The inside stories on 10 creatures who can lay claim to bone-y extremes.
Framed as a “Who am I?” guessing game, the illustrations alternate simplified white skeletons on solid black backgrounds on rectos with, on those pages’ versos, painted views of the fleshed-out creatures featuring invisible but raised bones that can be felt. In accompanying clues and narratives in the voices of the creatures, Balkan makes much use of colorful comparisons and atypical but revealing units of measure: “Not counting my tail,” the Etruscan shrew (smallest bones) notes, “my SKELETON is the size of a paperclip and weighs less than a single raisin!” Likewise, thanks to having the largest mandible (i.e., bone of any sort), a blue whale boasts “I could fit one hundred of your friends on my tongue.” (“But don’t worry. I don’t eat humans.”) The author makes no bones about playing fast and loose with the premise, admitting that some “records” are speculative—which bird has the lightest bones? “Let’s not quibble,” responds the peregrine falcon—and slipping in a moot claim that the hammerhead shark has the “fewest bones” because its skeleton isn’t bone at all but cartilage. Still, as she points out at beginning and end, all of the bones here have human equivalents, and that connection should give both casual browsers and budding naturalists plenty to gnaw on.
A rib-tickling gallery, anything but dry. (bibliography) (Informational picture book. 6-8)