013. lib. ed. $28.50.

Gr 2-4–Combining dinosaur facts with basic paleontology, each title opens with a brief look at the featured animal in its time and then moves on to the first discovery of its remains. With clear, fairly simple language, the author describes how scientists built upon and corrected prior theories, such as the multiple errant attempts to match Apatosaurus to its proper skull. However, Velociraptors misleads readers by stating that velociraptors may have “hunted and lived in packs.” Each book brings these reptiles up to the present day, with discoveries as recent as 2012. A question-and-answer feature encourages speculation in a nod to Common Core requirements. The illustrations, photographs, and reproductions show a mixture of fossils, paleontologists in the field, and images of the featured dinosaurs. The paleontologist viewpoint, coupled with more standard facts about behavior and physical features, makes a fairly engaging angle into dinosaur study.

ANG, Karen. Inside the Ants’ Nest. ISBN 978-1-61772-902-7; ISBN 978-1-61772-947-8. LC 2013011030.

––––. Inside the Bees’ Hive. ISBN 978-1-61772-905-8; ISBN 978-1-61772-948-5. LC 2013004312.

GOLDISH, Meish. Inside the Worm’s Hole. ISBN 978-1-61772-904-1; ISBN 978-1-61772-952-2. LC 2013005029.

LUNIS, Natalie. Inside the Spider’s Web. ISBN 978-1-61772-903-4; ISBN 978-1-61772-950-8. LC 2013002677.

––––. Inside the Tarantula’s Burrow. ISBN 978-1-61772-907-2; ISBN 978-1-61772-951-5. LC 2013001897.

OLDFIELD, Dawn Bluemel. Inside the Cricket’s Burrow. ISBN 978-1-61772-906-5; ISBN 978-1-61772-949-2. LC 2013004335.

ea vol: 24p. (Snug as a Bug: Where Bugs Live Series). diag. further reading. glossary. index. map. photos. websites. Bearport. 2013. lib. ed. $23.93; ebk. $23.93.

Gr 1-3–A step up in complexity from Bullfrog’s “Insect World” series, this set presents basic animal information built around the features of each creature’s habitat. The mole cricket’s burrow, for example, expands to discussion of its physical characteristics, feeding habits, and mating behavior. Words are simple and direct, with an extra space often added between sentences to aid new readers. The layout is also helpful, with main text plus an inset image on the left, a full-page photograph on the right, and arrows that clearly connect captions to the appropriate image. Occasional questions encourage student involvement (e.g., “How do you think a new hive forms?”), with the answer usually provided within the text of the subsequent page. A “Science Lab” feature at the end provides instructions for replicating or writing about the animal’s home. Though not terrifically visually exciting, the level of information and the organized presentation are a good fit for the intended audience.

BAXTER, Bethany. Armadillos. ISBN 978-1-4777-0797-5; ISBN 978-1-4777-1050-0. LC 2013000197.

––––. Caimans, Gharials, Alligators, and Crocodiles. ISBN 978-1-4777-0798-2; ISBN 978-1-4777-1051-7. LC 2013000452.

––––. Conches. ISBN 978-1-4777-0796-8; ISBN 978-1-4777-1049-4. LC 2013000196.

––––. Indian Rhinoceroses. ISBN 978-1-4777-0794-4; ISBN 978-1-4777-1047-0. LC 2012048580.

––––. King Crabs. ISBN 978-1-4777-0793-7; ISBN 978-1-4777-1046-3. LC 2012045532.

––––. Snapping Turtles. ISBN 978-1-4777-0795-1; ISBN 978-1-4777-1048-7. LC 2012049561.

ea vol: 24p. (Awesome Armored Animals Series). glossary. index. photos. websites. Rosen/PowerKids Pr. 2013. lib. ed. $22.60; ebk. $22.60.

