When a lioness kills a zebra, the carcass becomes food not only for her pride but also for vultures, hyenas, jackals and, finally, meat-eating beetles that clean the skeleton, leaving it to turn to dust on Africa's Serengeti Plain.
The cover illustration summarizes the narrative: A lioness, mouth open and long canines visible, reaches out with large clawed paws; lion, jackal and hyena are close behind. A vulture perches on the title page. This is a realistic depiction of predation in the wild. Aimed at elementary-school readers, this title has none of the sweetness of the Smithsonian mammologist’s earlier works about bumblebee bats, meerkats and baby belugas. Lunde’s explicit description doesn’t mince words: “[T]he lioness rips the carcass open and feeds on the soft internal organs first.” Informational paragraphs, set off in a different type, accompany the narrative, adding intriguing details about each species. These dual texts are set on full-bleed double-page paintings done in pencil, watercolor and gouache. The jumble of animals around the kill is realistic; yellows and browns of the sunlit Serengeti landscape and red of the blood predominate. The action in these paintings moves relentlessly forward until the last arrivals, the lappet-faced vultures and beetles, finish the job.
Pair this with Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen’s Flying Eagle, illustrated by Deborah Kogan Ray (2009), for more "nature red in tooth and claw" science. (Informational picture book. 7-10)