Thursday, August 27, 2015

Series review: Comparing Animal Traits, by Rebecca E. Hirsch

Vampire Bats: Nighttime Flying Mammals

Platypuses: Web-Footed Billed Mammals

Other titles in this series include African Elephants, Gray Wolves, Grizzly Bears, Humpback Whales, Mountain Gorillas, and Siberian Tigers - a nice variety geographically, although it strikes me that they are all mammals. That detail is not mentioned anywhere on the cover, although the traits of mammals in general are described in each book. ***edited: Pay attention, Ami, it's in the sub titles!

Of course, I picked the two goofiest-looking to read for my review!
How can anyone not love the platypus? Especially anyone who has ever felt like they didn't quite fit in anywhere. Or, anyone who also keeps their extra fat in their tail. Ahem. Moving on...

The way these are set up makes them a little different from most nonfiction animal books on the shelves: after giving a bit of information about the subject animal (in a very accessible, but not dumbed-down manner), each book then compares that animal to a similar one - like a beaver - or a completely different one - like a Dall sheep. While I am not sure there is much to take away from the latter comparisons, I like the format of side by side facts. This is a great way for visual learners to organize their thoughts, and I can see many classroom extensions. Try comparing two other animals, two foods, or two superheroes. I almost said two kids in the class, but that could leave someone wide open for hurt feelings, so...scratch that one!

Basic information about habitat, life cycle, and feeding habits is given throughout the books. While some kids will enjoy the frequent stops to compare, and will solidify the information this way, more linear thinkers may find it has the opposite effect. Since most books are presented in a linear fashion, however, I think these have a definite place.

At the end we have a grid chart putting all the animal comparisons together. Who would have thought the vampire bat and the golden lion tamarin would have so much in common! Another obvious extension, even mentioned on the page - using those traits, add a few more mammals. Where would humans stack up? (Think we can't use echolocation? How to Speak Dolphin would make a great read-aloud!)

There is also a glossary (words are highlighted in the text), index, bibliography, and both books (not all from the same publisher!)  and web sites for further information. As expected from Lerner, the binding and photography are top-notch. A fun and educational addition to any elementary or middle school library!

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