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Spidermania

Alexandra Siy and Dennis Kunkel. Holiday House, $17.95 (48p) ISBN 978-0-8234-2871-7

In this companion to Bug Shots (2011), Siy explains that arachnids are worthy of fascination, not fear. Kunkel’s electron micrograph photographs zoom in on the subjects, giving them an almost puppetlike appearance, even as the descriptions convey their predatory natures. “Toxic venom is delivered through an opening near the end of each fang, similar to the opening in a hypodermic needle,” Siy writes of the brown recluse. Vibrant coloring makes it easy to identify the spiders’ anatomical features, and after learning about bionic eyes, “ballooning” spiderlings, and other topics, readers should be impressed by the arachnids’ versatility and capability, even if they aren’t quite ready to cuddle up with them. Ages 6–10. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/28/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Frozen Wild: How Animals Survive in the Coldest Places on Earth

Jim Arnosky. Sterling, $14.95 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4549-1025-1

Arnosky introduces animals indigenous to cold regions, including semi-aquatic species like otters and beavers; snow travelers, like deer, bobcats, and polar bears; and animals of the Arctic and Antarctic. Arnosky illustrates the book with a mix of small pencil drawings and large-scale acrylic paintings, with foldout pages providing a greater sense of the ecosystems (such as a cutaway view of a beaver dam, covered in ice). Arnosky’s hallmark respect for and curiosity about his animal subjects is fully evident: “I envy their physical perfection that makes them able to live their entire lives outdoors in the purity of fresh, open air,” he writes in conclusion. “I live in awe of wild things.” Ages 6–10. Agent: Susan Schulman, Susan Schulman Literary. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/28/2015 | Details & Permalink

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How to Swallow a Pig: Step-by-Step Advice from the Animal Kingdom

Steve Jenkins and Robin Page. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-544-31365-1

Jenkins and Page are back with a tongue-in-cheek “how to” guide to hunting, building, and protecting oneself like more than a dozen animals. Numbered instructions, accompanied by Jenkins’s always excellent paper collages, demonstrate how to repel insects like a capuchin monkey, catch a meal like a crocodile (“When an egret lands nearby to pick up one of your sticks, you know what to do”), or defend oneself like an armadillo. Beneath the irreverent tone, there’s ample information about the animals’ traits and behavior (and even more in an appendix), adding up to a highly enjoyable mix of science and humor. Ages 6–9. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/28/2015 | Details & Permalink

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I (Don’t) Like Snakes

Nicola Davies, illus. by Luciano Lozano. Candlewick, $15.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7636-7831-9

“Some families have dogs, or cats, or birds. But my family has snakes. They love them!” explains an exasperated girl. One by one, her hipstery family members, who lounge around the house draped in snakes, dissect her anti-snake arguments. “Snakes have to slither,” says Mom. “It’s the only way they can move.” And those “creepy” stares? “They stare... because they can’t blink,” Dad tells her. Lozano expertly shifts between scribbly cartoons of the family and more naturalistic drawings of snakes and their anatomy, accompanied by information-packed captions from Davies. The narrator overcomes her aversion a bit too easily, but the book’ blend of playfulness and scientific detail make it a winner. Ages 5–9. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/28/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Hungriest Mouth in the Sea

Peter Walters. Arbordale, $17.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-62855-631-5

Newcomer Walters uses a question-and-answer setup as he invites readers to find the hungriest animal off the coast of New Zealand: “Perhaps it’s a seahorse with a pot-belly,/ or the trailing tentacles of a moon jelly?/ No, no, no, it’s nothing like that./ It’s someone else in this habitat.” A mix of leathery, corrugated, and crinkled-paper textures add eye-catching dimension to Walters’s vibrant paper collages, which do an impressive job of capturing the details of swimming petrel birds, rosy-pink squid, and other animals. The verse can be clunky at times (“Rising from the deep, a swarm of kicking krill/ moves as one with unquestionable skill”), but Walter’s use of repetition and the book’s guessing-game aspect provide readaloud appeal. Ages 4–8. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/28/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Traveling Butterflies

