WILD LIFE by Edward Kanze


The Remarkable Lives of Ordinary Animals
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 A naturalist profiles his favorite North American animals in 50 short sketches. Kanze (Notes from New Zealand, 1992, etc.) here selects from his previously published essays on what he claims are the continent's more intriguing inhabitants. Starting with birds, he describes the thrilling song of the waterthrush, the surprising nastiness of the hummingbird, and the disgusting habits of the turkey vulture, among others. Then it's on to mammals: Kanze sets the record straight on weasels, admires the aerobatics of flying squirrels, and catches three masked shrews in a mayonnaise jar. Part Three, ``In Cold Blood,'' covers reptiles, amphibians, and various creepy-crawlies, from ant lions to black widow spiders. A final section of miscellany contains a few examples of the author's more striking personal encounters with wildlife. Jennifer Harper's illustrations are attractive, but they don't quite compensate for Kanze's liberal use of appallingly bad puns: ``Beetles: The Insect Kingdom's Greatest Hits,'' ``The Evolution of Snakes, or A Farewell to Arms,'' and so on. Although he provides a fair amount of natural history, the self-conscious cuteness of Kanze's style leaves his work in no-man's-land: This is not a dumbed-down anthology of animals intended for children, but neither is it seriously lyrical nature writing. The essays are too short to be anything more than superficial glances at a motley assortment of animals, and it is difficult to divine the author's criteria for selecting these particular creatures, as the ``remarkableness'' promised in the subtitle is not always obvious. More appropriate as folksy newspaper bits; as collected here these essays add up to Wildlife Lite.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-517-70169-3
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1995