Sensational sensory stories.



Grundmann and Dupont highlight the ways in which various nonhuman animals display extraordinary sensory capabilities that human bodies lack.

A clever title appears on each full-page section starter along with appealing graphic art. For example, the chapter about the sense of smell is entitled “On the Nose” and depicts a Black child picking flowers in a field while, nearby, a fluffy dog appears to sniff at a flower. (Human diversity appears throughout.) Each of the eight chapters presents a wealth of information that has been laid out in a way that encourages browsing. Negative space surrounds small blocks of intriguingly headlined text and numerous colorful, charismatic illustrations. Small lessons in the science behind senses are interspersed amid the many short paragraphs about animals all over the planet. The text is graceful and often humorous, with an extensive vocabulary and fairly complex sentence structure. However, both beginning and struggling readers will likely enlist support rather than turn away from such entertainment as the biggest eyeball on record (the colossal squid) or the peculiar communication methods of the Atlantic herring (passing gas). That said, only some terms are defined, and rudimentary knowledge of evolution is assumed. The three sections beyond the standard five deal with vibration, electromagnetism, and a droll mélange entitled “Superhero Animals.” Overall, the book thoughtfully and exuberantly excites wonder in its readers.

Sensational sensory stories. (glossary, index) (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77278-123-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Pajama Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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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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