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Sunday, October 5, 2014

Creature Features, by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Thomas Allen & Son. 2014. $22.99 ages 5 and up

"Dear giant panda:

Who gave you
those black eyes?

No one. We pandas all have them. The dark fur around my eyes makes me look bigger and fiercer to a predator. I hope."

It's all about adaptation and survival when questioning the 25 animals whose odd and sometimes scary features are discussed in a format that invites their first person responses. The animals included come from many different parts of the world. Readers will be familiar with some, and not with others.

Each single page spread is constructed in the same pattern.  A greeting to the animal is accompanied by a question concerning its most noticeable feature. The answer is direct, and gives readers a sense of what makes that particular attribute so special for the creature featured. Often their survival comes as a direct result of the adaptation mentioned.

Of course, as he is wont to do, Steve Jenkins uses his remarkable talent for working with paper collage to tear and cut pieces to fashion bold, authentic animal heads that stare out from the page at a rapt audience. The features dominate each of the impressive images, which are placed on bold colored backgrounds.

"Dear babirusa:

Your tusks look
dangerous - do you
fight with them?

Sometimes. I battle
other males for
territory or mates,
and it can get pretty

I looked it up: a babirusa is a wild pig from Indonesia. ( case you didn't know, as I didn't!)

As if they don't up our knowledge enough with their thoughtful and direct, Mr. Jenkins and Ms. Page add a double page spread following the book's text to show each of the 25 creatures as silhouettes, and to scale. In this way, we can compare their size to that of an adult human. Their diet is also shared, as well as a globe for each which shows exactly where they can be found; on land or in the water. 

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