When the book Unusual Creatures: A Mostly Accurate Account of Some of the World’s Strangest Animals by Michael Hearst showed up in our mailbox, Henry (my nine-year-old) yelped with delight. He’s obsessed with animals, geography, and weirdness, so this book seemed tailor-made for him.
However, he’s apparently working through a cynical period, so, after looking through the book for a few minutes, he said, “Yeah, I wish there were more animals I didn’t know about.” Well, excuse me, Mr. Know-it-All (note that I didn’t say that out loud; seems like sarcasm breeds cynicism, yes?).
Well, the book looked pretty cool to me, but I left it on the table and walked up to my room in the attic to fold laundry.
Over the next hour, Henry probably burned 1000 calories running from the dining room to the attic to relay amazing facts. “The hagfish can make enough slime in five minutes to fill five 1-gallon jugs!” “The blue-footed booby’s nostrils are permanently closed!” “A baby echidna is called a puggle!” “The star-nosed mole is the fastest-eating mammal!” “A platypus bill is not recyclable!”
So it turned out he liked Unusual Creatures after all. And why not? Every page is a new wacky animal, complete with drawings, biological classifications, and geographical locations (with map). Some pages have crazy facts, some have poems, some have a list of multiple choice questions, and some have lists of facts that all seem ridiculous but are under the heading “True or True?”
This book can be very silly (see above: poems, and the fact about a platypus bill not being recyclable), and that makes it even better. The only thing that might make this book even better would be if there were photos of the animals, but there’s a pleasing, old-school-textbook feel to the drawings, and it definitely gives the animals a nice continuity. Really, I don’t see how you could go wrong with a book about incredibly bizarre animals, all of which are real, with a bunch of crazy facts about them.
You know how they say that, for instance, every 3-year-old has OCD? Or that, if you met an adult who acted like your 4-year-old, they’d be clinically insane? I think all 8-10 year olds think they’re trying out for some kind of Jeopardy/Trivial Pursuit Quiz-a-thon. So, basically, if you have a 4th or 5th grader to buy a book for, this is the one you should get. They’ll love you for it.
Here’s the book trailer, to get you in the mood!