Gr 2-4–Though armor is the common feature of each animal, these books include more information about the creatures than just facts about body structure. Straightforward, declarative sentences present one fact a time, building information at a level that the target audience can manage. A spread midway through each book offers additional data. The language is occasionally awkward, but it’s well supported by mostly vivid photographs. The images highlight key features and most relate directly to the accompanying text. Views of a conch’s eyes, an armadillo’s tongue, and the blood on a fighting rhino’s horn are particularly strong examples. The lack of range maps and the inconsistency of the indexes are minor drawbacks. Strong visuals and the inclusion of some less commonly covered animals, such as king crabs and conches, make this set worth considering.

BELL, Samantha. Hammerhead Sharks. ISBN 978-1-62431-408-7; ISBN 978-1-62431-484-1; ISBN 978-1-62431-446-9. LC 2013006182.

––––. Tiger Sharks. ISBN 978-1-62431-410-0; ISBN 978-1-62431-486-5; ISBN 978-1-62431-448-3. LC 2013006184.

GRAY, Susan H. Mako Sharks. ISBN 978-1-62431-409-4; ISBN 978-1-62431-485-8; ISBN 978-1-62431-447-6. LC 2013006183.

KENNINGTON, Tammy. Blue Sharks. ISBN 978-1-62431-404-9; ISBN 978-1-62431-480-3; ISBN 978-1-62431-442-1. LC 2013006126.

––––. Bull Sharks. ISBN 978-1-62431-405-6; ISBN 978-1-62431-481-0; ISBN 978-1-62431-443-8. LC 2013008484.

MURPHY, Julie. Whale Sharks. ISBN 978-1-62431-411-7; ISBN 978-1-62431-487-2; ISBN 978-1-62431-449-0. LC 2013006358.

THOMAS, Elizabeth. Goblin Sharks. ISBN 978-1-62431-406-3; ISBN 978-1-62431-482-7; ISBN 978-1-62431-444-5. LC 2013006181.

––––. Great White Sharks. ISBN 978-1-62431-407-0; ISBN 978-1-62431-483-4; ISBN 978-1-62431-445-2. LC 2013008486.

ea vol: 32p. (Exploring Our Oceans Series). diag. further reading. glossary. index. map. photos. websites. Cherry Lake. 2013. lib. ed. $28.50; pap. $14.21; ebk. $28.50.

Gr 3-5–Each title examines a shark species in a largely engaging fashion, covering range, physical characteristics, food, reproduction, and predators. While general facts are included, the texts do a nice job of highlighting distinct traits, such as the mako’s unusual body temperature. The language isn’t always smooth, but the logical arrangement and fairly simple sentence structure make the information easy to process. Photographs are more useful than exciting–most fill less than half a page, limiting the potential for dramatic visual impact. Text boxes raise questions and encourage analysis from readers, neatly bringing in Common Core concepts (e.g., “How are the feeding habits of the goblin shark different from other sharks? In what ways does this surprise you?”). Most of these are effective devices to move students a bit deeper into the topic. Though slightly less visually appealing than some shark series, this set offers a strong presentation of information through words and pictures, making it a solid choice for an always in-demand subject area.

BERNE, Emma Carlson. Chameleons: Masters of Disguise! ISBN 978-1-4777-0747-0; ISBN 978-1-4777-1006-7.

––––. Dung Beetles: Stronger than Ten Men! ISBN 978-1-4777-0748-7; ISBN 978-1-4777-1007-4.

––––. Hummingbirds: Faster than a Jet! ISBN 978-1-4777-0750-0; ISBN 978-1-4777-1009-8.

––––. Rats: Biting Through Concrete! ISBN 978-1-4777-0752-4; ISBN 978-1-4777-1011-1.

––––. Whale Sharks: Bulletproof! ISBN 978-1-4777-0749-4; ISBN 978-1-4777-1008-1.

