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Book Reviews

Animal Aha! Thrilling Discoveries in Wildlife Science

by Diane Swanson

The best part of all animal science books for kids are the “fun facts.” These are the little rewards for getting through all the boring science parts, and are usually “fun” in direct proportion to which they are also “bizarre.“

Animal Aha! by Victoria’s Diane Swanson is like one long list of fun and occasionally bizarre facts. The book’s intent is fairly straightforward: to highlight recent research and discoveries in the animal sciences that have enlarged – or even challenged – our understanding of animal behaviour and intelligence. After a brief intro that outlines the concept of animal research (and encourages kids to consider a career in same), the book’s six chapters each focus on a single animal about which new and very surprising discoveries have been made.

Elephants recognize themselves in a mirror, wild gorillas occasionally use tools, pythons’ hearts grow larger when they are digesting food, parrots can be taught to actually speak (not just mimic speech), and cockroaches learn better at night. That list may seem like one big spoiler, but the book’s real interest is in giving young readers the story behind these discoveries, and each chapter begins with an extended narrative on the actual researchers and experiments.

Swanson successfully makes the field of animal science seem like an exciting one where shockers are still possible. She’s aided by the book’s full-colour layout – with lots of close-up photos and spreads that are lively without being overly busy, the book manages to impart the message that Research is Cool!, without being too breathless or corny about it.

And, best of all, every chapter ends with a list of fun facts.