Natural selection lite? (Picture book. 4-7)

1001 ANTS

A line of ants marches toward an unknown destination against a background of successive double-page spreads featuring the various flora and fauna encountered during the journey.

The initial double-page spread, like all the others, has a stark white background, broken by stylized, black-inked, plantlike designs. The foreground of this spread shows a large, cross-sectioned, brown anthill. Its white tunnels and chambers—some containing ants and others with such ant necessities as seeds and aphids—branch out from the book’s center, accompanied by accessible text with brief explanations. The scores of black ants have a realistic body shape, with crescent-moon negative space creating comical eyes. From the start, red ink urges readers to “keep an eye out” for a “little ant in red socks hiding in every picture in this book.” This offers two advantages: extra fun along the way, and a cushion of relief at the unexpected, nature-can-be-harsh ending. The ant in red socks sometimes makes comments and often gets distracted. Facts about different animals and plants have been well chosen to spark curiosity, with sentences arranged informally around the colorful, engaging, and often comical plants and animals. Reading in this random order works well until the penultimate page, where an unfinished sentence along a thin, pink road leads to the next page’s dark punchline. This comes as something of a narrative sucker punch after this lighthearted journey that’s allowed readers to become fond of these insect characters.

Natural selection lite? (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-500-65208-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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A simple but effective look at a keystone species.

IF YOU TAKE AWAY THE OTTER

Sea otters are the key to healthy kelp forests on the Pacific coast of North America.

There have been several recent titles for older readers about the critical role sea otters play in the coastal Pacific ecosystem. This grand, green version presents it to even younger readers and listeners, using a two-level text and vivid illustrations. Biologist Buhrman-Deever opens as if she were telling a fairy tale: “On the Pacific coast of North America, where the ocean meets the shore, there are forests that have no trees.” The treelike forms are kelp, home to numerous creatures. Two spreads show this lush underwater jungle before its king, the sea otter, is introduced. A delicate balance allows this system to flourish, but there was a time that hunting upset this balance. The writer is careful to blame not the Indigenous peoples who had always hunted the area, but “new people.” In smaller print she explains that Russian explorations spurred the development of an international fur trade. Trueman paints the scene, concentrating on an otter family threatened by formidable harpoons from an abstractly rendered person in a small boat, with a sailing ship in the distance. “People do not always understand at first the changes they cause when they take too much.” Sea urchins take over; a page turn reveals a barren landscape. Happily, the story ends well when hunting stops and the otters return…and with them, the kelp forests.

A simple but effective look at a keystone species. (further information, select bibliography, additional resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 26, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8934-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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A bland also-ran trailing a large litter of like-themed pups.

WOLF PUPS JOIN THE PACK

From the First Discoveries series

A photo album of young wolves running, playing, and growing through their first year.

Light on factual details, the uncredited text largely runs to vague observations along the lines of the fact that “young wolves need to rest every now and then” or that packs “differ in size. Some are large and have many wolves, while others are small with only a few.” The chief draws here are the big, color, stock photos, which show pups of diverse ages and species, singly or in groups—running, posing alertly with parents or other adult wolves, eating (regurgitated food only, and that not visible), howling, patrolling, and snoozing as a seasonal round turns green meadows to snowy landscapes. In a notably perfunctory insertion squeezed onto the final spread, a wildlife biologist from the American Museum of Natural History introduces himself and describes his research work—all with animals other than wolves. Budding naturalists should have no trouble running down more nourishing fare, from Seymour Simon’s Wolves (1993) to Jonathan London’s Seasons of Little Wolf (illustrated by Jon Van Zyle, 2014) and on. Baby Dolphin’s First Swim follows the same formula even down to profiling exactly the same wildlife biologist.

A bland also-ran trailing a large litter of like-themed pups. (Informational picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4549-2237-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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