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Dave Taylor

Mississauga (Ont.), Crabtree Publishing, 1990. 32pp, cloth, ISBN 0-86505-367-7 (cloth) $19.95, ISBN 0-86505-367-9 (paper) $9.95. (Animals and Their Ecosystems series.) CIP


Dave Taylor

Mississauga (Ont.), Crabtree Publishing, 1990. 32pp, cloth, ISBN 0-86505-366-9 (cloth) $19.95, ISBN 0-86505-396-0 (paper) $9.95. (Animals and Their Ecosystems series.) CIP


Dave Taylor

Mississauga (Ont.), Crabtree Publishing, 1990. 32pp, cloth, ISBN 0-86505-365-0 (cloth) $19.95, ISBN 0-86505-395-2 (paper) $9.95. (Animals and Their Ecosystems series.) CIP


Dave Taylor

Mississauga (Ont.), Crabtree Publishing, 1990. 32pp, cloth, ISBN 0-86505-364-2 (cloth) $19.95, ISBN 0-86505-394-4 (paper) $9.95. (Animals and Their Ecosystems series.) CIP

Grades 3 to 8/Ages 8 to 13
Reviewed by Fred Leicester.

Volume 19 Number 5
1991 October

There are currently many books on the market depicting the lives of various animal species, but this set of four books stands out as a fine example of the growing trend towards dealing wish animals as part of a system.

It is important that children learn early that animals and plants (and humans) do not live in isolation, that each species is a part of an intricately woven pattern of life — an ecosystem. For example, the alligator is introduced as a member of the crocodilians and cold-bloodedness is discussed. This is followed by an assessment of the alligator as a skilled predator, alligator facts, and alligator reproduction. Then there is a description of the Everglades, and sections on animals and birds found in the same environment, reptile relatives, keystone species, dangers to the alligator, and an assessment of where the alligator stands today. Each of the books follows this general pattern: information on the animal, the ecosystem, other species sharing the system, dangers to the animal, and present status.

Other strengths of this set include captioned colour photographs on each page that relate to the clear, interesting, scientifically accurate text. The author is never condescending, rarely indulges in anthropomorphism, and packs a wealth of information in short, sub-titled sections. Difficult vocabulary is ex­plained, and there is a glossary of scientific terms, as well as a short index.

It was refreshing to read a text in which the author has maintained, I think, an admirable level of objectivity. Commenting on the habit of lions that kill and eat newborn cubs of former males when taking over their pride, Taylor writes, "Humans sometimes have difficulty understanding the behaviour of animals. Although their actions appear cruel, these animals are neither good nor bad; they are just acting according to their instincts."

He makes the same comment after noting that hyenas and wild dogs start feeding on their prey while the prey is still alive, adding, "human values should not be used to judge either animal." Sometimes Taylor leaves unanswered questions for the reader to form his own opinion. For example, should national parks in Africa be used exclusively for wildlife or should the demands of a hungry population be given precedence?

Although written for a younger audience, these are by no means "children's" books. There is plenty in these slim volumes for adults and I found them fascinating reading. I now know the difference between buffalo and bison and alligators and crocodiles, and I also learned that elephants actually walk on their toes and are the only animal with four knees. Their trunks contain over forty thousand muscles and tendons! Fascinating stuff.

Because this excellent set contains a lively, balanced, objective and accurate text and many photos, and deals with the animal in relation to its habitat, I would highly recommend these books for an elementary or junior high school library.

Fred Leicester, Golden School District, Golden, B.C.
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