Southeast Asian Draco lizards, North American flying squirrels, and Australian sugar gliders: what do they have in common?
They all glide—not fly—with the help of special flaps called patagia. With the help of many stock photos (of varying quality and focus) and some drawings and engravings, the mechanics of the gliding process are explained. The text is clear and speaks of the history of gliding animals from the 125 million–year-old fossils of “the earliest known mammalian glider, Volaticotherium antiquis” to “some astonishing new gliding animals… / …PEOPLE!” The author includes information about professionally created hang gliders and wingsuits and warns his young readers not to attempt to build their own. Leonardo da Vinci’s sepia-toned design for an ornithopter, a gliding machine, illustrates this spread opposite an exciting photo of a person in a red, white, and blue wingsuit. With the round series logo (How Nature Works) used as a design element alongside photos of different sizes and focus inserted in each double-page spread, the layout is sometimes too busy, but some photos are striking. The full-page photo of the Asian Wallace’s frog is a wonderful animal portrait, as is the Malaysian Draco lizard. Backmatter includes websites and a bibliography of adult books as well as a glossary.
Though some of the individual animals might be found in other titles, bringing them all together as gliders here makes the book worth a look. (Nonfiction. 9-12)