Lurid design detracts from the helpful message that even ugly, scary animals deserve protection.



From the World of Weird Animals series

An invitation to consider the title question through descriptions of 17 animals with monstrous features or habits.

Keating and DeGrand follow up Pink Is for Blobfish (2016) with another collection from the world of weird animals. Here they look at a wide variety of species, including human beings. Examples stretch broadly across the animal kingdom, even including brain-controlling fungi and the animal cooperative that makes up the organism known as the Portuguese man-of-war. Not all are obviously scary; the “sweet little prairie dog” is included as its fleas can carry bubonic plague. Each example is presented on a garishly colored double-page spread and illustrated with both a photograph and a cartoon. In the case of the secretive aye-aye, the images obscure or mis-illustrate its most salient feature, the elongated, rotator-jointed and claw-tipped middle finger on both “hands” that allows the aye-aye to probe inside a tree for grubs. Each spread offers a headline, one paragraph of description, a second with a curious fact, and a sidebar with proper and Latin names, size, diet, habitat, and predators and threats. A final spread connects famous monsters with some of these creatures but also asks readers to consider what they find frightening, whether the animal’s monstrous trait helps its survival, and whether they see human similarities.

Lurid design detracts from the helpful message that even ugly, scary animals deserve protection. (glossary) (Nonfiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-553-51230-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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An immersive dunk into a vast subject—and on course for shorter attention spans.


In the wake of Everything Awesome About Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Beasts! (2019), Lowery spins out likewise frothy arrays of facts and observations about sharks, whales, giant squid, and smaller but no less extreme (or at least extremely interesting) sea life.

He provides plenty of value-added features, from overviews of oceanic zones and environments to jokes, drawing instructions, and portrait galleries suitable for copying or review. While not one to pass up any opportunity to, for instance, characterize ambergris as “whale vomit perfume” or the clownfish’s protective coating as “snot armor,” he also systematically introduces members of each of the eight orders of sharks, devotes most of a page to the shark’s electroreceptive ampullae of Lorenzini, and even sheds light on the unobvious differences between jellyfish and the Portuguese man-of-war or the reason why the blue octopus is said to have “arms” rather than “tentacles.” He also argues persuasively that sharks have gotten a bad rap (claiming that more people are killed each year by…vending machines) and closes with pleas to be concerned about plastic waste, to get involved in conservation efforts, and (cannily) to get out and explore our planet because (quoting Jacques-Yves Cousteau) “People protect what they love.” Human figures, some with brown skin, pop up occasionally to comment in the saturated color illustrations. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 45% of actual size.)

An immersive dunk into a vast subject—and on course for shorter attention spans. (bibliography, list of organizations) (Nonfiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-35973-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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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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