written by Charles Ghigna
2016 (Liberty Street)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher
The ghost octopus has no pigment in its skin. It also has very few muscles.
So what’s to recommend this book? Let’s be honest with each other. There are several books out there that are full of photographs of cool and unusual animals. They tend to look the same. Let me tell you why this one is a keeper. First, it truly has unusual animals on display. Ever heard of a rhombic egg eater? Me either, and I read A LOT of these kinds of books. This geometric marvel hangs out in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. How do I know that? One of the four types of pages in this text is the Creature Feature. You get a table full of facts that includes size, habitat, diet, and conservation status. Also included free of charge is a map that shows the location of the featured creature. Other animals in this book that were new to me included the rosy wolfsnail, perhaps the baaadest snail in town. It moves three times as fast as other snails and is a carnivore. Sneaks up on other snails leaving nothing but a shell. Whoa! Do you want to teach theme? This book has a second type of page called the gallery which gathers weird critters under one umbrella. My favorite is The Throw-Up Throw-Down theme. Included is the Northern Fulmar which throws up an oily liquid to thwart predators. Want to teach the skill of comparing and contrasting? The third type of page is Creature Collection. One section, Bugging Out, has bizarre beetles, moths, and other insects that can be viewed as a way to work on contrasting two or more insects. Which one looks more fierce? Who is more likely to survive in the wild? I envision asking students to use this spread as the source for a fun opinion writing activity. The final type of page is the Macroview which takes a tiny animal and shows you the smallest details through a huge photograph. Look into the creepy eyes of a praying mantis. See the scales of a changeable lizard. This is where you can pull in a lesson on geometric shapes.
I keep thinking that we will run out of cool and gross animals, but I have been proven wrong once again. You want this book because it is the hot topic of informational text for kids. You will find very few children who won’t go gaga over Animal Planet’s Strange, Unusual, Gross, and Cool Animals. My sixth grader just devoured it like a bowl of ice cream with sprinkles.