Sunday, October 10, 2010
Animals That Changed the World, written by Keltie Thomas. Annick Press, 2010. $12.95 ages 9 and up
Keltie Thomas seems to know exactly what kids want to know. She does her research, and then writes with candor, humor, and an abiding interest in her subject. She tells us at the beginning:
"Animals have led our ancient ancestors to explore the world, trampled and chowed down whole fields, creating deserts in their wake, killed millions of people as "secret agents" of disease, and even separated the rich from the poor."
If that doesn't pique your interest, I am not sure what might. She begins with the goat and regales her readers with a host of facts about the goat's development over the ages. She refutes a commonly held belief that goats will eat anything, including tin cans, clothing and garbage. In fact, they are quite picky but their need to eat plants from top to bottom meant that they often killed the plants and and perhaps helped to make the Saharan expanse larger because of their destructive eating habits. HUH?
She moves on to sheep and cattle. An opening paragraph gives a small bit of information from history and then invites us forward to make a number of discoveries. The 'mug shot' offers names given, the date they were thought to be domesticated, how many exist in the world today, those that live in the wild, and their claim to fame. Clear color photos, charts, cartoon illustrations and information boxed fill the pages and encourage readers to keep moving on to the next section. There are seven chapters; they tell about animals from ancient times to the present, from pets to work animals, from agents of disease to those that spark inspiration.
Keltie Thomas also provides a world map at the beginning (although I was not able to connect the colored dots to any other part of the book), suggestions for more reading and a sharing of the sources used for this book. She works out an 'animal footprints in time' timeline to help us understand their development throughout history. She ends with an index that encourages readers to go back to a favorite part.
There are more than 20 animals whose roles are clearly distinguished; they include dogs, dolphins, mosquiotes and pigeons. Each had an impact on our history. So much I did not know, and will now try to keep in my head, including:
"Pigeon droppings land everywhere. One pigeon alone poops 12 kilograms (26 pounds) of excrement a year. Good thing pigeon poop makes excellent fertilizer."
Now, if we could get those pesky pigeons to aim for our gardens, not our cars and sidewalks!