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Weevils and worms and snakes, oh my!

The truth is often stranger than fiction when it comes to animal behavior. Four recent nonfiction books introduce young readers to marvels of the animal world.

SnakesNic Bishop returns with his always-amazing photographs in Nic Bishop Snakes. The text describes snake behavior, physiology, and eating habits. Seemingly impossible-to-get shots of the sinuous, scaly animals feature gorgeous colors and a clarity that allows details such as the edges of scales and the flexing of musculature to be examined. In a riveting note at the end of the book, Bishop reveals the lengths he went to to get his perfect shots (including a bite from a brown tree snake that left some of the snake’s teeth buried in his hand). (5–8 years, Scholastic Nonfiction)

Unusual CreaturesWith field guide–like pages, informational sidebars, and clear illustrations highlighting physiological features, Unusual Creatures: A Mostly Accurate Account of Some of Earth’s Strangest Animals has all the trappings of a conventional science text. But in these fifty profiles of fascinating animals (alphabetical from axolotl to yeti crab), author Michael Hearst playfully tweaks the style, adding humorous quizzes, witty asides, and even the occasional verse; his appreciation for the quirkiness of nature shines through. (7–10 years, Chronicle)

Deadly!Deadly!: The Truth About the Most Dangerous Creatures on Earth pulls no punches — this is gory-but-fascinating information about the ways in which animals cause lasting harm or death to other animals, including humans. Author Nicola Davies balances spectacle and science, providing accounts rich with factual detail and admiration for the diversity and realities of life. Neal Layton’s cartoon illustrations skillfully lighten the tone, as animals in the throes of death or dismemberment provide humorous asides and jokes. (7–10 years, Candlewick)

The Story of Silk by Richard SobolIn The Story of Silk: From Worm Spit to Woven Scarves, part of the Traveling Photographer series, photojournalist Richard Sobol follows the creation of silk from start to finish in the Thai village of Huai Thalaeng. From the arrival of tiny silkworm eggs to the growth of silkworms in baskets full of mulberry leaves, the cooking of cocoons, and the weaving and dyeing of cloth, Sobol captures the process in lively writing and abundant color photographs. (7–10 years, Candlewick)

For even more animal nonfiction, see our recent review of the Bats! Furry Fliers of the Night app (7–10 years, Bookerella/Story Worldwide).

From the April 2013 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Katie Bircher About Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, associate editor at The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons College. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.

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