––––. Wood Frogs: Back from the Dead! ISBN 978-1-4777-0751-7; ISBN 978-1-4777-1010-4.

ea vol: 24p. (Animal Superpowers Series). glossary. index. map. photos. websites. Rosen/PowerKids Pr. 2013. lib. ed. $22.60; ebk. $22.60.

Gr 3-5–The superpowers of these animals range from a hummingbird’s speed to a dung beetle’s strength. Sometimes a volume’s focus is tight (e.g., Wood Frogs examines the amphibian’s survival ability with some detail) and sometimes it’s broader (e.g., the chewing power referenced in Rats is just one of many general characteristics covered). Though occasionally the writing is vague, the texts are lively, engaging, and filled with intriguing facts. Page layouts include clear photos of various sizes accompanied by the main paragraphs set in boxes and extra facts in spiked word balloons. The spreads provide plenty of information and visuals and usually avoid a cluttered look. Bearport’s “Animals with Super Powers” series does a solid job with a similar theme, but with its focus on one animal per book and effectively complementary visuals and text, this set will fill needs for many collections.

CARR, Aaron. Apatosaurus. ISBN 978-1-62127-238-0; ISBN 978-1-62127-244-1; ISBN 978-1-48961-587-9. LC 2013937447.

––––. Pterodactyl. ISBN 978-1-62127-239-7; ISBN 978-1-62127-245-8; ISBN 9781-48961-588-6. LC 2013937448.

––––. Stegosaurus. ISBN 978-1-62127-240-3; ISBN 978-1-62127-246-5; ISBN 978-1-48961-589-3. LC 2013937449.

––––. Triceratops. ISBN 978-1-62127-241-0; ISBN 978-1-62127-247-2; ISBN 978-1-48961-591-6. LC 2013937451.

––––. Tyrannosaurus Rex. ISBN 978-1-62127-242-7; ISBN 978-1-62127-248-9; ISBN 978-1-48961-590-9. LC 2013937450.

––––. Velociraptor. ISBN 978-1-62127-243-4; ISBN 978-1-62127-249-6; ISBN 978-1-48961-592-3. LC 2013937453.

ea vol: 24p. (Discovering Dinosaurs Series). illus. photos. websites. Weigl. 2013. lib. ed. $27.13; pap. $12.95; ebk. $38.95.

K-Gr 2–Dinosaur facts at the most primary level, accompanied by large illustrations, are the key elements of this introductory series. With bare-bones language clearly aimed at beginning readers, the few simple sentences per page provide the same basic information about each dinosaur. Some sections are virtually identical from book to book, with only the dino-specific facts altered. More detailed information appears on a final spread, which contains a handy page-by-page visual guide that will be useful for teachers or parents who want to provide extra background. While the writing verges on robotic, the illustrations lend some excitement, with spreads presenting close-up views of dinosaurs in action and highlighting features noted in the texts. A website provided by the publisher leads students to further online resources. The easy texts and high-interest visuals make this a solid beginning-reader choice.

DUNN, Mary R. Copperheads. ISBN 978-1-4765-2071-1. LC 2013007428.

––––. Garter Snakes. ISBN 978-1-4765-2072-8. LC 2013007429.

––––. Rattlesnakes. ISBN 978-1-4765-2085-8. LC 2013007430.

HIGGINS, Melissa. Anacondas. ISBN 978-1-4765-2066-7. LC 2013007426.

––––. Boa Constrictors. ISBN 978-1-4765-2067-4. LC 2013007640.

––––. Cobras. ISBN 978-1-4765-2070-4. LC 2013007427.

ea vol: 24p. (Pebble Plus: Snakes Series). further reading. glossary. index. map. photos. websites. Capstone. 2013. lib. ed. $24.65.

