be amazed by animals!…a list of five

atlas-of-animal-adventure-cover-imageAtlas of Animal Adventures, written by Rachel Williams and Emily Hawkins, illustrated by Lucy Letherland
published in 2016 by Wide Eyed Editions

Here’s another gorgeous atlas from Wide Eyed. What a shelf full of fabulous books they’ve given us!

Explore the seven continents, learning about the amazing wildlife that lives in various locations — their behaviors, migrations, habitats, uniquenesses — all while feasting on Lucy Letherland’s phenomenal illustration work.


This oversized book is cover to cover food for curious minds. From the spectacular annual migration of the wildebeest in Kenya to the exotic courtship ritual of decorative homebuilding carried on by bowerbirds in New Guinea and Australia; from the collective might of leaf-cutter ants in the Bolivian rain forest to that mysterious unicorn of the Arctic waters, the narwhal, whose spiral horn can grow up to 9 feet long.


These scenes are full of interesting tidbits of information. Maps along the way set the animals in their proper locales. And two pages of illustration details to try to spot help turn the book into an I Spy game. Absolutely top-notch, for ages 4 through much older.

animals-by-the-numbers-cover-imageAnimals by the Numbers:A Book of Animal Infographics, written and illustrated by Steve Jenkins
published in 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Steve Jenkins is brilliant at finding intriguing angles for learning about wildlife. I love his approach, not to mention his truly beautiful work in paper collage.

This book is like candy for mid-elementary kids on up — I was enthralled by it! — who have arrived at the age where they gobble up statistics and record-breakers of all sorts.

Each two-page spread addresses a different capacity or quality — leaping distance, tongue length, deadliness of venom, speed. Jenkins uses immensely clever infographics and crisp, attractive page layouts to compare a number of different animals so we can see at a glance who are the winners and losers.


Bars radiate out like radio waves to illustrate differences in decibel level of various animals, from a tiny water boatman through hyenas, cicadas, whales, wolves… I bet you’ll be surprised who are the loudest creatures on the chart! And what about those tongues? The winner of Overall Tongue Length does not come nearly close to winning the record for tongue length when it’s compared to body size. If your tongue was just as long, how far would it reach?

Hand this to kids ages 8 and up to pour over and prepare to be peppered with new data points!

giant-squid-cover-imageGiant Squid, written by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Eric Rohmann
published in 2016, A Neal Porter Book from Roaring Brook Press

Time to focus in on just one of the world’s stunning creatures. Let’s pick one of the largest animals on the planet. One that remains quite a mystery despite centuries of seeking it out. In fact, in her intriguing afterword, Fleming tells us that “we have more close-up photos of the surface of Mars” than of this ginormous creature, the giant squid.


Such an eerie, downright terrifying being! Rohmann accentuates the mystery and fright with his cold, dark, murky palette and closer-than-you’d-ever-want-to-be perspectives on those razor-sharp suckers and dinner-plate-big eyeball. Yikes. I don’t advise reading this right before a snorkeling expedition!


Fleming introduces us to this creepy sea monster with incisive, sensory-laden free verse. She’s done a fabulous job, creating a visceral sense of strangeness and wonder, almost a ghostly mystique. Her afterword fills in a great deal of fascinating information for middle graders and up. The book itself is for brave kids ages 6 and up. It won a Sibert Honor, just last week.

step-right-up-cover-imageStep Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World About Kindness, written by Donna Janell Bowman, illustrated by Daniel Minter
published in 2016 by Lee & Low Books

If a giant squid is one of the most exotic and unknown of earth’s creatures, surely the horse is at the other end of the spectrum. But although horses are so familiar and loved, one horse and his amazing owner proved to be extraordinary beyond belief!

This is the story of a man named William “Doc” Key. Though he was born into slavery, the willingness of his owners to educate him and Doc’s sharp, curious mind meant that he learned, advanced, and transitioned into freedom with purpose, capability, and a hunger for success.


Doc wildly succeeded as a businessman, so much so that he became one of the wealthiest men in town. But it was his rich store of kindness, patience, and trust that enabled him to nurse to health one spindly colt and teach that horse an absolutely jaw-dropping amount of skills. We’re talking spelling. Telling time. Making change out of a register. I know you don’t believe me, but just read the book!

If you had been around in the 1890s, you could have seen Doc and his horse, Jim Key, perform to amazed audiences. Read this book and prepare to be astonished! Daniel Minter’s handsome block prints bring the era to life and bathe us in the golden warmth of the kindness Doc was known for.

A lengthy afterword provides lots more interesting information on both Doc and Jim Key. Enjoy this with ages 6 and older.

the-amazing-animal-adventure-cover-imageThe Amazing Animal Adventure: An Around-the-World Spotting Expedition, text by Anne Claybourne, illustrations by Brendan Kearney
published in 2016 by Laurence King Publishing

Finally, here’s a game-in-a-book that brings us to 21 particular habitats around the world, tells us very briefly about them, and provides jolly lists of animals to spot in each scene.

Visit the tundra in Greenland, a British rock pool, the Gomantong caves on the island of Borneo, hydrothermal vents in the Pacific Ocean, a mangrove forest in India, and spot familiar and unusual animals who love living just exactly there — a mugger crocodile, a frilled-neck lizard, burrowing owls, harbor seals, and gadzooks! a mighty lot of wrinkle-lipped bats!


You won’t read scads of information here, but you’ll be introduced to a wide variety of intriguing places and amazing creatures. Hopefully your curiosity will be piqued to investigate some of them a bit more. Great fun for ages 5 and up.