cover image Reader's Digest Children's Book of Animals

Reader's Digest Children's Book of Animals

Sally Grindley. Reader's Digest Association, $13 (44pp) ISBN 978-0-89577-443-9

From Reader's Digest's new line of children's books, this collection of animal facts and anecdotes is a rare breed unto itself--and seems unsure what kind of work it's trying to be. The oversize picture book's 19 spreads each feature a different topic that somehow relates to animals. The subjects range from habitats (``Ponds and Marshes'') to behavior (``Sending Messages'') to catchall titles like ``Weird and Wonderful.'' Pencil and watercolor spot illustrations and short paragraphs of text are interspersed on each page, and animal names are in boldface type for easy identification. But as a reference tool, the combination of word and text often misses the mark. The odd juxtaposition of smiling, sometimes cartoonish animal characters and informative text delivers a mixed message. The various headings impart few clues to what each ``chapter'' might contain, which makes them useless for a student wishing to look something up; further, no index is included. Myriad nonfiction books containing either photographs or more realistic drawings will better serve curious kids. Ages 3-5. (Oct.)