CM . . . .
Volume VI Number 7 . . . . November 26, 1999
"Birds look and act alike in many ways. They all have feathers and beaks. They build nests and lay eggs. Some birds, however, have bodies that are different from those of most birds. Some birds have unusual habits. These birds may seem strange to people. Strange means odd or unusual. People often think something is strange when they don't understand it."This book, part of the "Birds Up Close" series, highlights a number of birds in its 32 pages. For each bird, unusual facets of its appearance or habits are described, and accompanying photographs catch the bird in a relevant pose. The text focuses on a wide variety of characteristics, from physical oddities such as unusual bills or beaks, to unusual foods (birds who eat bees, for example) or unusual abilities, such as the Dipper's ability to hold its breath underwater for up to three minutes. Explanations for complex concepts are easy to understand, without oversimplifying the subject. For example, there is a wonderful explanation of how a Jacana manages to walk on Lily pads floating on the water's surface. "When their long toes are spread across a lily pad, only a little bit of their body weight pushes down on each part of their toes." The photographs and occasional illustrations are clear, and the layout is particularly well balanced; photographs are interspersed throughout the text, breaking it up small readable chunks. The book includes a table of contents, a half page glossary and an index. There are some minor problems with the glossary and index. Unusual words (casque, lamellae, ratel) are highlighted in the text, but only some of them show up in the glossary. Inconsistent indexing results in some words, such as "body," being indexed while other words, such as "bill" or "wing," are not.
Karen Clay is a parent of a preschooler and a librarian who works in the William R. Neuman Library, Agriculture Building, University of Manitoba.
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