The Amazing World of Animals | Animals Series Nonfiction

This season’s animal series include countless facts about everything from ticks to Tyrannosaurus rex. There’s plenty of information, and also some varied approaches to how it is presented.


This season’s animal series include countless facts about everything from ticks to Tyrannosaurus rex. There’s plenty of information, and also some varied approaches to how it is presented. In order to engage and inform young readers, authors employ question-and-answer formats, second-person narratives, and extra content accessible through a phone app, along with more traditional pairings of nonfiction narrative and illustrative material. Whatever approach is used, the strongest series will capture readers’ attention and provide thought-provoking content in ways kids will understand and thoroughly enjoy.



Brandle, Marie. Cheetahs. ISBN 9781645277170.
––––. Cougars. ISBN 9781645277194.
––––. Jaguars. ISBN 9781645277217.
––––. Leopards. ISBN 9781645277231.
––––. Lions. ISBN 9781645277255.
––––. Tigers. ISBN 9781645277316.
ea vol: 24p. (Big Cats). Jump!/Bullfrog. Jan. 2021. Tr. $25.65.
K-Gr 2 –Appealing photographs and basic facts introduce well-known wild cats. Short and simple sentences make the text accessible to new readers: “Jaguars are big cats. Their fur is tan. They have dark spots” ( Jaguars). Question-and-answer sequences and interjections such as “Neat!” and “Wow!” add a slightly playful tone. Most photos show the felines in their natural habitats, sometimes interacting with prey. Nicely varied images effectively support ­information about basic physical traits and behaviors. Lions, for ­example, includes clear and engaging views of the animals hunting, playing, fighting, and resting in trees. Occasional close-up photos of key features such as a tiger’s claw ( Tigers) and endearing views of cubs at play add to the visual appeal. VERDICT Fine choices for new readers and younger browsers.

Colins, Luke. Pterodactylus. ISBN 9781623104559.
––––. Stegosaurus. ISBN 9781623104566.
––––. Triceratops. ISBN 9781623104573.
––––. Tyrannosaurus Rex. ISBN 9781623104580.
Storm, Marysa. Apatosaurus. ISBN 9781623104542.
––––. Velociraptor. ISBN 9781623104597.
ea vol: 24p. (Dinosaurs). Black Rabbit/Bolt Jr. Jan. 2021. Tr. $29.95.
Gr 2-4 –Familiar prehistoric reptiles are introduced with a handful of facts and images. An opening paragraph describes the dinosaur in action; subsequent pages provide information in a few sentences per spread. Coverage includes size, diet, behavior, and fossils, usually with just enough data for readers new to the subject. While the language is occasionally overly vague (Triceratops: “Scientists have studied their teeth. These dinos lost teeth. But they grew new ones.”), the authors distinguish known facts from scientific theory where needed and explain key concepts, such as the “flying reptile” classification of Pterodactylus, at an age-appropriate level. Illustrations are bold and active, depicting the animals realistically in a variety of situations. A two-page image with captioned body parts and a clear range map add useful visual content. VERDICT Solid choices to beef up the dino shelves.

Dickmann, Nancy. How Do Spiders Walk on the Ceiling? ISBN 9781977131669.
––––. Why Are Flamingos Pink? ISBN 9781977131683.
––––. Why Do Cows Sleep Standing Up? ISBN 9781977131690.
––––. Why Don’t Fish Have Eyelashes? ISBN 9781977131713.
Labrecque, Ellen. Do Flying Fish Really Fly? ISBN 9781977131645.
––––. Do Vampire Bats Really Drink Blood? ISBN 9781977131652.
––––. Where Do Worms Go in Winter? ISBN 9781977131676.
––––. Why Do Flies Like Gross Stuff? ISBN 9781977131706.
ea vol: 24p. (Questions and Answers About Animals). Capstone/Pebble. Jan. 2021. Tr. $27.99.
Gr 1-3 –Each book’s title question serves as the primary focus while also leading into more general animal information. Coverage of the vampire bat, for example, features many facts about its blood-based diet but also touches on bat colonies, echolocation, size, and physical features. In Where Do Worms Go in Winter?, the explanation of how the creatures move and breathe leads nicely into the ways they try to survive the cold. When the answer to the main question is more nuanced, results are mixed. The fact that not all flamingos are pink is noted ( Why Are Flamingos Pink?), for example, but the difference between gliding and true flight is not as clear as it might be in Do Flying Fish Really Fly? Photographs are large and clear, providing a good variety of examples to support the text. Each title ends with a simple craft activity that includes written instructions but limited visual ­support. VERDICT For larger animal collections.

