Unusual Creatures
Unusual Creatures
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Michael Hearst, illus. by Jelmer Noordeman
ISBN 9781452104676
Chronicle Books, 2012.
5 stars
Keywords: animals endangered-species michael-hearst science unusual-creatures

Unusual Creatures
by Michael Hearst, illus. by Jelmer Noordeman

Young animal lovers and science fans will glom onto this paper-over-board information book, brimming with facts and humor.

An inviting design allows readers to dip in and out or read straight through the profiles of 50 fascinating creatures, which appear in alphabetical order. Each creature's treatment gives the scientific name, the Kingdom, Phylum, Class, etc., a map of its habitat, a brief description and fun factoid, plus a picture of the creature with a scale of inches or feet. The factoids might be author Michael Hearst's "short poem" tributes to animals of land, sea and sky (the bilby, blobfish, dugong, etc.), or it might be more visual--such as mapping out a process exclusive to the creature. A series of images depicts the regeneration of the axolotl's tail, for instance. For the Chinese giant salamander, which can measure up to six feet, Hearst delivers a playful "Pop Quiz," and for the platypus he lists "Platyfacts" (e.g., "The platypus bill is rubbery and flexible. It is not recyclable"). Jelmer Noordeman's artwork illustrates each animal with scientific accuracy, while playing up its unusual feature, such as the blobfish at rest on land, when gravity pulls its jellylike features into a decrepit-old-man grimace.

Hearst brings extreme situations into a child's realm, such as his comparison of a pair of male giraffe-necked weevils fighting to "two excavator construction vehicles at war." With its quirky facts and creatures and the sense of a world waiting to be revealed, this book may well inspire a new generation of budding scientists.

This review first appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers.
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