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)