cover image How Whales Walked Into the Sea

How Whales Walked Into the Sea

Faith McNulty. Scholastic, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-590-89830-0

The team behind the intimate view of A Snake in the House takes a more objective, long-range look at whales in this clear account of the mammals' complex evolution. Beginning 50 million years ago, when the antecedent ""whales"" were furry, four-legged land animals wading shallow waters to forage for fish, McNulty touches on evolutionary milestones leading up to the exclusively water creatures we know as whales today. The feet of land-roaming mesonychids become broader, paddlelike; ambulocetus, the ""Walking Whale,"" comes ashore only to rest and give birth; rodhocetus, the ""Hardly Walking Whale,"" takes on a tapered silhouette with a fin-like tail. Despite a few anomalies (e.g., How did the nostrils become a blowhole on top of the head?), McNulty effectively demonstrates that modern whales carry recognizable remnants of their ancestors (""Inside whales' flippers are arm, wrist, and finger bones""). Although unambiguous and forthright, the text is dense and perhaps best approached with a clear understanding of evolutionary principles (a time line, for instance, would have been helpful). McNulty's straightforward prose concludes in searching questions: ""We know [whales] think and have feelings.... Does the whale still have some of the feelings of a land animal...? Does the whale still love the sun?"" Rand's arresting and expansive watercolors offer additional, subtle physical changes not mentioned in the text, and his dramatic portraits of orca and sperm whales, especially, will please any fan of these giant mammals. Ages 7-10. (Feb.)