The World’s Oddest and Most Wonderful Mammals, Insects, Birds and Plants: Of Kinkajous, Capybaras, Horned Beetles, Seladangs
by Jeanne K. Hanson and Deane Morrison
Book Type: Non-fiction, general knowledge
Date of publication: 1997
Publisher: Konecky & Konecky
This book covers a wide variety of living things, more than are mentioned in the title since it mysteriously omits reptiles. Most entries have about a page of text and cover the topic at a superficial level. I imagine it’s intention is just to instill a sense of wonder and curiosity in the reader and to encourage them to learm more about the entries the like the best. Some of topics are:
- How to choke a tree – about strangler figs
- Insect impersonators – about orchids that mimic insects
- The barking pika – about a cute little lagomorph that barks
- An artichoke on legs – about pangolins
- Can black widow spiders and trantulas actually kill you?
- The smartest birds – about ravens
This is just a tiny fraction of the topics.
This book certainly has its interesting points. And the breadth of the topics covered is amazing. But there is no depth to anything so if you’re pretty familiar with biology and wildlife, there won’t be a lot in here for you. I think it is probably best for a middle-school child with an interest in biology. Some of the topics are covered more than once, but if you’re just randomly skimming and stopping at what interests you, that’s probably not an issue.
I wouldn’t trust this book as a definitive source of information however. The section on kangaroo rats contains the following quote, “Like all other rodents, it has sweat glands only on its toe pads…” Well, Caplin is a rodent and I can tell you that he sweats a lot, and not just from his toes. When he sleeps under the covers on warm nights, there is sometimes a little puddle of water. And not a few people have commented that his back is wet from sweating when we take him out in public on a hot day.
One thing I found annoying is that the titles of the sections do not mention the name of the animal. For example, what the heck is a seladang? Can I find out about it by reading Fantastic Sharks, The Most Dangerous Flower, Astounding Hibernations or none of the above? And there is no index. Luckily the capybara blurb is titled The World’s Largest Rodent, but if I didn’t know what a capybara was, that wouldn’t help.
I liked this book. There was all kinds of stuff I didn’t know. Beetles can have horns? Wow! And a seladang is a fancy name for a type of cow! Who knew that? Not me. Plus plants can disguise themselves to look like insects. I am glad they can’t make themselves look like capybaras! On the other hand, maybe that would be cool.
I especially liked the part about capybaras. It was less than a page, which was a bit disappointing, but there was this cute capybara drawing.
Illustrations by Glenn Wolff
That’s not a bad likeness of us. But the thing I liked best about the capybara entry was that it said that our sound is a “tweedle-tweet.” My owner never says I make that sound but I do. And anyway, it is that way Bill Peet described the sounds that Capyboppy made and Capyboppy is my hero.