Gr 1-3–Through simple, direct language, each title introduces basic information about a single species, including range, physical characteristics, food, and reproduction. Excellent photographs fill more than half of each spread. They are clear and alternate nicely between close-ups, such as a striking image of a rattlesnake’s mouth, and broader views like the one showing a group of garter snakes emerging from hibernation. Every volume includes an appropriately vivid photo of its subject squeezing or swallowing its food. Words and pictures work together well for the most part, though not every photograph depicts the accompanying description precisely. Occasionally the information is too generalized. For example, Copperheads states that “Copperheads live in North America” which is true, but the range map clearly shows that their range includes only the southeast United States. Overall, though, the impressive photos and solid information will have strong appeal to younger readers.

GREEN, Jen. California Sea Lion. ISBN 978-1-61772-919-5; ISBN 978-1-61772-963-8. LC 2013011505.

––––. Great White Shark. ISBN 978-1-61772-918-8; ISBN 978-1-61772-964-5. LC 2013010869.

––––. Moray Eel. ISBN 978-1-61772-921-8; ISBN 978-1-61772-966-9. LC 2013010804.

––––. Sea Otter. ISBN 978-1-61772-922-5; ISBN 978-1-61772-968-3. LC 2013011520.

JACKSON, Tom. Green Sea Turtle. ISBN 978-1-61772-920-1; ISBN 978-1-61772-965-2. LC 2013011548.

––––. Saltwater Crocodile. ISBN 978-1-61772-923-2; ISBN 978-1-61772-967-6. LC 2013011638.

ea vol: 24p. (The Deep End: Animal Life Underwater Series). further reading. glossary. index. map. photos. websites. Bearport. 2013. lib. ed. $23.93; ebk. $23.93.

Gr 1-3–There’s just enough information in these titles to satisfy the curiosity of young readers, while carefully controlled vocabulary, sentence structure, and page layout keep everything at an accessible level. Covering a single species within a larger group allows the authors to highlight their subjects’ special abilities, such as the great white shark’s hunting speed. However, in some cases the mixture of specifics and generalities becomes confusing. For example, in Green Sea Turtle, most of the facts presented apply to all sea turtles, though no other species are mentioned. Typical spreads feature a full-page photo on the right, with text and a smaller picture on the left. Selective labels and fact bubbles smoothly link images to the words. Reader-directed questions provide a critical-thinking component that ties in with Common Core requirements; a page turn usually reveals the answer within the next text block. These are solid choices, despite some vagueness around classification.

GRUCELLA, A. J. Prairie Dogs in Danger. ISBN 978-1-4339-9164-6; ISBN 978-1-4339-9167-7.

HARASYMIW, N. D. Condors in Danger. ISBN 978-1-4339-9154-7; ISBN 978-1-4339-9157-8.

MAIMONE, Sofia. Snow Leopards in Danger. ISBN 978-1-4339-9174-5; ISBN 978-1-4339-9733-4.

MINEO, Ella. Sea Otters in Danger. ISBN 978-1-4339-9169-1; ISBN 978-1-4339-9172-1.

SHEA, Adele. Wolves in Danger. ISBN 978-1-4339-9178-3; ISBN 978-1-4339-9181-3.

SNYDER, Lydia. Rhinos in Danger. ISBN 978-1-4339-9159-2; ISBN 978-1-4339-9162-2.

ea vol: 24p. (Animals at Risk Series). chart. further reading. glossary. illus. index. map. photos. reprods. websites. Gareth Stevens. 2013. lib. ed. $22.60; ebk. $22.60.

Gr 2-3–Combining basic species facts with information about endangerment threats, this set introduces animal conservation to younger readers. Opening pages describe behavior and physical features, with population status mentioned briefly. By easing into the bad news and coupling it with details of scientific efforts to address threats, the books strike a balance between alarming threats, potential solutions, and positive trends such as the recoveries of sea otters and white rhinos. The well-spaced main paragraphs are clearly written. “Wild Facts” text boxes provide tidbits of additional information. Species differences are neatly identified, as in the comparison of gray wolves’ status to that of red wolves. Population numbers are easily accessible within the narratives, though Prairie Dogs regrettably lacks this data. Appealing full-page photographs mostly feature the animals in their habitats, avoiding images of capture and suffering and supporting the sensitive approach that is appropriate for the intended age level.

