Monday, January 26, 2009

NonFiction Monday: Extreme Animals

Dewey: 590

Extreme animals: the toughest creatures on Earth by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Neal Layton, 2006

Extreme makeovers, extreme sports, extreme heat, extreme music: the word extreme conjures up images of rocketing skateboarders or freerunning athletes. Nicola Davies shares a sense of wonder and fascination with the living organisms that thrive and survive in seemingly inhospitable environments, dubbing them, extreme animals.

Tiny bacteria, camels, penguins, frogs and polar bears are just some of the living things that make a who's who list of these animals. Davies describes "how" they do it. She details the penguin's internal heating system and illustrator, Neal Layton, provides a drawing of how it works. Reptiles store water, camels have an internal brain cooler. Star fish and sponges can survive being cut apart. Extreme temperatures and extreme ocean depth would crush some creatures but others have adapted to these environments.

Neal Layton's drawings and cartoons illustrate and clarify the subject. His irreverent humor underscores the information. According to Davies, a sponge can be whirled in a blender and reassemble itself. Layton shows us a scientist quaffing a drink from the blender while a horrified co-worker murmers, "That's not a smoothie."

Other cartoon character offer commentary as a polar bear holds a sign, "Live Naked" or a camel gasps "hot" or "cold" as the day/night cycle. Even the index and glossary are embellished with small drawings which clarify and illustrate ideas and terms. The hardy tardigrade holds a sign, "Tardigrades Rule OK!"

If you've ever wondered why polar bears and penguins don't turn into popsicles, this book is for you.
I found it utterly irresistible!


tanita✿davis said...

I'm sure it is very, very wrong of me, but the scientist-drinking-sponge thing made me laugh right out loud. Ooh, gross. And as an illustration, perfect.

Camille said...

The picture is hilarious! This is a very witty nonfiction book!

Elaine Magliaro said...


Thanks for this review. I'm an admirer of Nicola Davies' books. EXTREME ANIMALS looks like a nonfiction book I'd really like.