A terrific collection of animal curiosities, both sensational and illuminating.
This handsome and compendious gathering of animal records will easily provide hours of enlightening entertainment, from its awesome, jaw-dropping photographs to its smart, conversational text. Carwardine obviously enjoys wowing his readers, but he also weaves into the text a good amount of the evolutionary circumstance and biology that has led to these outsized, miniaturized or seriously weird examples of animal physiology and behavior. Each page provides something to gawk at, from blood-drinking finches to the 55-year-old salamander to 13-foot-tall, 1,600-pound bears. Carwardine explains why a number of creatures—say, a white shark—get undeserved bad raps and how we human animals share much with other animals: “Male sea otters obtain as much as one-third of their food by stealing from females.” The degree of detail is deep, and the sheer number of creatures introduced to readers—aardvarks and axolotls to worm lizards and zebras—is wonderful, but it is knowledge of them that feels most lasting. And certainly don’t miss consideration of the vilest-smelling animal: polecat, skunk or stink badger— pick one.
A top-drawer work of natural history, well-presented in a beguiling and truly humbling way. (Reference. 12 & up)