cover image ANIMAL: The Definitive Visual Guide to the World's Wildlife

ANIMAL: The Definitive Visual Guide to the World's Wildlife

DK Publishing, . . DK/Smithsonian, $50 (624pp) ISBN 978-0-7894-7764-4

HStunning photographs (e.g., of wolves snarling over a half-eaten meal or a falcon's perspective as it perches on a city roof) will elevate this book beyond a coffee-table or reference shelf existence. Every aspect of the book seizes attention. The first 80 pages clarify information on classification, habitats and behavior with charts, maps, photographs and illustrations. The remaining six chapters focus on numerous specific species and subspecies, divided into broad groups: mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fishes and invertebrates. Readers learn, for instance, that the curlew's long, curved beak is touch-sensitive for seeking out food hidden in mud and sand; plovers, on the other hand, though they share the curlew's habitat, have short bills for picking up food they can see. The editors provide endangered-species information at the end of each chapter. The varying size and shape of the photographs—some cropped cleanly around their subject, some showing the interaction of the animal with its environment—compel the reader onward, as do the assorted full-page spreads and action sequences (e.g., of a whale breaching). Text entries are both edifying and brief. But for its heft, this book is almost impossible to put down. (Oct.)

Forecast:With so much visual and textual stimulus for both children and adults, this title is destined to become a staple in bookstores. The beautiful cover will jump out at readers; the free Encyclopedia of Nature CD-ROM and relatively low price won't hurt, either.