themes: animals, nonfiction, families
by Mary Kay Carson
32 pages; ages 6 - 10
Sterling Children’s Books, 2019
Slime-oozing slugs, red-lipped fish, spine-covered bugs, and tube-nosed bats. Weird animals are an awesome sight.
OK, I'm going to admit right here that I read this book because of its cover. I mean, look at those fish-lips! If you're looking for a weird animal, the red-lipped batfish has to be right up there in the top ten.
But... why are its lips so red? Do they help it find a mate? Scare off predators?
What I like about this book: Mary Kay Carson answers these and other questions about why animals have weird adaptations. For example, the Spiny Devil Katydid is covered with thorny-looking spines that make it hard for bats to swallow. The fluffy pink fairy armadillo is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. Instead of a tail it's got a kickstand to prop it up so it can fling dirt while digging.
Three color-coded words in the introductory sentence at the top correspond with color-coded text explaining why those adaptations work for each animal. Plus large photos of the critters. Plus there's back matter: a glossary of "weird words" and an index. And did I mention the end pages? Large portraits of some of the weirdest in the crew. Totally fun and I learned a lot, too.
Saving Fiona: The Story of the World’s Most Famous Baby Hippo
by Thane Maynard
48 pages; ages 4 - 7
HMH Books for Young Readers, 2018
This is Fiona. She is a baby hippopotamus, but not just any baby hippopotamus.
Fiona (yes, named after the lovely green Fiona of Shrek fame) is the first premature hippo to be raised by humans. This book celebrates her story - and that of the caring humans who helped her.
What I like about this book: Thane Maynard is the director of the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, so he writes with the authority of having been there. The zoo also provided the photos, so we get real behind-the-scenes glimpses of what it's like to raise a baby hippo. Fiona had parents, but she was born too early and needed additional help to survive. The team who cared for her created opportunities for Fiona to begin bonding with her parents when it was safe for her to do so. And they remained friends with Fiona, playing games and posting lots and lots of photos on social media.
Beyond the Books:
What is the weirdest animal you have ever seen? Draw a picture to show what it looks like, and write down where you saw it.
Find out more about the red-lipped batfish here.