“Without animal sex there would be no animal life.”
Downer, author of several acclaimed nonfiction titles about animals, turns her attention to sex. Chapter by chapter, she documents the way animals get one another’s attention through dancing, singing, showing off, gifts, and fragrances. She goes on to describe varieties of sexual equipment (the penis bones called baculums some mammals have, a female hyena’s pseudo-penis, a blanket octopus’s detachable hectocotylus) as well as group sex, once-in-a-lifetime sex, and infidelity. Her exposition is clear. The topic is so engaging and her choices are so varied that the numerous examples never feel like too many. There are hermaphroditic, penis-fencing flat worms, giraffes who pee in the mouths of likely mates to show they are in estrus, and subordinate male gelada baboons who sneak away and do the deed silently and secretly. Dramatic design elements include colorful, stylized print edgings, close-up color stock photographs, and occasional text boxes that break up the pages. An extensive list of suggestions for further information will encourage further research and help convince young readers that she was not making this up!
A unique and well-organized survey of reproductive behaviors that belongs in every middle and upper school library but will probably not last long on the shelf. (notes, glossary, selected bibliography, index, acknowledgements) (Nonfiction. 12-18)