Animal Life

Animal Tracks

Book cover: 'Animal Tracks'
Author(s): 
Arthur Dorros
Illustrator(s): 
Arthur Dorros
Copyright: 
1991
Publisher: 
Scholastic
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
30 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

One of the things that fascinates me most about Wisconsin winters (I grew up in California) are the animal tracks clearly visible in the snow. It leaves a temporary record of what was visiting while you weren't looking - what a fascinating thing for homeschoolers to look into. Animal Tracks will make a nice resource for younger students to study local wildlife. This is an illustrated narrative of animal life with a little guessing game on each page based on the tracks left by each animal. The book also contains four pages of identified tracks (including humans) and instructions for "preserving" the tracks with plaster of paris or by tracing. An excellent way to spark children's interest in nature.

Review Date: 
1999
Reviewed by: 

Animals in Winter

Book cover: 'Animals in Winter'
Author(s): 
Henrietta Bancroft
Richard Van Gelder
Copyright: 
1997
Publisher: 
HarperTrophy
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
32 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

A beautifully illustrated look at where various animals go when it snows and how they prepare for winter. We learn details of the migration of various animals (such as birds, butterflies and bats), animals that hibernate, animals that store up food for the winter and animals that have to find their food throughout the winter. Includes instructions for feeding birds and other wild animals in your own backyard.

Review Date: 
4-4-01
Reviewed by: 

AntWorks Ant Habitat

Book cover: 'AntWorks Ant Habitat'
Publisher: 
Fascinations
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

AntWorks was one of the highlights of our summer natural history studies! This simple kit became a quirky centerpiece on our dinner table, engaging the entire family from the 18-month-old who insists that they are "Nants" to a 40-something daddy. AntWorks comes as a thick-walled plastic home with a stable base; this became important as the little ones spent time watching the ants. We have tried the sand-filled ant farms with dismal spills that freed too many of the inhabitants. The AntWorks home is filled with a blue gel-like substance that provides both nourishment and liquid to the ants. Accompanying literature explains that this gel was developed by NASA for experiments carried out on the Space Shuttle. One of the nicest features is that this gel is translucent, allowing observers to see completely through the tunnels. An optional illuminator is a nice addition which makes an interesting night light, but we thought that it wasn't necessary.

Ants are not included with the kit. You can either catch your own or mail in the enclosed coupon. We opted for the mail-order ants, and that boosted interest in the project for our little ones who love to receive mail. Once the ants are added to their home, the only maintenance that is needed is opening the top for a few seconds a week to allow fresh air to enter. Occasionally you will need to remove a dead ant, but our industrious insects buried their fallen comrades deep in the gel in sealed chambers. It was incredible to observe! This kit, combined with a few books from the library and a couple of diagrams and coloring pages downloaded from the Internet, provided a wonderful investigation into the life of ants for our elementary school-aged students.

Additional notes: 

Science Kit, Dimensions: 6.5"L x 5.5"W x 1.25"D

Review Date: 
8-24-05
Reviewed by: 

Baby Whales Drink Milk

Book cover: 'Baby Whales Drink Milk'
Author(s): 
Barbara Juster Esbensen
Copyright: 
1994
Publisher: 
Harper Collins
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
32 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

A nice picture book which introduces basic facts about whales and what they are: mammals rather than fish. Includes nice pictures (with some beautiful scenery) and informative text.

Review Date: 
4-4-01
Reviewed by: 

Biology for Every Kid

Author(s): 
Janice Van Cleave
Copyright: 
1990
Publisher: 
John Wiley and Sons
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
224 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

In it's segment on "Experiments that Teach Us About Ourselves: The Amazing Human Body" this book provides 35 experiments about the body (the other segments of the book are about plant and animal life. While certainly not a comprehensive anatomy course, the book does provide interesting and simple experiments (which can easily performed at home with fairly ordinary materials) that would provide a helpful supplement to the study of anatomy.

Approximately one third of this book is devoted to "Experiments for the Beginning Biologist: The World of Plants". In the typical Van Cleave style, this segment provides 35 experiments relating to plant life that are simple and informative (and can easily be done in the home). Most experiments are designed to demonstrate certain properties of plant life (such as osmosis and diffusion, what causes plant stems to wilt, what makes plants burst when over-watered, and how water is transported through plant stems). Other experiments determine certain questions such as how plants take in nutrientsand whether it matters which direction seeds face when they are planted. Each experiments concludes with an explanation as to the "why" of the results. I find these simple but very helpful (even for moms!).

