This collection of topically organized factoids about the whale family shares the flaws of others in the publisher’s Explorers series: an overbusy design; unrealistic, digitally assembled photo pastiches; and a series of useless “buttons” that purport to lead readers on a topic trail.
Two by two, the double-page spreads introduce cetaceans (a word not used in the book) as mammals, their ocean home, food, birth and family life, migration, river dolphins, and watching and saving whales. On each page are paragraphs of information, text boxes and a photo riddle; on pages with photo montages are numbered captions. Except for the pages on the birth of a whale, which feature sperm whales, these spreads include a variety of species. The composite illustrations show scenes that would be improbable in real life: Gray whales leap and spyhop over a leatherback sea turtle, a manta ray and a school of anchovies; whale watchers see, all at once, minke and right whales, a breaching humpback, dolphins and harbor seals. The photographs come from a variety of commercial libraries, but there are no sources offered for the information nor suggestions for further research. The index is extensive but doesn’t include every animal mentioned.
For elementary school readers, there are plenty of better introductions than this concoction, including Caroline Arnold and Patricia J. Wynne’s Super Swimmers (2007). (Nonfiction. 7-10)