Monday, July 11, 2011

Nonfiction Monday - After the Kill

After the Kill
written by Darrin Lunde; illustrated by Catherine Stock
2011 (Charlesbridge)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

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It's early morning on the Serengeti Plain and a lioness is crouching as she spots a weak member of a herd of zebras. The lioness springs and quickly tackles the zebra. With a bite to the zebra's throat, the lioness has started a sequence that will end up bringing food to a variety of species. Up to this point, After the Kill is similar to other predator/prey books that you find in the animal section of the library. Then author Darrin Lunde hooked me with this detail, "..the lioness rips the carcass open and feasts on the soft internal organs first." Whoa! This is one of those details that makes you sort of squeamish (if you're an adult) yet extremely fascinated at the same time. From pillar to post, After the Kill is a straight forward telling of what happens to a carcass on the plain. It's not unnecessarily graphic, but it doesn't pull punches either. You see the order in which animals (hyenas, jackals, vultures) approach the dead animal and what parts of the animal they take away. Older elementary students will appreciate the forthright approach chosen by Lunde and illustrator Catherine Stock. It is what sets this book apart from the other texts that you will find on this subject. Kids are watching these nature scenes on cable television (Discovery Channel, National Geographic, etc.), but while getting a great visual, these students don't walk away with much more. Books like After the Kill provide the information they need in conjunction with the visuals.

Older reluctant readers would be a good audience for After the Kill as the content is mature, but the text is not too terribly difficult to decode. Lunde's captions for the illustrations add background information that students will be eager to share with others. After the Kill may make adults a little queasy, but you will find many students who will be mesmerized by this candid look at animal life in the wild.

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