HAMILTON, S. L. Bugs. ISBN 978-1-61783-970-2; ISBN 978-1-62401-133-7. LC 2013931666.

––––. Cats. ISBN 978-1-61783-971-9; ISBN 978-1-62401-134-4. LC 2013931669.

––––. Dogs. ISBN 978-1-61783-972-6; ISBN 978-1-62401-135-1. LC 2013931670.

––––. Fish. ISBN 978-1-61783-973-3; ISBN 978-1-62401-136-8. LC 2013931672.

––––. Reptiles. ISBN 978-1-61783-974-0; ISBN 978-1-62401-137-5. LC 2013931676.

––––. Spiders. ISBN 978-1-61783-975-7; ISBN 978-1-62401-138-2. LC 2013931679.

ea vol: 32p. (Xtreme Pets Series). glossary. index. photos. ABDO. 2013. lib. ed. $27.07; ebk. $27.07.

Gr 3-5–This set surveys potential pets, offering overviews of their attributes rather than specific care instruction. Size, lifespan, and diet are covered, usually in general terms to encompass multiple species. The focus of each book varies by subject. Bugs, Fish, Reptiles, and Spiders highlight the most likely pet species, while Cats and Dogs introduce superlative examples, such as the furriest or tallest breeds. Information about problematic choices, such as praying mantises and trapdoor spiders, is occasionally included. The straightforward writing lays out basic facts clearly using paragraph-long summaries and sometimes detailed captions. “Xtreme Fact” text boxes offer snippets of further information, usually on pet-related topics. Quality photos add solid visual appeal, although some gutter issues lessen their impact. Smart Apple’s “Pets Plus” series offers more thorough information including pet care specifics, but this set provides an adequate starting point.

PHILLIPS, Dee. Flying Lemur. ISBN 978-1-61772-911-9; ISBN 978-1-61772-954-6. LC 2013011518.

––––. Green Tree Python. ISBN 978-1-61772-909-6; ISBN 978-1-61772-955-3. LC 2013008327.

––––. Koala. ISBN 978-1-61772-916-4; ISBN 978-1-61772-956-0. LC 2013005570.

––––. Spider Monkey. ISBN 978-1-61772-912-6; ISBN 978-1-61772-957-7. LC 2013011501.

––––. Spotted Owl. ISBN 978-1-61772-910-2; ISBN 978-1-61772-958-4. LC 2013008324.

––––. Tree Frog. ISBN 978-1-61772-915-7; ISBN 978-1-61772-959-1. LC 2013011499.

––––. Tree Kangaroo. ISBN 978-1-61772-914-0; ISBN 978-1-61772-960-7. LC 2013008325.

––––. Woodpecker. ISBN 978-1-61772-913-3; ISBN 978-1-61772-961-4. LC 2013011525.

ea vol: 24p. (Treed: Animal Life in the Trees Series). diag. further reading. glossary. index. map. photos. websites. Bearport. 2013. lib. ed. $23.93; ebk. $23.93.

Gr 1-3–A tree habitat is the common element to this otherwise diverse range of animals. Like other Bearport series reviewed in this article, this set’s writing and visual materials are effectively designed to meet the learning abilities of early elementary readers. Sentence length, labels, and captions convey enough information to engage students without overwhelming them. Questions, suggestions, and a simple “Science Lab” activity get kids thinking about what they’re learning and serve as useful starting points for Common Core-based lessons. The color photos and maps correspond well with the texts. However, the combination of species information with more general data results in some potential confusion. For example, in Tree Frog, toucans are listed as “Tree Frog Predators,” which is true for red-eyed tree frogs, but not for many other species. The set may address subject holes for rarely covered topics, although PowerKids’s comparable “Up a Tree” series includes several of the animals featured here.

