Both budding zoologists and children with even just a mild interest in the natural world will slurp this down.

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OUTRAGEOUS ANIMAL ADAPTATIONS

FROM BIG-EARED BATS TO FRILL-NECKED LIZARDS

Profiles of 24 curious creatures, from the waxy monkey tree frog to Vampyroteuthis infernalis (literally, “vampire squid from hell”).

In introducing his diverse menagerie, Rosen focuses particularly on how each creature uses one or more of its distinctive physical features, such as the claws that give mole crickets “major mining mojo” or the jaws of the Tasmanian devil, which can deliver a bite over 15 times as powerful as the average dog’s. Along with covering basic adaptations to various habitats or niches, he also points to examples of convergent evolution and highlights intriguing recent discoveries—notably a type of fish that can begin altering its body to cope with a drier environment in only a few months, thus hinting at how quickly life might have first moved from the sea. Full taxonomic classifications for each animal accompany side notes on other features and behaviors worthy of mention, and at the end, the author adds generous lists of print and web resources for readers with a yen to dig deeper. The stock photos are a weak point, being too small to have much impact, but Rosen’s narrative (“Finally, the camel spider sprays digestive juices onto the victim, which quickly dissolves into a protein shake that the spider can slurp down with a satisfied ahh!”) offers imagery that’s vivid enough to compensate.

Both budding zoologists and children with even just a mild interest in the natural world will slurp this down. (index) (Nonfiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: March 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5124-2999-2

Page Count: 100

Publisher: Twenty-First Century/Lerner

Review Posted Online: Nov. 22, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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A closer focus on biology than bloodshed makes this a natural companion for Tanya Lloyd Kyi’s more anthropological Seeing...

THE BOOK OF BLOOD

FROM LEGENDS AND LEECHES TO VAMPIRES AND VEINS

Newquist expands considerably on the premise that “[t]here is more to blood than that it’s red and kind of gross” without neglecting to keep the “kind of gross” parts in view.

Along with a suitably gore-spattered parade of Aztec and other bloodthirsty gods and blood rituals throughout history, the author takes quick looks at various kinds of blood in the animal kingdom and at vampires in modern pop culture. He also recaps the development of our understanding of blood and the circulatory system from ancient times through the scientific revolution, and thence on to modern uses for blood in medicine and research. In considerably more detail, though, he tallies blood’s individual components and the specific functions of each in keeping our bodies alive and healthy. Aside from a debatable claim that “[e]verything you put in your body ends up in your blood,” this transfusion of information offers a rewarding experience to readers whether they’re after the specific differences between blood types and other biological data or just gore’s icky lore. It's nicely enhanced by a generous array of photographs, microphotographs and artists’ renderings.

A closer focus on biology than bloodshed makes this a natural companion for Tanya Lloyd Kyi’s more anthropological Seeing Red: The True Story of Blood (2012). (bibliography, Web sites) (Nonfiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-31584-3

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2012

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A glib and occasionally spotty picture but eminently readable and generally on target.

THE MYSTERY OF LIFE

HOW NOTHING BECAME EVERYTHING

A lighthearted view of the universe’s progress, from the Big Bang to the evolution of bacteria, bonobos—and “Joe Schmo from Buffalo.”

Returning continually to Mr. Schmo (“Jos Grootjes uit Driel” in the original Dutch) as his exemplar for Homo sapiens, Schutten starts simple—“Yes, even Lady Gaga is made up of atoms”—and proceeds from there. He explains how nonliving components combined to create living things of increasing complexity through evolution: “the greatest scientific idea of all time.” Defining “life” (arguably) as anything that eats, reproduces, and dies, he offers thoughts on selected biological structures and processes from genetics (“Your genes are actually the boss of you”) to how eyes developed and why it’s such a good idea to have some separation between mouth and butt. Declaring himself an agnostic, he also takes swipes at both intelligent design arguments and creationism. Though his discussion of hiccups is blurred by fuzzy logic, and viruses and extinction events rate barely a mention, his overall account of life’s origins and tenure is as rich in detail as it is entertaining. Rieder likewise supplies a flood of line drawings that provide humorous visual commentary as well as additional information.

A glib and occasionally spotty picture but eminently readable and generally on target. (end references, index) (Nonfiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-58270-525-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Beyond Words/Aladdin

Review Posted Online: April 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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