Thursday, May 17, 2012

SPL Shelf Life [kids]

Animal Snoops: The Wondrous World of Animal Spies, by Peter Christie, 64 pages.
Animal spies, snoops, sneaks, tricksters and masters of deception can be found everywhere in nature. Many creatures, big and small, spy, deceive and hide.  Why? For many, their “secret-agent skills” and habits are a matter of survival - a way to escape their predators, catch (or hide) food, or attract a mate.
A close-at-hand example can be found in our own backyards, where gray squirrels sometimes dig fake holes for their food caches when they suspect that would-be thieves (usually blue jays or other birds) are nearby.
There are many more examples of animal trickery. White storks sometimes stand silently to hear the mating call of a frog, thereby locating it and quickly seizing the frog with its long bill for a tasty snack. Similarly, dolphins, which love to eat toadfish, eavesdrop and locate these fish when the males serenade the females during mating season. Hungry gopher snakes listen to foot-drumming signals between kangaroo rats to find an appetizing meal, and one species of firefly locates smaller fireflies to eat by watching for their luminescent mating messages.
Animal trickery occurs in the forest, desert, tundra and even in the ocean, where whales sometimes use other whales’ echolocation to “zero in” on a tasty meal, and knife fish use electricity to give hungry predators unpleasant surprises.
One of the best examples of a wildlife snoop or spy is that of Marshmallow, a parrot living in a Memphis, Tennessee household. When burglars broke into the house, the hidden bird eavesdropped on their conversation and was able to hear (and later repeat) the name of one of the intruders. With this valuable clue, police were later able to apprehend the men.
As the author notes, “Wild snoops are impressive secret agents on a constant mission of survival.”   
Young readers will be amazed, impressed and intrigued with the ingenuity and the craftiness of wildlife spies and tricksters, and with the colourful photographs and illustrations in this appealing book about animal underworld behaviour and the surprisingly complex network of animal communication. Further reading suggestions and an index are included.
The author, Peter Christie, has long had an interest in unusual animal habits and has written other books on the topic.
** Recommended for ages 7 to 10 years.

Lizards, by Nic Bishop, 48 pages.
Children are inherently interested in animals, and some of the most fascinating for children are the many types of lizards found around the world.
Nic Bishop’s book, full of eye-catching, close-up photography and captivating detail, reveals that lizards can be some of the trickiest, sneakiest animals in the world.
The chameleon, for example, has the ability to change colour in order to blend in with its surroundings and hide. This extraordinary little creature also has eyes that can magnify and a sticky tongue that stretches almost 30 centimetres to grab its prey.  Some types of geckos also use camouflage. Coloured exactly like the leaves, twigs or bark on which they climb and sleep, they are invisible to would-be predators. The frilled lizard uses trickery in a different way: it sports a ruffle of skin around its head that pops open like an umbrella to startle nearby predators.
Lizards come in many shapes and sizes. The diminutive dwarf gecko is so light that it can be caught in a spider’s web. On the other hand, the Komodo dragon – the world’s biggest lizard and largest venomous animal – is sizeable enough to eat deer, goats and pigs.
Surprisingly, some lizards are able to fly. The tiny Flying dragon of Southeast Asia travels between trees by gliding, using flaps of skin which act like wings. To avoid predators, flying dragons never land on the ground except to lay their eggs.
Many lizards can swim - another way in which they can evade predators.  In fact, some lizards can stay underwater for an hour.
Author Nic Bishop writes/ that some lizards are ultimate survivors. The gila lizard, for instance, can stay alive underground for several years in a hibernating state when the desert becomes too dry, emerging only when an adequate amount of rain has fallen.
The fascinating photographs and detail in this book about the amazing world of lizards will definitely entice, draw in and keep the interest of young readers.  An added plus is the author-photographer’s explanation at the end of the book of the methods in which various types of lizards were photographed, with a link to further details.
 ** Recommended for ages 5 to 10 years.

These reviews appeared in The Stratford Gazette on May 17, 2012. Written by Sally Hengeveld, Librarian

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