SCHUH, Mari. Ants. ISBN 978-1-62031-050-2. LC 2012039934.

––––. Beetles. ISBN 978-1-62031-052-6. LC 2012039936.

––––. Butterflies. ISBN 978-1-62031-053-3. LC 2012039938.

––––. Crickets. ISBN 978-1-62031-054-0. LC 2012039940.

––––. Honeybees. ISBN 978-1-62031-051-9. LC 2012039935.

––––. Ladybugs. ISBN 978-1-62031-055-7. LC 2012039941.

ea vol: 24p. (Insect World Series). diag. glossary. index. photos. websites. Bullfrog Books. 2013. lib. ed. $25.65.

K-Gr 2–Simple sentences set in appealing layouts and matched with useful photographs make this series a strong choice for beginning readers. Rather than trying to cover a broad spectrum of information, individual books highlight one area of particular interest, such as food gathering in Honeybees and birth and mating in Crickets. The language is spare but effective, with short informational sentences and occasional question/answer sequences: “How does [a cricket] make sound? He rubs his wings.” The photographs are uncluttered and helpful, often depicting the specific body part or behavior mentioned in the text. For example, though the words can be as simple as “Bees sip nectar,” the close-up view of the insect in action, with one judiciously placed label, expands the impact. A brief picture glossary and a captioned photo with labeled parts neatly conclude each title. The series compares favorably to other bug sets aimed at first readers.

SIVERMAN, Buffy. Can You Tell a Brachiosaurus from an Apatosaurus? ISBN 978-1-4677-1360-3; ISBN 978-1-4677-1755-7. LC 2012046438.

––––. Can You Tell a Giganotosaurus from a Spinosaurus? ISBN 978-1-4677-1358-0; ISBN 978-1-4677-1756-4. LC 2012047849.

––––. Can You Tell a Stegosaurus from an Anklyosaurus? ISBN 978-1-4677-1359-7; ISBN 978-1-4677-1757-1. LC 2013001103.

––––. Can You Tell a Triceratops from a Protoceratops? ISBN 978-1-4677-1357-3; ISBN 978-1-4677-1758-8. LC 2013001104.

––––. Can You Tell a Tyrannosaurus from an Allosaurus? ISBN 978-1-4677-1355-9; ISBN 978-1-4677-1759-5. LC 2013003024.

––––. Can You Tell a Velociraptor from a Deinonychus? ISBN 978-1-4677-1356-6; ISBN 978-1-4677-1760-1. LC 2013005786.

ea vol: 32p. (Lightning Bolt Books: Dinosaur Look-Alikes Series). diag. further reading. glossary. illus. index. photos. websites. Lerner. 2013. lib. ed. $25.26; ebk. $18.95.

Gr 2-3–Each book focuses on two dinosaur genera from a single group, using comparisons and contrasts to highlight key features and behaviors. Extra-large bold text and fairly simple vocabulary and sentence structure make the information accessible to young readers. Shifts from one species to another and back again flow logically and smoothly. The comparison of Tyrannosaurus’s two fingers to Allosaurus’s three, for example, leads into a discussion of how scientists think each animal found food. Though occasionally oversimplified (such as the statement that Velociraptor and Deinonychus “looked a lot like birds”), most explanations and analogies are effective. The photographs and illustrations are not especially striking and a few are below par. However, the majority of the images support the information effectively. By encouraging readers to notice similarities and differences, the set engages them with age-appropriate critical thinking, making this set a natural choice for Common Core use.

Grades 5 & Up

BOGART, Jon. Animals and Oil Spills. ISBN 978-1-4339-9710-5; ISBN 978-1-4339-9713-6.

CLAUS, Matteson. Animals and Deforestation. ISBN 978-1-4339-9706-8; ISBN 978-1-4339-9709-9.

O’CONNOR, Karen. Animals on the Verge of Extinction. ISBN 978-1-4339-9714-3; ISBN 978-1-4339-9717-4.