Another third or so of this book is devoted to "Experiments in the Animal Kingdom: Introductory Zoology". In the Van Cleave style, this segment provides sipmle experiments (easily performed at home) involving molds, fungi, mini-organisms, yeast, fireflies, butterflies and moths, spiderwebs, crickets, grasshoppers, flies, goldfish and earthworms. In addition to experiments involving observation and/or manipulation of these small creatures, you will find experiments which "illustrate" properties of creatures (such as a camouflage and suction) without actually working with animals.

Review Date: 
4-4-01
Reviewed by: 

Birds do the Strangest Things

Book cover: 'Birds do the Strangest Things'
Author(s): 
Leonora and Arthur Hornblow
Copyright: 
1965
Publisher: 
Random House Step-Up Books
Binding: 
Sewn Hardcover
Number of pages: 
61 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

Twenty-two stories of the natural but strange and fascinating behavior of various birds. The text covers ostriches, hummingbirds, kiwis, loons, peacocks, emperor penguins, woodpeckers and much more. The text is somewhat lengthy (approx. 12-20 lines per page), but in fairly large print and at a fairly easy reading level. My children find this book completely fascinating. Part of the "Step-Up" series which includes "Meet George Washington" et al.

Review Date: 
4-4-01
Reviewed by: 

Birds of the World

Book cover: 'Birds of the World'
Publisher: 
Dorling Kindersley
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

This is my favorite of the Dorling Kindersley: Eyewitness Handbooks and I would venture to guess that it's probably the best bird handbook you can find. Hundreds of birds, from doves and swallows, to hawks and falcons and tropical birds are included with clear photos, a small map of where they can be found, an icon showing how large they are in comparison to the book, and other basic information about their habitat, migration, etc. Our family has used this guide extensively in identifying and learning more about the substantial variety of birds we find in our own backyard. It's also interesting to see pictures of the sorts of birds we probably won't see in our backyard, such as penguins, turkeys, and eagles. The information appears to be limited to facts about different species of birds, rather than getting into more theoretical and philosophical (not to mention controversial) areas such as evolution and the environment.

Review Date: 
1999
Reviewed by: 

Dead Log Alive!

Book cover: 'Dead Log Alive!'
Author(s): 
Jo S. Kittinger
Copyright: 
1996
Publisher: 
Franklin Watts/Grolier
Binding: 
Sewn Hardcover
Number of pages: 
64 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

This book provides an interesting and detailed look at what comes to live in and around a dead log - woodpeckers, squirrels, mushrooms, fungi, moss, molds, porcupines, foxes, snakes, scorpions, millipedes, centipedes, pill bugs, salamanders, ants, termites, and beetles. Includes many interesting color photos and details about each species, how to tell them apart and much more. The book also includes an index, a glossary and suggestions for further reading.

Review Date: 
4-4-01
Reviewed by: 

Egg: A Photographic Story of Hatching

Book cover: 'Egg: A Photographic Story of Hatching'
Author(s): 
Robert Burton
Copyright: 
1994
Publisher: 
Dorling Kindersley
Binding: 
Sewn Hardcover
Number of pages: 
45 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

When you think of eggs hatching, do you tend to think of birds and chicks? Think again! Reptiles, fish and insects can hatch from eggs as well. This book provides the photo stories of the hatching of 27 different animals including Ostrich, Moorhen, Japanese Quail, Starling, Leopard Tortoise, Cornsnake, Leopard Gecko, Ladybug, Common Frog, Great Crested Newt, Goldfish and Kerry Slug. Each hatching includes numerous photos with detailed descriptions of the process and how long it takes. A final photo generally shows the creature a day or two later.

The introductory pages provide comments and illustrations on "What is an Egg?", "Who Has Eggs?", and "The Developing Egg" (with drawings of the development of a baby chick within its egg).

Reviewed by: 

Falcons Nest on Skyscrapers

Book cover: 'Falcons Nest on Skyscrapers'
Author(s): 
Priscilla Belz Jenkins
Copyright: 
1996
Publisher: 
Harper Collins
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
32 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

This is a very interesting book (with excellent illustrations) that introduces young children to various falcons living in the United States, some of their remarkable abilities and the story of how some scientists were successful in re-introducing the peregrine falcon in the Eastern United States after they nearly became extinct because of an insect spray called DDT which was used on crops earlier this century. The story focuses on Scarlett, a peregrine falcon who was born in captivity, released, and discovered building a nest thirty-three stories up on the ledge of a skyscraper in Baltimore. This location made observation ideal and we learn that she managed to find a wild falcon for a mate and that their offspring have helped significantly in restoring the falcon population.

Review Date: 
12-27-99
Reviewed by: 

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