Susumu Shingu. Owlkids (PGW, dist.), $18.95 (48p) ISBN 978-1-77147-148-0

Shingu follows Wandering Whale Sharks with a quiet look at the life cycle of a monarch butterfly, from a tiny egg to its emergence from a chrysalis: “Her new wings look like stained glass.” Solid backgrounds in white, gray and piercing shades of blue provide maximum contrast to the butterflies’ trademark orange wings, making for some dramatic moments. Migrating south, the butterflies hover over a waterfall, city rooftops, and villages; in a southern forest, they mate and “slumber in peace,” clustering in honeycomblike formations. Shingu’s economical yet poetic language is well-suited to the sparseness of his images, and a closing note discusses the mystery of how monarchs know to fly the same route year after year. Ages 4–8. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/28/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Moon Bears

Mark Newman. Holt, $18.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8050-9344-5

In a follow-up to Polar Bears (2010), wildlife photographer Newman introduces a handful of moon bears that live at a sanctuary in Chengdu, China. Vivid photographs show the bears climbing trees, swimming, and relaxing in hammocks. In crisp, reportorial prose, Newman describes the bears’ physical and behavioral traits: “Poppy’s big, round ears help her hear what’s happening around her,” begins a page devoted to the animals’ powerful sense of hearing. Newman packs a good amount of information into her descriptions of the bears as they live in safety, though the account ends on a sobering note as he details the mistreatment of moon bears in circuses and at bear bile farms throughout China and Vietnam. Ages 4–8. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 08/28/2015 | Details & Permalink

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A Tower of Giraffes: Animals in Groups

Anna Wright. Charlesbridge, $17.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-58089-707-5

Sixteen groups of animals—including geese, squirrels, elephants, and pigs—appear in fanciful ink and watercolor illustrations that incorporate textile and feather embellishments. First-time author-illustrator Wright lists the collective noun for each subject, then offers brief, often alliterative descriptions of the animals: “If danger comes too close, the sheep run away in a wild and woolly whirlwind to get away.” (Fittingly, her sheep are covered with woolen knit textures, complete with unraveling threads.) Elsewhere, a flamboyance of pink flamingos steps gracefully like ballerinas, a troop of four monkeys peers out from the page with inquisitive expressions, and a prickle of hedgehogs is outfitted with floral and abstract patterned prints. A visually expressive take on collective nouns. Ages 3–7. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/28/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Spit & Sticks: A Chimney Full of Swifts

Marilyn Grohoske Evans, illus. by Nicole Gsell. Charlesbridge, $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-58089-588-0

A biracial family of three prepares to welcome a new baby boy while swifts nesting in the chimney of their quaint Texas country home raise their own fledglings. In calming prose, debut author Evans keeps the narrative focus on the birds (“Chittering, the fledglings jubilantly feast and frolic, consuming tons of insects”), letting the human family’s story play out silently in Gsell’s soft, loose watercolors, which include digitally collaged elements. Together, Evans and Gsell convey the quiet intersection of human and animal life, while an endnote offers more detailed information about the migration of chimney swifts. Ages 3–7. Illustrator’s agent: Susan Cohen, Writers House. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/28/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Rhythm Ride: A Road Trip Through the Motown Sound

Andrea Davis Pinkney. Roaring Brook, $19.99 (176p) ISBN 978-1-59643-973-3

In this clear, comprehensive history of Motown, Pinkney (The Red Pencil) narrates as "the Groove," a chatty, older guide to Berry Gordy Jr.'s music business. With well-chosen collaborators in every department—songwriting, backup performance, artistic development—Berry spotted and cultivated some of the best African-American musical talent of the era; Motown's stars in its 1960s heyday included The Supremes, The Four Tops, The Temptations, The Jackson 5, and Stevie Wonder. Thanks to Berry's ambitious innovations, Motown became "an assembly line that cranked out hit after hit after hit," achieved through exacting standards that included personal integrity offstage, the color of a performer's eye shadow, and on-stage moves. With folksy speech and catchy metaphors ("a voice that was spicy ginger and cream—it was gritty and mellow"), supported by clear headings and well-chosen photographs, the Groove detours into the "finishing" of artists, segregation, and the Detroit riots of 1968, though Pinkney omits discussions of other popular music of the 1960s. A useful chronology, selected discography, and source notes are included for readers seeking to explore the Motown sound further. Ages 10–14. Agent: Rebecca Sherman, Writers House. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/28/2015 | Details & Permalink

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