For browsers and researchers alike, this is a useful and inviting display—and a bargain.

From echidnas to paddle worms, this broad guide to the animal kingdom introduces more than 700 animals, organized in groups, illustrated with detailed watercolors and photographs, and presented in conjunction with features on particular types of animals and general animal behavior.

Each of six chapters opens with a striking double-page photograph of an iconic member of the broad group followed by another spread of general information answering the question, “What is a…?” (mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian, fish, or invertebrate). Each section includes numerous specific examples, organized again in groups such as “hoofed mammals,” “seahorses, stonefish, and relatives,” “spiders and scorpions.” The entries come from all over the world; some are common and others rare, but all are interesting in some way. Each creature is presented with its common and Latin names, an image, a descriptive paragraph, and a card noting size, general range and habitat. These entries are arranged unevenly on a faintly lined page topped with guide words. The design sometimes makes it harder to connect the image with the explanation but is far more attractive and appealing than that of a traditional encyclopedia. There are few glaring inaccuracies (elk and moose are not the same) but only occasional use of European rather than North American names (divers for loons). The Firefly Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals publishes simultaneously.

For browsers and researchers alike, this is a useful and inviting display—and a bargain. (index) (Nonfiction. 8-14)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-77085-457-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Firefly

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014


1001 BEES

Friends of these pollinators will be best served elsewhere.

This book is buzzing with trivia.

Follow a swarm of bees as they leave a beekeeper’s apiary in search of a new home. As the scout bees traverse the fields, readers are provided with a potpourri of facts and statements about bees. The information is scattered—much like the scout bees—and as a result, both the nominal plot and informational content are tissue-thin. There are some interesting facts throughout the book, but many pieces of trivia are too, well trivial, to prove useful. For example, as the bees travel, readers learn that “onion flowers are round and fluffy” and “fennel is a plant that is used in cooking.” Other facts are oversimplified and as a result are not accurate. For example, monofloral honey is defined as “made by bees who visit just one kind of flower” with no acknowledgment of the fact that bees may range widely, and swarm activity is described as a springtime event, when it can also occur in summer and early fall. The information in the book, such as species identification and measurement units, is directed toward British readers. The flat, thin-lined artwork does little to enhance the story, but an “I spy” game challenging readers to find a specific bee throughout is amusing.

Friends of these pollinators will be best served elsewhere. (Informational picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-500-65265-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021


Pretty but insubstantial.

Zommer surveys various bird species from around the world in this oversized (almost 14 inches tall tall) volume.

While exuberantly presented, the information is not uniformly expressed from bird to bird, which in the best cases will lead readers to seek out additional information and in the worst cases will lead to frustration. For example, on spreads that feature multiple species, the birds are not labeled. This happens again later when the author presents facts about eggs: Readers learn about camouflaged eggs, but the specific eggs are not identified, making further study extremely difficult. Other facts are misleading: A spread on “city birds” informs readers that “peregrine falcons nest on skyscrapers in New York City”—but they also nest in other large cities. In a sexist note, a peahen is identified as “unlucky” because she “has drab brown feathers” instead of flashy ones like the peacock’s. Illustrations are colorful and mostly identifiable but stylized; Zommer depicts his birds with both eyes visible at all times, even when the bird is in profile. The primary audience for the book appears to be British, as some spreads focus on European birds over their North American counterparts, such as the mute swan versus the trumpeter swan and the European robin versus the American robin. The backmatter, a seven-word glossary and an index, doesn’t provide readers with much support.

Pretty but insubstantial. (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-500-65151-3

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019