It's that time of year again for critters of all sizes and shapes to appear outside – for better or worse. In my case I'm not anticipating, on my daily hikes, the springtime sightings of snakes as they wake from their slumber. Here are some outstanding new non-fiction books for all ages on these subjects.
Kingfisher Publications has two new insect books. Insects and Creepy-Crawlies, by Jinny Johnson, is a well-executed and colorful book for kids who are interested in these small animals. The eight brief chapters include "From egg to adult", "Insect nests" and "Fast fliers". The double-page illustrations are captivating and have small numbers on details pertaining to the insect and the life cycle or information dealing about it. There are also two sections teaching about insects that can be dangerous. This is an easy access book that everyone will enjoy and learn from.
Insects, by Barbara Taylor, is part of an excellent series called "Discover Science. This book is a bit more involved with many more chapters concerning the subject. But each chapter is similar to the previous book in that the chapters are just the two open-page spreads. This book features actual brightly colored photographs of each insect. There are also fun projects to make, as well as a glossary found in the back of the book.
Butterflies, by Seymour Simon, is visual ecstasy of these beautiful insects, as well as easy to read information, as the author has used larger font. The marriage between the information and the photos is a perfect fit as you quickly begin to understand the difference between moths and butterflies, the amazing long migration of the monarch and the major types of butterflies found in the United States.
Insects: Biggest! Smallest!, by Sandra Markle, is a picture book with extraordinary information about the size of the insect and how it affects its competitors for the prey it consumes. The photos, by Dr. Simon Pollard, are gripping, the lay-out is kid-friendly, and the information is rich with interest. Be sure to check out the large world map detailing where the insects discussed live, as well as a glossary found at the back of the book.
Spiders: Biggest! Smallest!, by Sandra Markle, has a similar format as her "Insect" book and utilizes amazing camera shots to depict webs, fangs, eggs and the many eyes on these arachnids. Once again, Dr. Pollard provides close-up images to showcase particular characteristics unique to spiders.
Silk & Venom: Searching for a Dangerous Spider, by the acclaimed Kathryn Lasky, and photographed by Christopher G. Knight, goes into depth of studying the spider world with zoologist Greta Binford. She has been studying the origins of the brown recluse spider by traveling to the Dominican Republic where she feels the spider began on this side of the world. Lasky writes about the researcher's discoveries and investigations with the expertness of drawing the reader into this extraordinary spider world. The photos are full blown, beginning with the beginning and ending pages. But beware – as this book just might ignite a new scientist in the family.
Reptiles, by Mark Hutchinson, is part of the outstanding "Insiders" series that investigates different aspects of our earth. It's divided into "Reptiles Past and Present", "Shared Features", "Crocodilians", "Lizards", "Snakes" and ending with "Tortoises and Turtles". The brilliant paintings and photographs found on every page and double-pages are amazing, and provide motivation to read everything throughout the book. Be sure to check out the fascinating Reptile Family Tree as well as the glossary found at the back.
Discover Science: Reptiles, by Belinda Weber, is another in this outstanding series that teaches all the many interesting aspects of reptiles beginning with the definition and then discussing the many different types of creatures. Like all books in this series, there are several projects and a glossary found at the back. The pictures are all wonderful close-up photos.
3-D Thrillers! Snakes and Other Extraordinary Reptiles, by Samantha Hilton, has a pair of paper made 3-D glasses on the inside cover that helps make the snakes and lizards pop-out. The information is relatively short and the size of the book is smallish making this a quick read.
Snake-A-Phobia, by Grace Norwich, is filled with colorful pages and close-up photos of some pretty interesting looking snakes. The lay-out makes learning about these snakes interesting as there is larger font, yellow highlighted words marking possible unknown words and the text held in smaller columns. The glossary found at the back of the book is even color-coded for meaningful understanding.
There's also Snakes: Biggest! Smallest! by Markle, with a similar format as her other books previously mentioned in this review. In this book, you learn about the giant snakes like the python and the tiny blind snake.
The Frog Scientist, by Pamela S. Turner, and photographs by Andy Comins, showcases the study of these amphibians and attempts to explore why so many of them are dying. What the reader will discover is the process of a scientist as Dr. Tyrone Hayes must get up before dawn in order to be at the pond when the frogs awake. This study will surely be an eye-opener to many who are curious about possibly becoming scientists.
Lizards, by Nic Bishop, is another book from this outstanding photographer and children's author where he features fantastic photos of some of the most intriguing lizards. Photos include the Komodo dragon, the dwarf gecko and the flying dragon. Be sure to read the final pages where Bishop explains how he obtained some of the most extraordinary photos, a list of books and a short glossary.