Hearst brings us 50 examples of Mother Nature in all her strange pageantry.
Meet the aye-aye, a primate from Madagascar that—unfortunately, and thank goodness it is nocturnal—is considered by some of the citizenry to be an evil omen, which is a greased chute to the endangered-species list if there ever was one. Meet the barking spider and the blobfish, the slow loris, the pea frog and the pink fairy armadillo. Each creature comes with a distribution map, line drawings in washed colors, an array of scientific goodies (Latin names, figures, behavioral attributes) and color commentary from Hearst, sometimes in verse and with moments of sheer goofery, as in these two true-or-false zingers: “The basilisk in Greek mythology…can turn a man to stone with its gaze. / The Jesus Christ lizard has similar abilities, but its predators turn into motorized Christmas lawn ornaments.” Yet the text and artwork have achieved something very valuable: One can only marvel at these creatures—the Chinese giant salamander and the hagfish (“the only living animal to have a skull but no spine”)—and, as a company of oddballs, find something endearing in even the flying snake, which is a big step toward a greater protective urge for the planet.
Not cute curios, but the seriously weird, which for some—hopefully many—will make the animals that much more appealing. (Nonfiction. 8-12)