cover image Bears


Helen Gilks. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $15.95 (30pp) ISBN 978-0-395-66899-3

Those whose alliance with the animal kingdom depends on their fondness for teddy bears or for Curious George will enjoy these excellent nonfiction titles. After briefly introducing the genus, Bears highlights the distinctive traits of each of eight varieties of bruin: polar bear fur may look white, but actually each hair is hollow and transparent, reflecting the light; before hibernation, brown bears gain about three pounds a day while the non-hibernating pandas habitually eat around 85 pounds of bamboo every day. Apes follows a format similar to Bears , but includes more thorough information on its four species--gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees and gibbons--along with an explanation of the differences between monkeys and apes. Because of the parallels between apes and human beings, this book may be the more compelling of the two: Lemmon explains that, like human mothers, chimps spend many years caring for their offspring; that young orangutans wrestle and play much as children do; that young apes may be punished for being impolite. Both books conclude with brief chapters on protection of these animals and conservation of their habitats. While the substantial texts are serious and to the point, the airy, inviting layout and large-scale illustrations allow young naturalists either to read continuously or to take brief dips. Ages 7-9. (Aug.)