CM . . .
. Volume XII Number 5 . . . . October 28, 2005
“What Kind of Animal Is It?” is a new six-title series designed for the emergent reader. The text is very basic, with short sentences, repetitive words or phrases, large font and simple vocabulary. Each book averages 15 chapters and includes a pictorial glossary/index combination at the back. All of the titles contain information about the featured group’s body parts, breathing, warm or cold-bloodedness, young, food, behaviours and habitat. Diagrams and wonderful, bright, colorful photographs will appeal to young children. In fact, the photos are the highlight of the books- for example, a close-up of a frog’s webbed foot or an action shot of a frog leaping up out of the water to catch a damselfly will certainly attract a reader’s attention.
Frogs, toads, salamanders and the lesser known caecilians are discussed in Frogs and Other Amphibians. Topics include the necessity for two habitats, amphibians’ movement, defenses such as camouflage, poison skin or brightly colored skin, and the differences between frogs and toads. The next to last page has several riddles about amphibians, with page numbers for reference printed underneath the riddle. Answers are also provided.
The unique characteristics of birds are featured in Birds of All Kinds. Types of feathers, feet and beaks, how birds fly and obtain food, migration, and nest-building are just some of the topics covered. Readers will learn about flightless birds and the differences between water and land birds. A drawing activity is included. (Note: With the exception of one photo in this title, all of the photos show male birds with their colorful plumage.)
Animals Called Mammals provides information about land versus aquatic mammals, the various types of mammal limbs, and the main groups of mammals, specifically primates, carnivores, marsupials, rodents, those that fly and hoofed mammals. One page showcases several types of hoofed animals but does not explain the purpose of single, split or three-part hooves. At the back of the book is a guessing game in which readers are asked to figure out if an animal is a mammal or not.
There are three groups of fish- bony (like goldfish), those with cartilaginous skeletons (like sharks) and jawless (like lampreys). Animals Called Fish focuses on a fish’s body parts and how fish swim, breathe through gills, defend themselves and reproduce. The differences between saltwater and freshwater fish are mentioned briefly. A section entitled, “Is it a fish?” explains why crabs, sea stars and whales are not fish, despite their underwater habitats.
Reptiles of All Kinds describes the four groups of animals that make up the reptile kingdom and, by means of a diagram, shows readers the differences between the members of the crocodilians: alligators, crocodiles, caimans and gavials. Hibernation, egg-laying versus live birth, and snake movement are a few of the other topics covered. Instructions are provided for making a reptile matching card game.
Many Kinds of Animals offers very general information about the groups which comprise the animal kingdom. Besides the better known members, such as mammals and birds, the list also includes worms, mollusks, arthropods and corals.
Despite the fact that some of the titles are better than others, the series meets its objective of introducing the main animal groups to beginning readers. Purchasers should be selective.
Gail Hamilton is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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