Wednesday, March 29, 2017
WILD & WONDERFUL WEDNESDAY: Crow Smarts/Insects/The Hidden Life of a Toad
ABOUT THE BOOK
One of the biggest differences between humans and animals is the ability to understand the idea of “If I do X, Y might happen.” New Caledonian crows seem to possess the intelligence to understand this “causal” concept. Why do crows have this ability? What does the crow know and what does it tell us about brain size, the evolution of intelligence, and just who is the smartest creature on the planet? In the latest addition to the Scientists in the Field series, the creators of The Frog Scientist take us to a beautiful Pacific island, where a lively cast of both crows and scientists is waiting to amuse and enlighten us.
This entry in the Scientists in the Field series tells of the work of Dr. Gavin Hunt as he studies the crows that live in New Caledonia out in the Pacific Ocean, just north of New Zealand. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the work Hunt is doing and the intelligence of these birds. I definitely finished this book with a great appreciation for the cleverness of crows. Interesting discussions about the use of tools and problem solving among different species including humans, chimpanzees, and crows provided some interesting food for thought. The gorgeous photographs add such a great touch to this informative and fascinating book. This is another great addition to one of my all time favorite series.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Popular science writer Sneed B. Collard III gets creepy-crawly with many different kinds of insects, detailing their habitats, defense systems, communication techniques, and mating rituals. Colorful, closeup photos are paired with a kid-friendly narrative that boasts humor and accessible explanations about beetles, spider wasps, moths, and more.
I am not particularly a bug person. In fact, I prefer to avoid them whenever possible. But I found this book rather informative and entertaining as well. I haven't read any of Collard's books before now so I didn't realize his tendency to include snide, funny comments in his text. Here's an example: "The housefly often spits out digestive juices to first dissolve the food, then sponges it up. I'd think twice before sharing your milkshake with one" (25). The book has a comment like that on about every page which keeps you awake and smiling while reading about insects. Since the topic is a rather enormous one, Collard keeps to generalities while giving plenty of examples of each of his specific comments. The photographs do a nice job of connecting to the text showing some of the different insects mentioned in the text. The captions help explain why the photograph was included. With a striking cover and full of fascinating information about insects this book is a must have for young insect aficionados.
ABOUT THE BOOK
In jaw-dropping photos, Doug Wechsler captures the life cycle of the American toad from egg to tadpole to adult. To get these images, Wechsler sat in a pond wearing waders, went out night after night in search of toads, and cut his own glass to make a home aquarium. The resulting photos reveal metamorphosis in extreme close-up as readers have never seen it before.
Budding naturalists will be transfixed by this unprecedented peek into the secrets of tadpole transformation.
I've never actually realized everything involved in a tadpole becoming a toad/frog. So for me, this book was fascinating. Clearly the author/photographer spent many hours looking for and taking pictures of the American toad. It was also fun to read about the process of getting the photographs. The short text, divided chronologically, makes for a great read-a-loud, and the photographs are amazing. The book takes the reader from the first hatching to the next egg laying, including reproduction. The reproduction section is handled very professionally and factually. The information at the end includes additional facts about toads, saving toads, and getting the photos. I especially loved the photo of the toadlet next to a dime that demonstrates just how small it is. The book also includes websites and books that children can use to learn more about the topic.