CM . . . .
Volume V Number 14 . . . . March 12, 1999
Grades 1-4 / Ages 6-9.
Arctic wolves live in groups called packs. A pack's leaders are a male and a female known as the "alpha" pair. They are the only pair in the pack that breeds. Most wolves spend their lives in one pack and are loyal to its leaders. Sometimes a young wolf tries to replace the alpha pair or leaves to start his own pack. (From At the Poles)These titles, part of the Animal Trackers Around the World series, will appeal to younger readers. The format of each book is the same: the featured habitat is introduced on two pages, followed by information about 10 or 11 animals specific to that habitat. Borders of animal paws enhance each page. Text is large and written in simple language. A table of contents, an index and a glossary are included.
With only two pages devoted to each animal (there are a few exceptions, such as the polar bear, about which four pages are written), it is difficult to present more than just the basic facts about homes, diet, structural and behavioral adaptations and care of the young. In every case, a large-text introductory paragraph is followed by randomly spaced paragraphs, each of which has its own heading and is printed in a smaller text. Information boxes, usually with an accompanying drawing, are also included, although there is no set pattern to these boxes in terms of the type of information within- their function is simply to add visual interest.
The index and glossary are very basic. Because words appearing in the glossary have not been printed in boldface type in the body of the text, it is impossible to determine which words are included. In fact, several of the same words can be found in all four glossaries. The realistic illustrations (and several ink line sketches) are the books' main strength. Large, bright and colourful, they attract the reader's attention.
Of the four titles, Down Under is the most interesting, perhaps because of the unusual types of animals found in Australia and New Zealand, but also because of the little known facts presented. For example, a female wombat has a pouch that opens backwards to help shield her baby when the mother moves underground. It also stops earth from entering her pouch. Another fascinating fact is that a fence over 3,000 miles long was built to control dingoes in Australia, forcing the dingoes to live in harsh, remote parts of the continent.
It is unfortunate that the author chose to highlight so many mammals at the expense of some other equally interesting animal groups. In the four titles, there are only a few birds and a single reptile featured. Understandably, some habitats cannot support reptiles, amphibians or exotic insects, but a few of them, the jungle in particular, are teeming with colourful snakes, frogs and insects that kids would love to study and that would be a refreshing change from the better known animals.
A good series, too general for in-depth research, but perfect for beginning non-fiction readers.
Gail Hamilton is the teacher-librarian at Bird's Hill School, East St. Paul, Manitoba.
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