Amazing animals

These approachable science books introduce primary and intermediate readers to two extraordinary animals, one species' survival story, and the everyday dynamics between predator and prey.

Inky's Amazing Escape: How a Very Smart Octopus Found His Way Home tells how a real octopus was caught in a Pacific Ocean lobster trap and transferred to a seemingly blissful life at a New Zealand aquarium. Yet when the opportunity arises, Inky squeezes himself through a loose tank cover gap, into a drainpipe, and out into the Pacific, where he (presumably) lives today. Author Sy Montgomery weaves detailed science into Inky's story, and Amy Schimler-Safford's brightly colored illustrations effectively hint at Inky's intelligence. (Simon/Wiseman, 5–8 years)

In Moth: An Evolution Story by Isabel Thomas, a peppered moth — its "speckled, freckled" patterns wonderfully detailed in Daniel Egnéus's gorgeous mixed-media illustrations — attempts to survive in a shadowy (pre-industrial) wood; all-black moths stand out and are quickly eaten. But things change: with soot from nineteenth-century industrialization, the black moths are now hidden. Thomas deftly builds an easily understandable explanation of natural selection into the well-paced narrative. Back matter shows both variations of the peppered moth. (Bloomsbury, 5–8 years)

Karl, an Abyssinian ground hornbill, arrived at the National Zoo with a damaged lower bill, which limited his ability to eat a balanced diet and participate in normal activities. Lela Nargi's lighthearted and informative Encounter series entry Karl's New Beak: 3-D Printing Builds a Bird a Better Life shows how zoo staff made Karl a 3-D printed beak, each step in the process demonstrating how engineering and science can solve problems in animal conservation. Creative illustrations by Harriet Popham combine blueprint-like schematics with photos. (Capstone/Smithsonian, 7–9 years)   

Susannah Buhrman-Deever imagines the relationships between predators and prey as poetic standoffs in Predator and Prey: A Conversation in Verse. Animal antagonists express their behaviors and needs in a variety of creative poetic formats. Content and cadence are cleverly aligned with the actual behaviors of the animals, and the structure and layouts of the poems also echo traits of the creatures. Burt Kitchen's soft-focus illustrations show the animals amid stippled green and brown landscapes. Appended with an extensive bibliography. (Candlewick Studio, 7–9 years)

From the August 2019 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, formerly editor of The Horn Book Guide, is a former bookseller and holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons University. She served as chair of the 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committee. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.

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