ORANGUTANS ARE TICKLISH: FUN FACTS FROM AN ANIMAL PHOTOGRAPHER by Steve Grubman, with Jill Davis (Schwartz & Wade, 2010)
The cheerful little organgutan, hands on his knees, postured like an old vaudevillian foreshadows the fun inside this book. All sorts of familiar wild animals get double-page spreads, each with a great photo and unusual facts. Did you know giraffes whistle, moo hiss and roar (and sometimes kiss), kangaroos can't hop backwards, and like snowflakes, no two zebra patterns are exactly the same? Information about each animal is succinct and conversational, but the photos take on special meaning thanks to the back story: looking at a tiger feels different once you know it chased the photographer, and the lion's expression takes on new meaning, knowing what has caught his eye. Speaking from a school librarian POV, this is the kind of book that starts a tug-of-war, so consider a couple for your animal book menagerie. (6 and up)
Also of interest:
Kids always love information about the animal kingdom, and there are some wonderful contemporary authors and series that readers will be wild about.
Check out the work of Steve Jenkins, especially his recent release NEVER SMILE AT A MONKEY (Houghton Mifflin, 2009) featuring his signature paper-cut illustrations and perfectly paced paragraphs that pack a punch of information on every page. Each elegant, sharp picture against a white background is coupled with an exploration of an animal's defense mechanism, often very surprising and hidden...I never knew a platypus had venomous spurs on its hind legs, and is the only poisonous mammal, did you? "You learn something new every day" seems to be the unspoken mantra in the a long list of Jenkins' engaging titles, this one in particular underscoring Jenkins' talent for creating nonfiction that works both as read-aloud and read-alone, speaking both to the heady young fact-finder and the reluctant shelf explorer. Also check out HOW TO CLEAN A HIPPOPOTAMUS: A LOOK AT UNUSUAL ANIMAL PARTNERSHIPS (with Robin Page, Houghton Mifflin, 2010), a diversion from his usual format into smaller comic-book like frames and panels. (7 and up)
THE BUZZ ON BEES: WHY ARE THEY DISAPPEARING? by Shelley Rotner and Anne Woodhull, photographs by Shelley Rotner (Holiday House) Packed with plentiful frames of attractive photographs, some very affecting such as the single bee against a double-page spread of empty honeycomb cells, this book describes the nitty-gritty of Colony Collapse Disorder (or the mysterious recent disappearance and death of pollinating bees) employing a question/answer technique, suggestions for what can be done, lots of on-line links in the back matter and and real-world pictures and facts throughout. By varying visual and informational technique, the book creators have managed to build an effective bridge between the dense heavy-duty text of nonfiction for older children and the simplifications for young readers, finding a perfect middle ground for information-seeking right in between. Again, this is a nonfiction title that works both as a read-aloud or read-alone...I suggest reading together, as the interesting subject has much to discuss and is a boon to science curriculum/pollination explanations to boot. (7 and up)
Speaking of heady young fact-finders and heavy-duty text, such smarties will enjoying following scientists on the job in the SCIENTISTS IN THE FIELD series, akin to spending an unrelenting day at the hip of a real science practitioner, getting the play-by play from hypothesis to outcome. Check out the latest additions to the series, including the summery PROJECT SEAHORSE by Pamela Turner with photographs by Scott Tuason (Houghton Mifflin, 2010), a chance to join conservationists and community in the Phillipines as they try to restore a coral reef, and THE BAT SCIENTISTS by Mary Kay Carson with photographs by Tom Uhlman (Houghton Mifflin, 2010), an especially exciting and often close-up view of wildlife in the skies, caves, and underground as scientists try to deflect the damage done by White Noise Syndrome, a malady that destroys millions of hibernating bats. This series is akin to armchair internships for upper-grade students, and a real and rare opportunity to vicariously experience the grown-up world of work...meaningful work, to boot. (12 and up)