Children will get more from their explorations with these guides along.


From the Ultimate Explorer series

Following two titles focusing on birds and rocks and minerals (both 2016, not reviewed), the Ultimate Explorer field-guide series continues to expand.

With its compact trim, strong visuals, and easy-to-use table of contents, glossary, and index, this guide is meant to accompany kids on their adventures. Color-coded circles that divide the groups into crocodilians, turtles, lizards, snakes, salamanders, and frogs and toads surround each animal’s photo. Making identification even easier, there’s a “Quick ID Guide” in the back that provides thumbnail pictures and page numbers. For each entry, readers will learn both common and Latin names, habitat, size, range, food, and some interesting facts. Labeled drawings also point out identifying features. Various double-page spreads break up the guidebook and focus on general facts, such as how snakes move, for example, and frog metamorphosis. Publishing simultaneously, Night Sky highlights the sky above us, the solar system, our galaxy, the seasonal sky, the zodiac, and 41 constellations, each of which is represented by both a star chart (labeled with named stars and each one’s brightness) and a drawing with the outline of the shape. Younger readers may not be able to take in all the information presented, but the charts are easy to read, and the history and tales presented are interesting. As with any NatGeo title, the photos are top-notch, though some of them are quite small.

Children will get more from their explorations with these guides along. (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4263-2544-1

Page Count: 160

Publisher: National Geographic Kids

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016

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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 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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What better way to make natural history slide down easily? (index) (Nonfiction. 8-10)



Cusick floats a slick, select gallery of nature’s spitters, nose-pickers, oozers, and slimers—most but not all nonhuman—atop nourishing globs of scientific information.

Title notwithstanding, the book is limited just to mucus and saliva. Following introductory looks at the major components of each, Cusick describes their often similar uses in nature—in swallowing or expelling foreign matter, fighting disease, predation and defense, camouflage, travel, communication (“Aren’t you glad humans use words to communicate?”), home construction, nutrition, and more. All of this is presented in easily digestible observations placed among, and often referring to, color photos of slime-covered goby fish, a giraffe with its tongue up its nose, various drooling animals, including a white infant, and like photogenic subjects. Two simple experiments cater to hands-on types, but any readers who take delight in sentences like “Some fungus beetles eat snail slime mucus” come away both stimulated and informed.

What better way to make natural history slide down easily? (index) (Nonfiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-63322-115-4

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Moondance/Quarto

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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