Quick takes on selected denizens of the deep (and not so deep), illustrated with a mix of nature photos and brightly colored painted portraits.
Catering not so much to younger independent readers as to those with short attention spans, a smattering of double-page spreads introduces creatures from the octopus (“Undersea Brainboxes” with the ability to get into, and even out of, screw-top jars) to the Mekong giant catfish (“big as a tiger”) while focusing on particular animal talents—such as camouflage, special senses, or tool using. Aside from the low page count, nothing about this book or its companions stands out. Portolano’s images are unexceptional, but they at least fill gaps in the stingy assortment of stock photos, and along with chatty general commentary, Farndon occasionally dishes up some uncommon tidbits, such as the way sharks will display “tonic immobility” (i.e., play dead) or the pearlfish’s habit of taking up residence in a sea cucumber’s anus. Series companions Amazing Land Animals, Incredible Bugs, and Remarkable Birds take the same browser-friendly approach. And for the most part, the content in all is anchored, however tenuously, in fact.
Standard issue browsing fodder, likely to sink quickly out of sight through overall mediocrity. (Nonfiction. 8-9)