Animals: A Visual Encyclopedia, by Animal Planet (2015)

Animals: A Visual EncyclopediaThe editors from Discovery’s Animal Planet have given us a beautifully illustrated visual encyclopedia that will provide hours of enjoyment for young readers. More useful for browsing than for actual research, it will meet basic homework needs for elementary school assignments. The book is loosely organized by taxonomic classification – it opens with an explanation of the phylla through the Tree of Animal Life – mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, arthropods (which includes arachnids as insects), and other invertebrates, covering the entire spectrum of animalia from whales to ticks (pp. 8-9). Readers also learn the key physiological features of each phyllum (what makes a frog an amphibian and not a reptile), biomes and habitats for the Earth’s animals, and a little bit about the three major threats to habitat: climate change, deforestation, and pollution. There’s also a guide to the metric units used, though this is an American publication so imperial units are used first, with metric equivalents second. The entries give you many opportunities to dip into the content – Snack Attack discusses feeding habits; About Me offers interesting facts usually about the animal’s young; and Surprisingly Human informs readers of behaviours and facts that connect animals and people. Habitat spreads include a QR code for quick access to online content such as videos, a nice touch that makes full use of Animal Planet’s archive. The bulk of the book consists of pages of entries grouped by phyllum and then species. By no means complete, it still offers basic facts both useful and interesting, accompanied by full-colour photos. The entry on cats spans six pages. Two pages explore small cats (domestic, sand cat, jaguarundi, ocelot, lynx, leopard cat, and caracas); another two pages review the big cats (Siberian, Bengal and Sumatran tigers, snow and clouded leopard, cougar, Asiatic lion, and jaguar) and a two-page spread features the always-popular cheetah. Each animal’s entry includes a photo, common and Latin name, weight range, habitat, and food preferences, followed by a brief description. I was a bit disappointed with the glossary – only two pages are devoted to this, explaining terms like coniferous forest, herbivore, and warm-blooded. Surprisingly there is no section on additional resources. The index is pretty good. It’s five pages long, and includes some attractive photos. I looked up jumping spiders in the advance reading copy I used for this review. The entry is included, but there was no See Also reference to spiders. When I checked the pages on Spiders, I found an entry for the Bold Jumping Spider. That entry is listed under B, but the page was missing from the list under Jumping Spiders. Oddly, illustrations are listed in bold but there is no way to distinguish main entries on a topic except by the page span. All in all, I found this a fascinating book that I’m sure will appeal to young readers who will memorize a lot of interesting facts as a result. I’ve already ordered a copy for Christmas gift-giving. My thanks to the publisher for the advance e-galley provided through NetGalley.
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About Michelle Mallette
I'm just trying to keep track of the books I've read - what I liked and what isn't worth re-reading. My work as a librarian has included youth services so you'll find a wide range of interests from picture books and teen dystopia to adult sci-fi, road trip novels, and nonfiction. Comments and communication is always welcome.

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