Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Into The Wild

The more you know, even the smallest piece of information, about animals in your immediate world or on the planet, the better able you are to protect and assist them.  With spring in full swing now, our state bird, robins, can be seen everywhere.  This year, thanks to reading Robins! How They Grow Up, I know the adversities they face in migrating, the males will arrive two weeks before the females and the females will tend to build their nests in the same spot year after year.  Lesser Spotted Animals: The Coolest Creatures You've Never Heard Of acquainted me with the seriousness of the population levels of the black-footed ferret with only a few sustaining populations in the world found in the United States.

Last year we were introduced to the fascinating world of insects and invertebrates in The Big Book of Bugs (Thames & Hudson, April 6, 2016).  In a companion volume, The Big Book Of Beasts (Thames & Hudson, March 16, 2017) written and illustrated by Yuval Zommer we venture into a marvelous collection of mammals.  Each page turn will remind you of the familiar but is guaranteed to present something new and astounding.

Can you find...
...this mystery paw print
15 times in the book?
Watch out for imposters.

Issuing this invitation will have readers eagerly seeking the paw print in question amid each image.  Even on the two pages dedicated to the Who's Inside? (contents) they will be looking at the bodies of twenty-one animals framing the text.  Twenty-six chapters, two pages each, start with an overview of mammal families followed by descriptions of the advantages of certain claws and jaws and the value of voice and smell in survival.  The strength of termite mounds is nothing like ant hills, needing the long claws on anteaters to tear apart the rock hard surface.  Beavers secrete goo smelling like vanilla to create boundaries.

The next nineteen chapters focus on specific mammals from the named families.  Along the left side of the two pages, vertically, their habitat is disclosed.  Usually five small sections containing one, two or three sentences point to particular details about the named creature.

It would seem a fox's favorite food stands no chance of survival.  They can hear an earthworm or a mouse moving underneath them.  With a built-in cushion on their bottoms, baboons can sleep sitting up.  Not all bats rely on sound to navigate; the fruit bat has great eyesight!  Did you know the organs of a sloth are attached to its ribs?  This keeps them from pressing into their lungs as it hangs upside- down.

Wolves don't only howl, hunt and live in packs but can form seventeen different facial expressions.  I wonder why brown bears have fur between their toes.  Can you imagine a sound so loud it can be heard five miles away?  That is a lion's roar.  Eating every part of an animal, as hyenas do, can affect the color of their poo.

Can you visualize having see-through eyelids for swimming?  Beavers do.  Look out bees?  A honey badger's stink will hypnotize you.  Beware of male hippos. (You'll have to read this book to discover why to avoid them.  It's not what you might think.)

Twenty-one paw prints and their animals are shown on two pages followed by discussions of mammals from the Ice Age, populations in danger of extinction and those mammals who wander into our communities.  How would you like to walk out of the grocery store and have a baboon steal your sack of food?  In case you did not locate all fifteen paw prints the pages are shown for each one.  This captivating title closes with definitions and an extensive index.

Sifting through extensive information Yuval Zommer selects those details most likely to be remembered by readers for their uniqueness.  In a series of conversational statements, beginning first with a question, we are given valuable insights into individual mammals and overviews of special areas.  Zommer has a gift for making learning entertaining.  Here are some sample passages.

How grumpy is a baboon?
Baboons are crafty and quarrelsome and get into lots of fights.  They are very intelligent and share 91% of the DNA with humans.

Did you know...
...a sloth can turn its head all the way around until it's looking over its shoulder.

Glow in the dark
A wolf's eyes have reflective parts that makes them glow in the dark!

The varnished animals and text seen on the opened book case are only a tantalizing hint of the revelations inside this title.  The intricate elements on each mammal seen here are continued throughout the book.  The body postures and facial expressions will have you expecting to hear a chorus of sounds at any minute.  On the opening and closing endpapers in a swirl of golden yellow are trails of various paw prints.  Portions of beasts are seen on the initial and formal title pages.

Each of the dedicated two pages is filled with animated scenarios.  The delicate lines form inclusive presentations for each mammal; it's a blend of captured moments. The exquisite layout encourages exploration; our eyes moving from one portion of the image to another.  On the pages for the armadillo we follow along with the animal as it eats ants, burrows, carries its young and curls into a ball to protect its soft stomach.

For each of the habitats Yuval Zommer is careful to include the proper flora and additional fauna.  With ease he takes us from the South American Savannah to a forest in North America and then to the African Savannah.  We hang with the sloth in a rainforest, stalk with a tiger in the Indian jungle and howl with a wolf in the Canadian woodlands.  Mushrooms, beetles and birds native to the Canadian forest keep a porcupine company as a fox wisely leaves rather than feeling the poke of more quills.

One of my favorite of several illustrations is for the beavers.  Across the top we are in the woods working with the beavers cutting down trees with moose nearby.  A small owl perches on a log.  In the center is a lodge showing the construction.  Beneath this are the water and a sandy shoreline.  In every instance the beaver is fully alive.  In this visual, as in all of them, Yuval Zommer, maintains a realistic color palette.

The Big Book of Beasts, like the first title, written and illustrated by Yuval Zommer is an informative, interesting collection of mammal facts.  It will most assuredly keep readers of all ages completely captivated.  Readers will be inspired to seek further material on these mammals.  You will want at least one copy on your professional shelves and one for home too.

To discover more about Yuval Zommer and his other titles please visit the website provided by following the link attached to his name. Enjoy the tweets below where Zommer shares more interior images.

Please take a few moments to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to view the titles selected by other bloggers participating in the 2017 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.

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