Slightly out of tune but worth a listen nonetheless.



Fourteen animal species—insects, frogs, birds, and mammals—are celebrated for their particular musical abilities.

From gibbons who sing at dawn in Southeast Asian treetops to club-winged manakins who strum their feathers in the Andean mountain forests, from humpback whales in ocean depths to male St. Andrews Cross spiders crossing the webs of potential mates, animals of all sorts make musical sounds with various parts of their bodies. The author of this intriguing title is a Spanish composer, conductor, and musicologist whose understanding of music and musicianship opens a whole new window into the animal world. Presented as a series of imagined album notes, two successive double-page spreads introduce each animal in several short paragraphs (main text and callouts with additional interesting facts) about the musical performances, how they are made, and the different sounds the creature can make—its repertoire, as it were. “Production credits” include the concert title, venue, time, length, and purported composer; for the superb lyrebird, for instance, these are: “Rainforest Remix,” the Rainforest Disco Club, winter, 20 minutes, and DJ Lyrebird. Cartoonlike animal images printed on staff-paper backgrounds support the theme. The image of the imagined recording, shown, usually, as a 45rpm disc, will likely be meaningless to today’s readers, the translation has awkward moments, and the layout can be confusing, but readers who figure out the premise will find their ears opened to a new way of appreciating the natural world. Actual recordings of the animal songs will be available on the publisher’s website.

Slightly out of tune but worth a listen nonetheless. (Informational picture book. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-2-924774-54-0

Page Count: 56

Publisher: The Secret Mountain

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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Pretty but insubstantial.


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



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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