Lots of superheroes have amazing lungs. Take Superman: He can blow air with hurricane force. He once sucked an entire tornado into his lungs and blew the twister into space. His freezing breath can turn anything into a block of ice. But even Superman needs to breathe in and out, just like you.
But not Eno! His lungs do the impossible. It’s as if his lungs—are you ready?—it’s as if his lungs never, ever breathe out! Impossible! Amazing!
You look puzzled. You’re thinking, “What’s so impossibly amazing about never breathing out?
Well, to explain the IMPOSSIBLE AMAZINGNESS OF THE AVIAN LUNG, I, your Brave and Noble Guide to the Superpowered Heroes of the Animal Kingdom, will take off my jacket, tighten my shoelaces, and challenge Eno to a race.
Ostriches is the third title in the “Superpower Field Guide” series, with the first two titles being Beavers and Moles. Ostriches provides readers with an up-close and personal look at the amazing attributes of ostriches. A young girl guides readers through the examination and analysis of details that make ostriches extraordinary. These include telescopic vision, powerful legs and toes, huge wings with functions other than flight, highly efficient lungs, superior speed and eggs built for survival in a harsh climate. Two quizzes, a Glossary and Further Ostrich Reading complete the book. Well-labeled illustrations and sketches help to extend the accounts. They appear mainly in black, brown and yellow.
The appeal of these entertaining books is the facetious language choices and chatty style used to present the amazing and often little-known facts. For instance, ostrich characteristics are summed up this way: “...ostriches are a strange combination of bits: supersize chicken body, snaky neck, bobble head, no-fly wings, horse legs, horrible toes—and those are just the parts you can see.” This fun approach ensures that the details linger in one’s memory. Most questions are anticipated, and explanations are thorough: e.g. we’re told point-by-point “which parts are tall (neck) and which parts are heavy (thigh muscles)” to clarify why such heavy birds (145 kg/320 lb) are able to run so fast. And we’ll easily understand why big eyes are far more valuable than a tiny brain (in such a small head) after a logical discussion of ostrich survival. New terminology is frequently dealt with in context in a playful way: e.g. “Do you know what disembowel means? It means the lion’s guts aren’t in its body anymore, which is a very, very bad thing for the lion.”
The book has no table of contents. Instead, a list of Eno the Ostrich’s superpowers, 10 in all, is given as readers first meet Eno. The book is divided by heading pages: e.g. Superpower #1 Colossal Orbs of Telescopic Vision. However, this organization seems to weaken at section #6, Do-it-all Dino Flaps, which describes not only wings but also the neck, tiny head and lungs even though #7 is entitled, The Impossible Ever-Flow Lung. And, an editing slip: the first page heading, This an ostrich, is missing ‘is’.
Fans of the previous volumes will enjoy Ostriches. There’s enough intriguing material, cleverly presented, to capture young minds and encourage curiosity about ostriches. Readers will undoubtedly anticipate the appearance of the fourth and final installment of these guides which will feature eels.
Gillian Richardson is a freelance writer living in British Columbia.