Mammals—a perennial early-elementary topic—are presented in a new light in this latest entry in the Compare and Contrast series.
Yes, Hall does hit on all the characteristics that make an animal a mammal, but these facts are presented in a way that allows children to compare and contrast various mammal species: a silverback gorilla breathes through its nose, whereas an Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin breathes through a blowhole, and while a grizzly’s hair is apparent, a manatee has sparse hair that is barely noticeable. The enormous variety within the class makes the coverage necessarily superficial. Backmatter encourages readers to use the provided dichotomous key to identify eight species according to type of animal, gives facts about three “different” mammals—the platypus, the echidna, and bats—and encourages children to keep a nature journal of evidence of animals’ presence. Companion title Sharks and Dolphins, by Kevin Kurtz, is a more successful compare-and-contrast exercise, as these animals look very similar but are actually quite different. Topics addressed include where they are found, types of each, fish versus mammal, body characteristics, and what and how they eat. Backmatter instructs readers on reading and making a Venn diagram and asks them to put a food web in the proper order and identify shark and dolphin body parts. Both books rely on well-chosen stock photos, but those in Sharks are labeled and more dynamic and interesting.
Together with its companion, strong additions to a series sure to find its way to classroom and school libraries. (Nonfiction. 4-7)