Gaertner, Meg. If I Were an Alligator. ISBN 9781646193097.
––––. If I Were a Cheetah. ISBN 9781646193028.
––––. If I Were a Dolphin. ISBN 9781646193035.
––––. If I Were a Penguin. ISBN 9781646193042.
––––. If I Were a Polar Bear. ISBN 9781646193059.
––––. If I Were a Shark. ISBN 9781646193066.
––––. If I Were a Sloth. ISBN 9781646193073.
––––. If I Were a Wolf. ISBN 9781646193080.
ea vol: 24p. (If I Were an Animal). North Star Editions/Little Blue Readers. Jan. 2021. Tr. $27.07.
K-Gr 2 –Simple text introduces basic information from the animal’s perspective: “I would have thick fur. It would keep me warm. It would help me hide on the ice” (If I Were a Polar Bear). The repetitive sentence structure supports newer readers but is not especially engaging. Most content relates to behaviors and physical features of the broad group rather than individual species. In the majority of cases there is just enough information to convey essential traits, though some seemingly obvious features, like the dolphin’s blowhole and the cheetah’s claws, are not mentioned or shown in photos. Most photographs are full-page images that depict the textual content clearly. Captions identify featured body parts where needed. VERDICT Serviceable introductions for younger readers.

Leaf, Christina. Hermit Crabs. ISBN 9781644873649.
––––. Rabbits. ISBN 9781644873656.
Zobel, Derek. Lizards. ISBN 9781644873632.
––––. Turtles. ISBN 9781644873663.
ea vol: 24p. (Favorite Pets). Bellwether/Blastoff! Beginners. Jan. 2021. Tr. $25.95.
Gr 1-3 –These easy-to-read titles serve more as introductions to pets than actual care guides. A couple sentences per page describe animal features and the basic supplies required, in a style that’s not always smooth: “Turtles like to be warm. Tanks have heat lamps.” (Turtles). Clear photos provide visual reference to the pet’s environment. Lizards andRabbits include at least one image of a child with the pet; Turtles and Hermit Crabs do not. The animal photos are appealing and feature a good variety of types. Captioned photos at the end give a visual review of the necessary pet supplies. Kids won’t learn enough to know how to take care of the animal, but the books provide a visual preview of what pet ownership might be like. VERDICT ­Visually attrractive to young prospective pet owners, with limited practical use.

Sohn, Emily. Astro the Alien Learns About the Dodo. ISBN 9781684508488.
––––. Astro the Alien Learns About the Golden Toad. ISBN 9781684508471.
––––. Astro the Alien Learns About the Passenger Pigeon. ISBN 9781684508495.
––––. Astro the Alien Learns About the Tasmanian Tiger. ISBN 9781684508464.
––––. Astro the Alien Learns About the Woolly Mammoth. ISBN 9781684508457.
––––. Astro the Alien Learns About T-Rex. ISBN 9781684508440.
ea vol: illus. by Carlos Aón. 32p. (Astro the Alien). Norwood House. Jan. 2021. Tr. $22.60.
K-Gr 2 –Two kids and an alien learn about extinct creatures in this early reader series. Ben and Eva visit locations such as the zoo and museums to teach their alien friend, Astro, about animals. They also use his spaceship to travel through time in one book. Along the way, the kids share facts and answer Astro’s questions in simple language aimed at new readers: “‘What is that?’ asked Astro. ‘It’s a dodo bird,’ said Eva. ‘There are none left,’ said Ben” (Dodo). While the text is accessible, it is also stiff and unengaging. Occasional forced attempts at humor do not add to the story or the characters’ personalities (e.g., T. Rex, “‘It had a big, strong bite,” said Ben. ‘So do I,’ said Astro”). The kids explain why each animal disappeared, sometimes finishing with a positive statement about changing the world. Cartoon drawings depict story content adequately. VERDICT Neither the narrative content nor the facts are strong enough to engage most readers.


