Thursday, March 22, 2012

SPL Shelf Life [kids]

Cool Animal Names, by Dawn Cusick, 80 pages.

William Shakespeare once asked, “What’s in a name?”  The esteemed poet/dramatist might have been amazed at the answers that this book could provide to that question.
To begin with, Shakespeare would likely have been surprised to know even of the existence of many of the exotic animals selected from around the world for this book: the rhinoceros iguana from the Caribbean Islands and the rhinoceros hornbill from Asia, the tiger heron from the rivers and lakes of Central America, the tiger snail from the swamps of East Africa, the alligator bug from east Central America, the burrowing mouse spider from Australia, the foxface rabbitfish from the Pacific Ocean near Indonesia, the batfish from the icy waters of the Antarctic, and many more. Shakespeare would have been interested to read the descriptions of these creatures and how their names originated, and to see the eye-catching photos of each.
He would have been fascinated to learn about pigfish (which actually grunt like pigs), tiger beetles (ferocious hunters with tiger-like stripes), giraffe beetles, peacock flounders, rhinoceros hornbills, camel crickets, skunk bears, alligator snapping turtles and many more living things from the oceans, seas, swamps, forests and deserts of the world. He would have discovered where a buffalo treehopper lives and what it looks like, how a panther chameleon got its name, and why a dog-faced pufferfish would never win a beauty pageant.
William Shakespeare also would likely have been amazed (or perhaps horrified) at the bizarre appearance of many of the strange creatures featured in the photographs of this book. (He might have made a comment such as “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, but these are such things as nightmares are made on!”)
However, children (reluctant readers as well as confident readers) will be fascinated rather than horrified by this colourful, appealing introduction to the names and characteristics of some of the world’s most extraordinary and peculiar bugs, birds and animals.
** Recommended for ages 8 to 12 years.

Billions of Years, Amazing Changes: The Story of Evolution, by Laurence Pringle, 102 pages.

How did the dinosaurs of millions of years ago become today’s birds? How did whales become land mammals? These amazing changes – and many others – were brought about by evolution.
Evolution can be defined as “change over time”. Plants and animals on the earth have gradually changed, or evolved, over the centuries - and are still evolving today.
The fascinating science of evolution has explained many plant and animal mysteries for us. It has explained, for example, why there were “missing links” and why these are so important to scientists today. Another example: evolution has answered the question of why the pronghorn, North America’s fastest mammal, is so very much faster than other animals, including coyotes, wolves and its other predators. (If this extra speed isn’t necessary to escape from predators then why are pronghorns so swift?) Scientists concluded that pronghorns evolved into very fast animals long ago when they were chased by speedier predators, which are now extinct.
Author Laurence Pringle explains evolutionary concepts such as genetics, mutations, missing links, natural selection, species diversity and many others in a clear and interesting fashion, for readers. Billions of Years, Amazing Changes also explains how the concept of evolution itself was “discovered” by scientists such as Charles Darwin.
Students will find well-researched information, photos, illustrations, a helpful glossary and an index in this easy-to-follow, visually attractive science book.
** Recommended for ages 8 to 13 years.

These reviews appeared in The Stratford Gazette on March 22, 2012. Written by Sally Hengeveld, Librarian.  

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