A larger-than-usual–format picture book reveals a different side to creatures commonly considered dangerous, scary, or creepy.
There are always two sides to a story, and creatures that are often feared or reviled, such as sharks or spiders, have qualities that may not be known to readers—qualities that are cleverly revealed in this thoughtfully designed, beautifully illustrated picture book. The first verso of each four-page sequence features a striking black-and-white illustration of an animal (or insect or arachnid). This is paired on the first recto with a one-word description in a clean sans-serif typeface—for example, the word paired with the spider is “Creepy….” The page turn reveals another word on verso in the same sans-serif typeface that modifies the original description—the spider’s is “crafter”—to highlight another aspect of the creature; below this there is more explanation: Spiders have “many superhero-like qualities” and “spin intricate webs” that are “stronger than steel” for their weight. Smith’s accompanying artwork—now subtly colored, with a cozier, slightly stylized look, and placed on the recto—illustrates the newly revealed characteristic. Gardner’s text doesn’t overwhelm with too much information, just a few well-chosen facts to tempt readers into thoughtful reconsiderations of hyenas, lions, elephants, rhinoceroses, sharks, gorillas, wolves, porcupines, honeybees, octopuses, spiders, and bats.
With its elegant layout, gorgeous illustrations, and thoughtful text, this book presents an interesting and focused subject in an exemplary manner. (further reading) (Informational picture book. 4-8)