––––. The Threat of Invasive Species. ISBN 978-1-4339-9722-8; ISBN 978-1-4339-9725-9.

SHEA , Nicole. Animals and Climate Change. ISBN 978-1-4339-9702-0; ISBN 978-1-4339-9705-1.

––––. Poaching and Illegal Trade. ISBN 978-1-4339-9718-1; ISBN 978-1-4339-9721-1.

ea vol: 48p. (Animal 911: Environmental Threats Series). chart. diag. further reading. glossary. illus. index. map. photos. reprods. websites. Gareth Stevens. 2013. lib. ed. $31.95; ebk. $31.95.

Gr 4-6–Each volume introduces a threat to the Earth’s environment and then looks at the negative impacts on particular animals. Information is current and reasonably detailed, with dates and statistics included. Brief sections focus on one animal, outlining the dangers caused by environmental changes. There are useful facts here for report writers, but the frequently clumsy syntax (“So climate change begins with how Earth stays warm or cool: the oceans”) and imprecise language will discourage some readers. Photographs, usually two or three per spread, are of generally good quality, though not all are especially informative. Although these topics are necessarily filled with bad news, the tone is relentlessly dire, with few examples of optimism. Concluding sections on actions readers might take are vague and not particularly encouraging. The approach of tying environmental crises to the animals they affect is sound, but below-average writing limits these books’ appeal.

STEFOFF, Rebecca. How Animals Communicate. ISBN 978-1-60870-510-8; ISBN 978-1-60870-612-9. LC 2010036706.

––––. How Animals Feel. ISBN 978-1-60870-511-5; ISBN 978-1-60870-613-6. LC 2010053239.

––––. How Animals Play. ISBN 978-1-60870-512-2; ISBN 978-1-60870-614-3. LC 2010053241.

––––. How Animals Think. ISBN 978-1-60870-513-9; ISBN 978-1-60870-615-0. LC 2010040550.

ea vol: 80p. (Animal Behavior Revealed Series). bibliog. diag. further reading. glossary. index. photos. reprods. websites. Cavendish Square. 2013. lib. ed. $34.21; ebk. $34.21.

Gr 5-8–Lively, informative scientific writing explores animal behavior in this excellent series. Engaging sentences smoothly define terms within the texts and develop concepts with logic and clarity. By describing a behavior, then examining human efforts to analyze and understand it, the author brings readers right into the world of science and inquiry, making this set a great vehicle for Common Core concepts. Numerous examples reveal commonalities and differences between species, as well as multiple research approaches used by scientists. The quality of the photographs is average, but many images effectively depict described behaviors (e.g., a baboon opening a car door and the courtship dance of two blue-footed boobies). The indexes are limited; animals such as kangaroos and elephants are not included, but specific creatures such as Koko the Gorilla and broader categories like birds and primates are. Despite this minor flaw, the set is a strong example of high-quality nonfiction.

The stars here shine in different ways. Bullfrog’s “Insect World” and Capstone’s “Pebble Plus: Snakes” use top-notch photographs to support beginning-reader language. PowerKids’s “Awesome Armored Animals” features nearly as strong images for older readers. Though not quite as visually impressive, the three Bearport series (“The Deep End: Animal Life Underwater,” “Snug as a Bug: Where Bugs Live,” and “Treed: Animal Life in the Trees”) utilize writing and pictures together in ways that build knowledge at just the right level for their audiences. For older readers, Cavendish Square’s “Animal Behavior Revealed” meets high nonfiction standards with lucid prose and well-organized presentation of information. Several series attempt to provide Common Core material, usually in the form of segments that are meant to engage readers with critical-thinking challenges. The Bearport series and “Animal Behavior Revealed” are especially successful in this area. Amicus’s “Digging for Dinosaurs,” Cherry Lake’s “Exploring Our Oceans,” and Lerner’s “Lightning Books: Dinosaur Look-Alikes” also include solid Common Core features.

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