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by John Brown

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-19-515777-X
Publisher: Oxford Univ.

A lavish array of big, bright, close-up photos of lush desert flowers and scaly or many-legged creatures will entice young naturalists to dip into this quick visit to the Sonoran Desert. The text isn’t likely to draw nearly as much notice, though it does have its moments: “We look around and find the lizard’s little black droppings. They crumble as you pick them up—they are made of nothing but the digested remains of dead ants!” The author, a BBC cameraman, opens with one spread on deserts of the world and a second that tallies proper gear for brief outings, then takes young readers out into the scrub for illustrated encounters with a nesting hummingbird, cacti (“Plants that Bite”), a Gila monster, and other wildlife. After side visits to the Grand Canyon and unidentified cliff dwellings, he closes with warnings about environmental threats. Less a specific travelogue than a series of cursory field notes and generalities (“Native Americans are very skilled at using the plants that grow in the desert as medicines”), this companion to Tim Knight’s Journey Into Africa (not reviewed) and Journey Into the Rain Forest (2001) is designed more for armchair travelers than readers with a serious or assignment-driven interest in desert ecosystems. (Nonfiction. 9-11)