Every Creeping Thing

Richard Conniff, Author, Sally J. Bensusen, Illustrator Henry Holt & Company $25 (272p) ISBN 978-0-8050-5697-6
Conniff, a science journalist whose previous book (Spineless Wonders) took on invertebrates, offers another funny, informed examination of the natural world. The author is no softie. He trusts his ""gut feeling that fear of nature is normal--more normal, certainly, than a love of it."" But readers shouldn't be fooled by the slightly curmudgeonly posture: Conniff pays the kind of close attention to nature that only someone who loves it can. (The book's title, far from being an epithet, comes from Genesis.) Conniff presents a rogue's gallery of beasts that includes the sloth, the grizzly, the bat and the snapping turtle, among other oft-maligned and misunderstood creatures. His defense of the sloth is priceless: ""masters of digestion, champions of sleep, gurus of the pendulous, loafing life."" While cormorants are demonized by naturalists for dining on trout, Conniff defends their honor, averring they would much rather chow down on alewives and other unwanted fishy predators than on grade-A fingerlings. The text offers a procession of odd facts: the mole can tunnel 60 feet or more in a day; sandtiger sharks eat their weaker siblings in the mother's womb. Coniff's 17 wonderful essays on some of the animal kingdom's ""weird, unsuspected minutiae"" make, in addition to great entertainment, a strong argument for the importance of biodiversity. Illustrations by Sally J. Bensusen. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 11/30/1998
Release date: 12/01/1998
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