Learning about animals from an early age helps children understand their own relationship with the larger world. The following four books present fascinating facts and figures about extinct, endangered, and/or just extremely interesting animals.
Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore’s 2014 Sibert Award–winning Parrots over Puerto Rico is a gorgeously illustrated history of the critically endangered green-and-blue Puerto Rican parrot. An engaging text underscores the environmental consequences of human populations on indigenous animals and the conservation efforts necessary to protect and repopulate a species. Roth’s lush, dense, and stunning paper-and-fabric artwork on each spread — laid out vertically to best give a sense of height — is full of ruffly-feathered parrots, colorfully clothed people, and Puerto Rican landmarks. (Lee & Low, 5–8 years)
How Big Were Dinosaurs? asks author Lita Judge in her book of the same name. Since dinosaurs came in a range of shapes and sizes, she creatively places dinosaurs in juxtaposition with modern-day animals and objects familiar to young readers for size and shape comparison. Both illustrations (in pencil and watercolor wash) and descriptions draw on the familiar: Protoceratops sidles up to a baby rhinoceros; Ankylosaurus menaces an SUV. A foldout contains a to-scale illustration of all the dinosaurs together. (Roaring Brook, 5–8 years)
The concepts of quantity and counting are cleverly examined in Lifetime: The Amazing Numbers in Animal Lives. Author Lola M. Schaefer presents the number of times an animal “performs one behavior” in its lifetime, starting with the single egg sac spun by a spider. Christopher Silas Neal’s bold, beautifully composed block print–like mixed-media illustrations of the eleven animal species featured contain the actual number of items mentioned, up to and including the thousand babies carried by a male seahorse. (Chronicle, 5–8 years)
“Can you hunt like a bear? / It’s June. Find food. / But where?” In Eat like a Bear, April Pulley Sayre’s comfortingly repetitive, cadenced text asks readers to imagine eating, searching, gathering, climbing, and even bathing like a brown bear to showcase the bear’s, and eventually her cubs’, growth and survival during a year’s time in the American West. Steve Jenkins’s impressive textured torn-paper illustrations are reproduced with such clarity that one can almost grasp the thick, fuzzy fur of the bear. (Holt, 3–7 years)
From the February 2014 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.