written by Nicola Davies; illustrated by Neal Layton
2012 (Candlewick Press)
Source: Orange County Library
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Stabbing and strangling, poisoning and drowning, electrocuting, exploding, dive-bombing, and even death by gluing!
What a great hook! How could a nonfiction fan stop after that lead sentence? Each section of this deadly and drolly animated book focuses on a different way that animals can meet their doom. The first segment is on killer cats. A great diagram with labels shows the various parts of a cat that contribute to its ability to hunt. Another illustration shows a lion, with a chalkboard, coaching fellow lions through the steps of capturing a zebra. Nicola Davies doesn't hold back with the text either. She compares the bite of a lion to a staple gun clamping off a prey's mouth and nose. This book is probably not for the sensitive type. Another gruesome trick may be pulled off by orca whales. They are thought to flip sharks upside down or hold them still to keep them from breathing. Hard to believe there is an animal, other than humans, that bullies sharks! Perhaps my favorite part of the book is on the second two page spread. There are ten animals featured in a trading card format. I would have a hard time deciding between the rookie cards of the carpenter ant, which explodes and covers its enemies in glue, and the bombardier beetle which sprays boiling toxic liquid out of its rear end.
Deadly! is a book for the kid that loves animal facts and is not squeamish. I'm finding this crowd to be bigger each year I teach. Below the surface gruesomeness, there are some really smart things going on in the text. For example, Davies compares wolves and orca whales in the way that they hunt in packs. That is the kind of thinking that we want our students to do. Students will also be attracted to the humor in Neal Layton's illustrations. My third grade daughter was sufficiently amused by this book.