Upper Elementary to Middle School

Dickmann, Nancy. Extreme Environments. ISBN 9781781216163.
––––. Marvelous Movers. ISBN 9781781216170.
––––. Masters of Camouflage. ISBN 9781781216187.
––––. Predator Protections. ISBN 9781781216194.
––––. Super Senses. ISBN 9781781216200.
––––. Working as a Team. ISBN 9781781216217.
ea vol: 24p. (Fast Track Amazing Animal Adaptations). Black Rabbit/Brown Bear. Jan. 2021. Tr. $29.95.
Gr 3-5 –Well-organized presentations explore many ways that animals adapt to survive and thrive. Each spread covers a different aspect of the broad category. In Working as a Team, readers learn how group behaviors enhance hunting, cleanliness, travel, safety, and other areas, depending upon the species. A brief paragraph introduces each concept, while two captioned photographs provide different animal examples. A monarch butterfly and a poison dart frog demonstrate “painful poisons” ( Predator Protections), while a shark and a bloodhound are used in “What’s that smell?” (Super Senses). Some spreads include brief insets with further information. Readers learn a bit about what the adaptation is and why it’s important. While there isn’t in-depth information about any single animal feature, the multiple examples and supportive visual content introduce adaptations in an engaging and effective way. ­VERDICT Fine choices for browsers.

Garcia, Merriam. The Cat Encyclopedia for Kids. ISBN 9781532192999.
––––. The Dog Encyclopedia for Kids. ISBN 9781532193002.
Pembroke, Ethan. The Horse Encyclopedia for Kids. ISBN 9781532193019.
––––. The Shark Encyclopedia for Kids. ISBN 9781532193026.
ea vol: 192p. (Encyclopedias for Kids). ABDO Reference. Dec. 2020. Tr. $39.93.
Gr 4-8 –These single-volume reference books work equally well for browsing or research. Clear text provides basic relevant facts in a straightforward fashion. Varied fonts and bold headings divide subject areas neatly. Every spread includes large, well-chosen photographs, enhanced by borders, uncrowded layouts, and generous white space. Organization varies appropriately by topic. Dog arranges breeds into broad groups such as “herding dogs,” while Cat presents all breeds alphabetically. Horse and Shark feature fewer specific types with more in-depth information on each. Shark, for example, devotes 14 pages each to a dozen species, plus brief data and a single photo for another 14. Dog, meanwhile, covers more than 70 breeds with one or two pages each, along with another 60 short profiles. Dog also covers more recent mixed breeds, such as labradoodles and puggles, which are not always included in breed guides. VERDICT Useful resources that should circulate well.

Markle, Sandra. Jumping Spiders: An Augmented Reality Experience. ISBN 9781728402697.
––––. Locusts: An Augmented Reality Experience. ISBN 9781728402710.
––––. Mosquitoes: An Augmented Reality Experience. ISBN 9781728402727.
––––. Praying Mantises: An Augmented Reality Experience. ISBN 9781728402734.
––––. Stick Insects: An Augmented Reality Experience. ISBN 9781728402741.
––––. Ticks: An Augmented Reality Experience. ISBN 9781728402703.
ea vol: 32p. (Creepy Crawlers in Action: Augmented Reality). Lerner. Jan. 2021. Tr. $29.32.
Gr 4-6 –Well-rounded arthropod profiles utilize words, photos, and an extra augmented reality component. Engaging text describes the creatures’ attributes and behaviors. The lively scientific tone highlights fascinating facts and concepts without sensationalizing. Excellent photographs with useful captions show key physical features. Two noteworthy spreads present full-body views: photographs show the outside, while a drawing shows internal organs. Readers with a smartphone can access the augmented reality feature by downloading an app, then scanning a marked image on the page. A 3-D animated image pops up on the phone screen. There are three per book; most are visually appealing without significantly extending the information. More impressive examples include the expansion of a tick’s body as it feeds (Ticks) and the jumping spider’s mating dance ( Jumping Spiders). This feature may increase engagement for some readers, but there’s also plenty of excellent content for the print-only audience. VERDICT First-rate nonfiction, with a multimedia tie-in.

