An amiable, digestible visit to the wild kingdom for younger animal lovers.



Nature’s award show, with 50 creatures stepping, swimming, swooping, or slithering up to receive well-earned prizes.

Sporting gold medals around their necks or equivalent areas, the mildly anthropomorphized winners pose proudly in Freeman’s cartoon style portraits, then go on to demonstrate distinctive features or behavior, often alongside rows of runners-up, in additional views. Presented in no particular order (though there is an index), the honorees mix such no-brainers as the mound-building termite (“Amazing Architecture Award”) and chimpanzee (“The Nifty Tool-User Award”) with long shots such as the “Beautiful but Deadly” poison dart frog…and a few dark horses, from the lion’s mane jellyfish (“Tangliest Tentacles Award”) to dung beetles, which “spend their lives pushing poop around” and so walk away with the “Small but Strong Award.” There are some shared awards too, including four-way ties for good parenting (“The Family Awards”) and migratory range (“The Long Distance Awards”). Jenkins offers both appreciative introductions for each claimant and notes on diet, geographical range, and other basics. The smiling faces and low-key narrative have their appeal, though the heftier likes of Steve Jenkins’ Animal Book (2013) or Mark Carwardine’s Natural History Museum Book of Animal Records (2013) offer more naturalistic illustrations, and adrenaline junkies will respond more strongly to Anita Ganeri’s melodramatic Astonishing Animals, illustrated by Fiametta Dogi and Dan Cole (2015).

An amiable, digestible visit to the wild kingdom for younger animal lovers. (Nonfiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-78603-779-4

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 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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