Well worth the purchase.



From the Superpower Field Guide series

Who knew the life and times of the beaver could be so fascinating?

Poliquin and Frith have created a nonfiction page-turner in this fascinating guide to Castor canadensis (and, to some extent, their Eurasian counterparts, Castor fiber). The facts unfold via the story of a Canadian beaver named Elmer and his partner of six years, Irma. Elmer and Irma are introduced to readers as superheroes of the animal kingdom, with a series of superpowers that include “chainsaw teeth,” an “ever-toiling tail,” and “paws of power.” Although these examples may sound grandiose, Poliquin explains the importance of each in easily digestible chapters that inform and entertain. A gender-equalizing break in Chapter 6 reminds readers that while Elmer may be the star of the book, the same facts are all true for Irma as well. Quizzes throughout test readers’ abilities to retain information (and there’s a note in the third quiz reminding readers not to write in a library book). Frith’s illustrations are an homage to the commercial-art stylings of the late 1950s and early ’60s. The designs—a mixture of black ink, pencil, and wax crayon on paper (with digital color)—are amusing but a little too reminiscent of the last century, as every human character in the book is default white. It’s a sour taste in an otherwise deliciously sweet dessert. The backmatter provides a glossary and a bibliography but, alas, no pronunciation guide.

Well worth the purchase. (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Dec. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-544-94987-4

Page Count: 96

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

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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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