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Sunday, November 4, 2018

Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs. Written by Melissa Stewart and illustrated by Stephanie Laberis. Peachtree, Fiitzhenry & Whiteside, 2018. $23.95 ages 6 and up

"It takes a Galapagos tortoise
almost six hours to travel a
mile. What a slowpoke! Most
people can walk that far in
just twenty minutes.

Why don't these creeping
critters get a move on?
Because tortoises don't
need speed."

Lucky me! I have been reading a number of excellent animal information books recently, and have been happy to share them with you. Today I want to add this one to your list of books you will want to add to your classroom, school library, or for a child you know who loves animals and wants to know everything there is to know about them.

These are not the animals often featured in the books we share with children. In fact, Melissa Stewart lets readers know that on the first page.

"But this book isn't about animals we admire. It's about the
unsung underdogs of the animal world. Don't you think it's time
someone paid attention to them?"

You won't find elephants and cheetahs here. You might, however, find some truly fascinating and often unfamiliar creatures whose ability to adapt and thrive make them worthy of attention. Ms. Stewart begins with the 'pipsqueaks'. After introducing a few, she informs readers about a few of their ways to avoid capture by their enemies. And she goes on to relate information about many creatures that have been able to adapt to their environment and ensure their place in the animal world. I appreciate her inclusion of her readers with the questions she asks to get them thinking critically.

"What's the world's clumsiest creature? Probably
the western fence lizard. As it skitters along tree
branches, it sometimes loses its balance and falls
to the forest floor. Thud. 
Why does the little lizard run so fast that
it stumbles over its own feet? Because it needs
speed to catch quick-crawling spiders and
insects. Wouldn't you rather take a tumble
once in a while than starve to death?"

The text is personal, accessible, and spirited. That makes for a fun read while learning a great deal. The research, as always, is precise and admirable. The digital illustrations add humor, and match the tone and text perfectly. Backmatter offers further tidbits that add context for info already provided. Then readers are on their own to do some of their own research.

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