Rich, wide-ranging reading for budding naturalists.

A California mountain lion struggles to weather the hazards of a human world.

Writing discursively, Yap begins with days when bounties were offered in California for large predators, then skips to the present to follow a puma mother as she teaches her cubs to hunt. Later, one is killed trying to cross a highway; the other, trapped and collared by naturalists, survives for several years on the periphery of settled territory, through wildfire and sickness caused by eating poisoned vermin, to reproduce and at last be found dead of unknown causes by hikers. Meanwhile, the crew of wildlife workers (which is racially diverse and includes one hijabi and one Sikh member) gradually features more prominently. They demonstrate various aspects of working with wildlife—from capturing and healing injured animals to educating pet and livestock owners, constructing safer road crossings, and promoting natural pest control. The tale is told in a mix of realistically drawn panels in pale, neutral colors and notebook pages of wildlife observations and facts; there are some mildly disturbing images of half-eaten prey and of animals caught in fences. If the language is occasionally stiff, readers will still come away knowing much more about how pumas live and how to live with them. They will also learn about other wild creatures—for example, beavers and migrating newts—and broad issues in wildlife management.

Rich, wide-ranging reading for budding naturalists. (endnotes) (Graphic nonfiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2023

ISBN: 9781634050586

Page Count: 130

Publisher: Reverberations Books/Chin Music Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2023



The book’s high-interest topic is ill-served by its execution.

An exploration of animal intelligence.

Castaldo opens with a discussion of brainpower before summarizing historical thinking on animal cognition and then presenting evidence of it, in the form of a dizzying array of experiments on such subtopics as decision-making, empathy, a sense of fairness, and communication, among others. Candy-colored pastel shades and striking photographs make flipping the pages a pleasure, but actually reading them is something of a chore. Sidebars often appear out of sequence with the text and are of varying levels of utility, as is also the case with photo captions. Low points include a reference to the author’s middle school report on dolphins and a photograph of a dolphin alone in a tank that’s labeled, “A dolphin at the National Aquarium is studied by cognitive researchers.” Chapters are broken up into subtopics with catchy headings (“The Hive Brain”; “Emo Rats”) except when they are not, as with a relatively lengthy discussion of interspecies communication that wanders from bonobos to dolphins to Peter Gabriel to orangutans. The book’s sense of its audience is uncertain. Profligate use of exclamation points and simplistic “what would you do” scenarios seem geared to younger readers, while the un-glossed use of such terms as “habeas corpus” and “prosocial,” as well as a conceptually complex model of brain processing, assumes a fairly sophisticated audience.

The book’s high-interest topic is ill-served by its execution. (resources, glossary, source notes, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-544-63335-3

Page Count: 160

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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