Animals galore

These four nonfiction picture books engagingly introduce a variety of marine life and land animals. Their scientifically accurate information and illustrations plus plenty of “fun facts” will also be handy to share on Earth Day (April 22, 2023); see as well this Natural History tag in the Guide/Reviews Database for more recommendations.

How the Sea Came to Be: And All the Creatures in It
by Jennifer Berne; illus. by Amanda Hall
Primary    Eerdmans    56 pp.
4/23    9780802854780    $18.99

Berne’s (On Wings of Words, rev. 5/20) history of Earth’s oceans and the evolution of marine life is presented as a poem in three parts: the formation of the oceans from Earth’s early volcanic and atmospheric activity; the first emergence of life within the oceans; and the diversification of life in the seas to what we see today. The rhyming stanzas are impressive, filled with words and cadences that are entertaining to read aloud, and yet also precise in conveying scientific concepts about geological and biological processes. “So to the ocean came all kinds of life — / fantastic, surprising, and new. / Step by step, bit by bit, they evolved in the sea. / And life grew, and life changed, and life grew.” Hall’s (Out of This World, rev. 3/19) mixed-media illustrations balance creative use of color and scientific accuracy: portraying the fiery black and orange landscapes of the young planet, the steamy grays and whites of the emerging ocean waters, and then the beautiful blues of the ocean across millions of years and down hundreds of meters. Extensive back matter includes notes from the author and illustrator on their research, detailed profiles of some of the species featured in the illustrations, additional resources and terminology, and a creative foldout timeline of Earth’s history that is linked thematically to the concepts and illustrations in the book. DANIELLE J. FORD

We Are Human Animals
by Rosie Haine; illus. by the author
Primary    Eerdmans    48 pp.
3/23    9780802856012    $18.99

Readers journey to the Stone Age to meet our human ancestors and the animals that inhabited the Earth with them. Haine’s text is spare and lyrical. Although there is no written history, the archaeological record — including artifacts of tools and cave paintings that are shown throughout in eye-pleasing earth-tone digital illustrations with handmade textures — allows her to make assertions and relate facts about life at that time. “Some animals became our friends. Others were our food. Some thought that we were their food!” Subtle hints about evolutionary development appear on the endpapers, with the opening set depicting humans as they may have appeared then and the final set imagining similar-looking humans with slight cosmetic changes today. The dual concepts — that all animals are connected and that humans are connected to their past — occasionally bifurcate the account, but the distraction is slight. An author’s note provides brief information about the Paleolithic period spotlighted here as well as additional renderings of artifacts from the period. BETTY CARTER

Whose Egg Is THAT? [Whose Is THAT?]
by Darrin Lunde; illus. by Kelsey Oseid
Preschool, Primary    Charlesbridge    32 pp.
1/23    9781623543297    $17.99
e-book ed.  9781632893024    $9.99

Lunde and Oseid’s third collaboration stays true to their successful formula, turning this nonfiction picture book into a guessing game that uses eggs to explore different species and teach larger lessons about the natural world. Spreads follow a pattern that young children will quickly grasp: the first spread asks a question (“Whose egg is that?”), the second shows a close-up of the egg, the third pans out and identifies the parent animal, and the fourth gives a few additional facts about the species. Oseid’s delicately rendered gouache illustrations provide visual hints. Each page-turn builds in details that reward the alert observer and teach much about the animals’ habitats and behaviors. Many young readers will be surprised and delighted to find that eggs come in an array of colors and sizes. ­Others will enjoy learning how not just birds, but also animals such as platypuses and leatherback sea turtles come from eggs. Pair this crowd pleaser with Aston and Long’s An Egg Is Quiet to foster children’s curiosity and observation of the world around them. ADRIENNE L. PETTINELLI

Tree Hole Homes: Daytime Dens and Nighttime Nooks
by Melissa Stewart; illus. by Amy Hevron
Primary    Random House Studio/Random    40 pp.
10/22    9780593373309    $18.99
Library ed.  9780593373316    $21.99
e-book ed.  9780593373323    $11.99

Stewart follows a familiar pattern (see Sibert Honor Book Summertime Sleepers, rev. 7/21) of introducing a basic feature of animal life and then comparing and contrasting the ways in which animals adapt to these fundamentals. This time up, she’s examining homes in trees, first by asking readers to identify with the inhabitants (“What would it be like to live inside a tree?”) and then describing characteristics of such homes. For example, some homes are large (for barred owls) while others are small (deer mice). Some homes are built by the inhabitants (black-capped chickadees) while nature constructs others through, for example, tree-splitting lightning strikes (for little brown bats). Digitally rendered collages on wood panels depict the animals’ routine activities as natural and authentic, perfectly matching the matter-of-fact, informative text. Appended with facts about the animals (including a memorable “fun fact” for each that ranges from the speed they travel to how they handle poop); a bibliography; and suggestions for further inquiry. BETTY CARTER

From the March 2023 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Horn Book
Horn Book

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