________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 17 . . . . April 18, 2008


Super Crocs & Monster Wings: Modern Animals' Ancient Past.

Claire Eamer.
Toronto, ON: Annick, 2008.
93 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $19.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55451-129-7 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55451-130-3 (hc.).

Subject Headings:
Evolution (Biology)-Juvenile literature.
Phylogeny-Juvenile literature.
Animals-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-11.

Review by Gillian Richardson.

***½ /4 


If you want to become a fossil, here are a few things to think about:

*        A good first step is to be a crocodile. A crocodile skull is reinforced with extra bone to give the animal a stronger bite. That means it has a better chance than most skulls of lasting long enough, unbroken, to make a good fossil.

*        If you can’t arrange to be a crocodile, at least try to be something with strong bones and teeth. Those are the bits that tend to survive long enough to become fossils.

*        It’s also important to die in the right place. The bodies of most animals are torn apart by scavengers. Then insects, fungi, bacteria and weathering eventually turn the bones and other leftovers into dust.

If you are fascinated with the concept of recreating dinosaurs from long-preserved samples of DNA, how about considering that distant relatives of some ancient creatures still live among us. Using a kid-friendly but comprehensive approach, Claire Eamer explains how scientists have learned about connections that six familiar creatures (dragonflies, crocodiles, camels, sloths, armadillos and beavers) have with their ancestors from millions of years ago. By Eamer’s linking ancient past and present through specific species examples, young readers will have a better appreciation for the evolutionary forces that have shaped the planet and continue to do so.

     One of the most appealing aspects of this fact-packed book about modern survivors from the ancient animal world is the entertaining writing style. To set the scene, there’s a brief discussion of how many species have gone extinct during the Earth’s history, along with a chart to show scientific terms for each time period, and how scientific names for animals were developed. Each animal’s history is offered in a possible lifestyle scenario and is compared with its descendant’s life today. Fun Facts (did you know the nine-banded armadillo almost always has quadruplets?) and Family Ties (the beaver may have once had burrowing relatives among the 30 branches of its family) occupy one page each. The book shows how scientific evidence leads to conclusions about habits and behaviors and to reasons for extinction of the animals’ earlier forms.

     Interludes – double page spreads placed between chapters – delve deeper into ideas of plate tectonics, mass extinctions, fossils, other clues to the past, why the giant species failed to survive, how fossils are pieced together, to give the whole picture.

     Super Crocs & Monster Wings is attractively laid out with bold color backgrounds to set off each section, photos and captioned illustrations, and fact boxes. Since curiosity will no doubt be aroused for the creatures profiled, an extensive list of further reading is included. The lengthy bibliography attests to the thorough research behind this intriguing book.

Highly Recommended.

Gillian Richardson, a freelance writer and former teacher-librarian, lives in BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364
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