Not cute curios, but the seriously weird, which for some—hopefully many—will make the animals that much more appealing.

READ REVIEW

UNUSUAL CREATURES

A MOSTLY ACCURATE ACCOUNT OF SOME OF EARTH'S STRANGEST ANIMALS

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)

Pub Date: Aug. 19, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4521-0467-6

Page Count: 108

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 8, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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Pretty but insubstantial.

THE BIG BOOK OF BIRDS

Zommer surveys various bird species from around the world in this oversized (almost 14 inches tall tall) volume.

While exuberantly presented, the information is not uniformly expressed from bird to bird, which in the best cases will lead readers to seek out additional information and in the worst cases will lead to frustration. For example, on spreads that feature multiple species, the birds are not labeled. This happens again later when the author presents facts about eggs: Readers learn about camouflaged eggs, but the specific eggs are not identified, making further study extremely difficult. Other facts are misleading: A spread on “city birds” informs readers that “peregrine falcons nest on skyscrapers in New York City”—but they also nest in other large cities. In a sexist note, a peahen is identified as “unlucky” because she “has drab brown feathers” instead of flashy ones like the peacock’s. Illustrations are colorful and mostly identifiable but stylized; Zommer depicts his birds with both eyes visible at all times, even when the bird is in profile. The primary audience for the book appears to be British, as some spreads focus on European birds over their North American counterparts, such as the mute swan versus the trumpeter swan and the European robin versus the American robin. The backmatter, a seven-word glossary and an index, doesn’t provide readers with much support.

Pretty but insubstantial. (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-500-65151-3

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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One of those rare thrillers whose answers are even more scarifying than its mysteries.

AFTER ALL I'VE DONE

A middle-aged woman sidelined by a horrific accident finds even sharper pains waiting on the other side of her recuperation in this expert nightmare by Hardy, familiar to many readers as Megan Hart, author of All the Secrets We Keep (2017), etc.

Five months ago, while she was on her way to the hospital with an ailing gallbladder, Diana Sparrow’s car hit a deer on a rural Pennsylvania road. When she awoke, she was minus her gallbladder, two working collarbones (and therefore two functioning arms), and her memory. During a recovery that would’ve been impossible without the constant ministrations of Harriett Richmond, the mother-in-law who’s the real reason Diana married her husband, Jonathan, Diana’s discovered that Jonathan has been cheating on her with her childhood friend Valerie Delagatti. Divorce is out of the question: Diana’s grown used to the pampered lifestyle the prenup she’d signed would snatch away from her. Every day is filled with torments. She slips and falls in a pool of wine on her kitchen floor she’s sure she didn’t spill herself. At the emergency room, her credit card and debit card are declined. She feels that she hates oppressively solicitous Harriett but has no idea why. Her sessions with her psychiatrist fail to heal her rage at her adoptive mother, an addict who abandoned her then returned only to disappear again and die an ugly death. Even worse, her attempts to recover her lost memory lead to an excruciatingly paced series of revelations. Val says Diana asked her to seduce Jonathan. Diana realizes that Cole, a fellow student in her watercolor class, isn’t the stranger she’d thought he was. Where can this maze of deceptions possibly end?

One of those rare thrillers whose answers are even more scarifying than its mysteries.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64385-470-0

Page Count: 310

Publisher: Crooked Lane

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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

GET THE SCOOP ON ANIMAL SNOT, SPIT & SLIME!

FROM SNAKE VENOM TO FISH SLIME, 251 COOL FACTS ABOUT MUCUS, SALIVA & MORE

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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