A browser’s delight, despite lowering the bar considerably for publishable poetry.

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HISTORICAL ANIMALS

THE DOGS, CATS, HORSES, SNAKES, GOATS, RATS, DRAGONS, BEARS, ELEPHANTS, RABBITS AND OTHER CREATURES THAT CHANGED THE WORLD

From Alexander the Great’s steed Bucephalus to Dolly the sheep and the first Shamu, a gallery of animals that have played roles, large or small, in human history.

Modeled on the collaborators’ previous Presidential Pets (2012), each of the chronologically ordered entries features a full-page cartoon caricature opposite a mix of at least marginally relevant facts (“Horses sleep both lying down and standing up”) and observations that feel more like filler than anything else. “Josephine changed her name from Rose because Napoleon didn’t like it,” reads one in the piece on a dog that fished Napoleon Bonaparte out of the Mediterranean; “Leonardo never married or had children,” reads another on Leonardo da Vinci’s propensity for freeing caged birds. Also as in Pets, Moberg introduces each chosen creature in verse that ranges from inane to merely laughably inept: Spotting penguins in South America, “Magellan was surprised / That creatures used to snow / Also liked the sun / And life as Latinos!” Some passages are printed over brightly colored backgrounds and so are hard to read. Furthermore, the author provides no sources whatsoever. Still, fans of Keltie Thomas’ Animals That Changed the World (2010) will find new creatures aplenty here, along with the familiar likes of Balto, Koko and Punxsutawney Phil.

A browser’s delight, despite lowering the bar considerably for publishable poetry. (Nonfiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Feb. 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62354-048-7

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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Nothing to roar over but a pleaser for fans of all things big, toothy, and extinct.

PREHISTORIC

DINOSAURS, MEGALODONS, AND OTHER FASCINATING CREATURES OF THE DEEP PAST

An illustrated overview of life’s history on Earth, moving backward from now to its beginnings 3.5 billion years ago.

Zoehfeld begins with the present epoch, using the unofficial Anthropocene moniker, then skips back 12,000 years to the beginning of the Holocene and so back by periods to the Ediacaran and its predecessors, with pauses along the way to marvel at the widespread End-Cretaceous and End-Permian extinctions. Along with offering general observations about each time’s climate and distinctive biota, she occasionally veers off for glances at climate change, food webs, or other tangential topics. In each chapter she also identifies several creatures of the era that Csotonyi illustrates, usually but not always with photographic precision in scenes that are long on action but mostly light on visible consumption or gore. If some of the landscape views are on the small side, they do feature arresting portraits of, for instance, a crocodilian Smilosuchus that seems to be 100% toothy maw and a pair of early rodents resembling fierce, horned guinea pigs dubbed Ceratogaulus. Though largely a gimmick—the chapters are independent, organized internally from early to late, and could be reshuffled into conventional order with little or no adjustment to the narrative—the reverse-time arrangement does afford an unusual angle on just how far deep time extends.

Nothing to roar over but a pleaser for fans of all things big, toothy, and extinct. (glossary, index) (Nonfiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-912920-05-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: What on Earth Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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Laika’s tragic fate notwithstanding, a generally triumphant tally of liftoffs, landings, and scientific insights.

50 ANIMALS THAT HAVE BEEN TO SPACE

From the Beginner's Guide to Space series

Two Canadian authors take an unusual angle on an international history of space travel.

What may stick with readers south of the border—aside from a jaundiced view of two Cold War powers “racing to get the first soldiers into space” and using animals in “sacrificial” roles to advance that agenda—is the sheer variety of animal astronauts. Following nods to the Montgolfier brothers and other pioneers, the authors go on in one- or two-page entries to chronicle purposes, courses, and outcomes for 50 missions, mostly from the space programs’ earlier days, in which monkeys and chimps flew for the U.S., Laika and other dogs for the USSR, cats (inexplicably) for France, and later on a great range of birds, bugs, fish, spiders, “ant-stronauts,” mice, and more…with and without human accompaniment. Most actually survived their journeys, even a pair of steppe tortoises looped around the moon and Enos (a chimp who, no doubt to the envy of many fellow astronauts, got away with throwing feces at a visiting politician because “he was a hotshot and good at his job”), whose 1961 Mercury capsule suffered multiple failures in orbit. Each visually crowded entry squeezes in a boxed mission profile and one or, usually, more period photos. Resource lists at the end supplement frequent leads throughout to online research reports or videos. Human figures are, with rare exceptions, white.

Laika’s tragic fate notwithstanding, a generally triumphant tally of liftoffs, landings, and scientific insights. (glossary, websites) (Nonfiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4595-0602-2

Page Count: 90

Publisher: Formac

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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