Calling all sea otter fans! (sources) (Nonfiction. 7-10)



Photojournalism tells the true story of Rialto, a rescued baby sea otter, along with many scientific and historical facts about sea otters.

Readers of Jean Reidy’s poetic, almost mystical, picture book Pup 681: A Sea Otter Rescue Story, illustrated by Ashley Crowley (2019), can seek out Mapes’ book for more facts about these critters. The text begins with simple sentences about the eponymous baby otter—named for Washington’s Rialto Beach, where he was stranded—but soon offers much more information than a tale of rescue and rehabilitation. By the text’s third page, readers have learned these facts: Normally, babies stay close to their mothers; they have “very loud voices so their mothers can hear them over the wind and waves”; sea otters are legally protected. The next page includes a full paragraph about baby sea otters’ dependency on their mothers, then a second paragraph that lists the babies’ predators and states that their survival rate in the wild is 50 percent. By the time Rialto is thriving in the Seattle Aquarium (prior to a permanent move to the Vancouver Aquarium), readers have learned about sea otter diet, fur, teeth, habits, and more. Before Rialto moves, there are 10 paragraphs and a map devoted to the otters’ human-caused, near extinction and their human-aided comeback. The clever truth: Less-motivated readers can view each of the numerous, oh-so-cute-and-cuddly photographs, then read their detailed captions to get the story’s condensed version.

Calling all sea otter fans! (sources) (Nonfiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-14764-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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An immersive dunk into a vast subject—and on course for shorter attention spans.


In the wake of Everything Awesome About Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Beasts! (2019), Lowery spins out likewise frothy arrays of facts and observations about sharks, whales, giant squid, and smaller but no less extreme (or at least extremely interesting) sea life.

He provides plenty of value-added features, from overviews of oceanic zones and environments to jokes, drawing instructions, and portrait galleries suitable for copying or review. While not one to pass up any opportunity to, for instance, characterize ambergris as “whale vomit perfume” or the clownfish’s protective coating as “snot armor,” he also systematically introduces members of each of the eight orders of sharks, devotes most of a page to the shark’s electroreceptive ampullae of Lorenzini, and even sheds light on the unobvious differences between jellyfish and the Portuguese man-of-war or the reason why the blue octopus is said to have “arms” rather than “tentacles.” He also argues persuasively that sharks have gotten a bad rap (claiming that more people are killed each year by…vending machines) and closes with pleas to be concerned about plastic waste, to get involved in conservation efforts, and (cannily) to get out and explore our planet because (quoting Jacques-Yves Cousteau) “People protect what they love.” Human figures, some with brown skin, pop up occasionally to comment in the saturated color illustrations. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 45% of actual size.)

An immersive dunk into a vast subject—and on course for shorter attention spans. (bibliography, list of organizations) (Nonfiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-35973-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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What better way to make natural history slide down easily? (index) (Nonfiction. 8-10)



Cusick floats a slick, select gallery of nature’s spitters, nose-pickers, oozers, and slimers—most but not all nonhuman—atop nourishing globs of scientific information.

Title notwithstanding, the book is limited just to mucus and saliva. Following introductory looks at the major components of each, Cusick describes their often similar uses in nature—in swallowing or expelling foreign matter, fighting disease, predation and defense, camouflage, travel, communication (“Aren’t you glad humans use words to communicate?”), home construction, nutrition, and more. All of this is presented in easily digestible observations placed among, and often referring to, color photos of slime-covered goby fish, a giraffe with its tongue up its nose, various drooling animals, including a white infant, and like photogenic subjects. Two simple experiments cater to hands-on types, but any readers who take delight in sentences like “Some fungus beetles eat snail slime mucus” come away both stimulated and informed.

What better way to make natural history slide down easily? (index) (Nonfiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-63322-115-4

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Moondance/Quarto

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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