This introduction to zoology features a cover of layered, bubble-shaped pages of various sizes, each with an image of a zoo animal peeking through.
Once a page is turned, bright stock photos of animals with similar characteristics or from the same genus are grouped together across the spread, united by a solid background color. A heading introduces them (such as “Gone fishing” for seafood-eating birds and mammals), and one or two simple facts are shared. The creatures themselves provide additional and more specific information via speech bubbles. One section of each spread still retains the image that is visible from the cover and hints at what is coming next on the verso. Unfortunately, this Seek and Peek gimmick of shaped pages creates a visually confusing layout. In the “Burly bears” section, for example, all of the creatures on the page are bears (brown bear, polar bear and panda), but a maned lion and his cub do appear in their own section of the page against a different background. In the Rainforest, another in the series, featuring a variety of rain forest dwellers from around the world, also suffers from layout issues. The final page explains that some animals live high in the trees while others live on the rain forest floor, but the critters’ haphazard placement doesn’t support the point. Dinosaurs, yet another Seek and Peek book, uses photorealistic, computer-generated images of dinosaurs from various eras. Prehistoric creatures are grouped in such categories as “Scary hunters,” “Speedy” and more. The Seek and Peek format serves this topic most poorly, since some of the page sizes will confuse readers as to the size and scale of the subjects (the largest dinosaurs, brachiosaurus and diplodocus, are on the medium-sized pages at the middle of the book, which dwarf these creatures’ stature).
While the information is solid and simply presented, and the photos are eye-catching, the layout gets in the way of clarity. Stick with Kingfisher’s Baby Animals series for zoology in board-book form. (Board book. 3-4)