Markovics, Joyce. Fosas. ISBN 9781534180451.
––––. Giant Armadillos. ISBN 9781534180468.
––––. Kakapos. ISBN 9781534180475.
––––. Okapis. ISBN 9781534180482.
––––. Pygmy Hippos. ISBN 9781534180499.
––––. Snow Leopards. ISBN 9781534180505.
ea vol: 32p. (On the Trail: Study of Secretive Animals). Cherry Lake. Jan. 2021. Tr. $29.93.
Gr 4-7 –Unusual animals and the scientists who study them share the spotlight in this well-conceived series. Facts about each creature’s physical traits and behavior are smoothly mixed in with information about the conditions that make them so hard to spot in the wild. The quotes from scientists and descriptions of their work provide personal connections to both animals and people, capturing the excitement of spotting a secretive animal and learning through observation. Every spread includes a “look closer” text box with additional data. Photographs depict the animals and their habitats as well as the scientists working in the field. All of these animals face serious population threats, but readers also learn how the featured scientists are working to preserve the species through activism and education. VERDICT Excellent introductions to rare wildlife and how experts learn about them.

Stewart, David. How Would You Survive as a Bee? illus. by David Antram. ISBN 9780531131763.
––––. How Would You Survive as a Killer Whale? illus. by David Antram. ISBN 9780531131787.
––––. How Would You Survive as a Lion? illus. by David Antram. ISBN 9780531131794.
––––. How Would You Survive as a Polar Bear? illus. by Amerigo Pinelli. ISBN 9780531131770.
ea vol: 32p. (How Would You Survive?). Scholastic/Franklin Watts. Jan. 2021. Tr. $29.
Gr 3-6 –Using a format similar to the popular “You Wouldn’t Want To Be…” history series, this set presents an interesting animal’s-eye view of survival. The second-person narrative voice puts the reader in the creature’s shoes; for example: “As a polar bear, you have lots of crafty hunting techniques for outsmarting dinner...” (How Would You Survive as a Polar Bear?). The broad theme of survival is used to encompass a wealth of information, including habitat, life cycles, physical traits, social behavior, predation, and defense. Threats from humans and environmental damage are also included. Most of the illustrations are cartoon drawings. Amusing facial expressions of boredom, fear, and other emotions inject mild humor without detracting from the learning. Photographs are used for animal family trees and selected topical support. Closing pages include a quiz, extra facts, and a range map, all accompanied by more cartoon drawings. VERDICT Useful and fun additions to animal collections.

Suen, Anastasia. Creatures of Ancient Lands. ISBN 9781731643506.
––––. Creatures of Ancient Seas. ISBN 9781731643490.
––––. Creatures of Ancient Skies. ISBN 9781731643483.
––––. Creatures of Today. ISBN 9781731643513.
ea vol: 32p. (Mega-Cool MegaFauna). Rourke/Bridges. Jan. 2021. Tr. $31.63.

Gr 4-6 –The largest animals of their times are highlighted in this series. Three books introduce dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures; the fourth focuses on giant ­animals from modern times. Most spreads cover a single animal, grouped into categories of herbivore, carnivore, and omnivore. The text mostly focuses on basic facts about size, diet, and physical features. In some cases, readers learn about how the creature’s size factored into its behavior and survival. The impact of fossil evidence on scientific knowledge is also noted where relevant. One or two photos or drawings depict the creatures. These are useful but usually lack visual scales to contextualize their size. A diagram at the end of each book does show relative sizes of all of the featured ­animals. VERDICT Fairly engaging treatments of ­interesting animal life.

While several of the above series will enhance collections, the standouts offer something extra to catch readers’ interest. Scholastic/Franklin Watts’s “How Would You Survive?” injects a humorous element through the illustrations without detracting from the substantial factual content. “On the Trail: Study of Secretive Animals” (Cherry Lake) introduces animals that are not very well known, and adds the point of view of the scientists who track and study them. Lerner’s “Creepy Crawlers in Action” introduces augmented reality content; stellar nonfiction writing makes these a first choice even for kids without apps. Other strong series include Jump!/Bullfrog’s “Big Cats” for early readers, Black Rabbit/Brown Bear’s “Fast Track Amazing Animal Adaptations,” with its high appeal for browsers, and the accessible animal reference books in ABDO Reference’s “Encyclopedias for Kids.”

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