“Elephants to pygmy wrasses, / vertebrates are grouped by classes.”
Lord’s rhyming verse explores those different vertebrate classes (reptiles, fish, mammals, birds, amphibians) in language that is understandable, sometimes humorous and even elegant at times; always, it highlights the basic characteristics that mark the animals of each class and gives some facts about a few species. “Every noise / a reptile hears / through covered holes, / not floppy ears.” “Daddy sea horse / swims so slow; / in his brood pouch / babies grow.” Other verses describe how the animals are born, whether they are coldblooded or warmblooded, whether they have skin, scales or fur, and what adaptations they enjoy. “Hollow bones help / eagles fly. / Feathers take them / through the sky.” Garland’s “digi-woodcut” illustrations are a highlight. His realistic animals share shadings and habitats with the natural world, while the look of the art is rustic and scratchy. The colors are particularly vivid; one undersea page about fish has the look of batik, while a group of wolves in a snowy scene uses just grays, browns and white. Backmatter includes a chart of characteristics, examples and exceptions; an afterword (“Invertebrates / are spineless things— / lobster, spider, / bugs with wings!”); bibliography; and websites.
Both beautiful and educational. (Informational picture book/poetry. 6-10)