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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Amazing Animals, written by Margriet Ruurs with paintings by W. Allan Hancock. Tundra, 2011. $19.95 ages 6 and up

"Although the silkworm was originally native to northern China, it is now bred all over the world. It eats one thing only: toxic mulberry leaves."

Margriet Ruurs knows her audience and she has obviously done her research for this handy and user-friendly introduction to some truly 'amazing animals' for young readers.

The information she has chosen to share is categorized in sections according to a variety of characteristics that include diet, reproduction, hunting, communication, and defense. The entries are very succinct and offer tiny tidbits that young naturalists will lock away to be shared later. Adults will be as interested as their listeners while sharing so many facts, including this one:

"The termite is one of millions in a colony, and they work together using soil, saliva, and mud, to build their mound. Termites build the tallest and more elaborate nests of any animal. A termite mound can be 6.1 meters (2o feet) tall and can last for years."

Kids who are already interested in nonfiction will find much here to keep them busy reading and those who have not yet tried it, might just find a brand new and intriguing way to look at the animal world. It sets the stage for them to go out and make some of their own discoveries and gives them a format for sharing newly learned information.

It doesn't often happen that the writer has a say in the illustrator for her work. In this case, Tundra offered Margriet Ruurs a chance to suggest someone whose work she would like to see used. She wanted to work with another B.C. resident, W. Allan Hancock from Comox Valley. It is a great collaboration.

This is a first book for the artist and he handled the work with great skill and detail. Using the animal's habitat as the backdrop young readers get a realistic and close-up look at the animals mentioned. Light and shadow play an important role, as does color change from brilliant hues to quite subdued.

I will leave you with this observation concerning homebuilding:

"The male betta fish lives in shallow, tropical waters and spends a lot of time making his bubble nest. He blows and gathers bubbles at the water surface, making sure there are enough to cushion the eggs that his mate will lay. When the female betta fish releases her eggs, he quickly collects them in the safety of the nest, standing guard until they hatch." Good work, Dad!!

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