Nonfiction picture books “Amazing Animals” and “Amazing Insects” around the world are truly amazing

Two recently released nonfiction picture books, “Amazing Animals Around the World” and “Amazing Insects Around the World” entranced both me and my six-year-old grandson. To be honest, I wasn’t sure of his reaction because while he does love nonfiction books about animals, even those aimed at adult readers, these books don’t have photographs but rather simple, muted illustrations of the animals and insects. It didn’t matter. Once he opened the books and saw the plethora of unusual animals (some of which I had never heard of in my rather long life), he was hooked. In fact, in the ultimate sign of approval, he didn’t want to give them back to me.

There’s a lot to like about these books both from a six-year-old point of view and from the point of view of this retired teacher. While young readers (and even not-so-young readers) will really enjoy learning about these unusual and, yes, amazing creatures, teachers will like the nonfiction text features that both books feature.

The Contents is organized in a clever manner. Both books begin with a section on “Our Planet” which is a perfect introduction to the rest of the book. Then both books go from sharing broad information to more specific information about animals and insects. For animals, we learn about those from Africa and Asia in one section, and those in South America in another. The next sections deal with “Armor and Scales,” “Toxic and Deadly” (perhaps my grandson’s favorite!), “Living Fossils” and “Long, Sticky Tongues,” There are additional sections on camouflage and size. In the insect book the sections are divided into logical divisions like bees, caterpillars, butterflies, moths and scorpionfly. Then there are two sections about insects “Among the Trees” and two on builders—some on the ground and some up high. We learn about defense systems and again about camouflage. “Giant vs. Tiny” appears in this book as well, with a section on “Danger: Poison!”

Both books also have a section at the end on “Conservation” and, of course, a glossary. The organization of the information on each page makes the text easy to access, and the words in bold let young readers know they can go to the glossary for help if they don’t understand them. Both books would be very valuable in a classroom setting to help teach students about nonfiction text features, and to allow them to peruse the books on their own to practice using those text features. Kids will also just enjoy learning about these amazing, unique creatures.

Interesting information I learned includes that in the rainforest there are treehopper bugs that care for their young until they are old enough to be self-sufficient. I had no idea any insects did this. I had never heard of the solenodon, about which is written: “Among the strangest mammals in the world, this species has a very close resemblance to mammals that lived near the end of the age of dinosaurs. It is a really primitive mammal—one of the very few that has venom.” There is also a section on “Living Fossils” about animals who have remained unchanged for millions of years like the Chinese giant salamander, the purple frog, and the gharial.

These two books would be a great addition to any school or home library and certainly to a classroom bookshelf, as well! Add these to the nonfiction picture books mentioned in “Nonfiction picture books to inform and entertain” and “Nonfiction animal picture books for back-to-school adventure and learning.”

Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover books provided by the Penguin Workshop, the publisher, for review purposes.