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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Friends of these pollinators will be best served elsewhere.

1001 BEES

This book is buzzing with trivia.

Follow a swarm of bees as they leave a beekeeper’s apiary in search of a new home. As the scout bees traverse the fields, readers are provided with a potpourri of facts and statements about bees. The information is scattered—much like the scout bees—and as a result, both the nominal plot and informational content are tissue-thin. There are some interesting facts throughout the book, but many pieces of trivia are too, well trivial, to prove useful. For example, as the bees travel, readers learn that “onion flowers are round and fluffy” and “fennel is a plant that is used in cooking.” Other facts are oversimplified and as a result are not accurate. For example, monofloral honey is defined as “made by bees who visit just one kind of flower” with no acknowledgment of the fact that bees may range widely, and swarm activity is described as a springtime event, when it can also occur in summer and early fall. The information in the book, such as species identification and measurement units, is directed toward British readers. The flat, thin-lined artwork does little to enhance the story, but an “I spy” game challenging readers to find a specific bee throughout is amusing.

Friends of these pollinators will be best served elsewhere. (Informational picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-500-65265-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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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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