All the while Steve Jenkins has been creating vibrant, wonderfully detailed animal illustrations from cut and torn paper, he has also apparently been stockpiling startling animal facts. (For instance, the horned lizard deflects attackers by squirting blood from its eyes, and baby giraffes fall at least five feet to the ground when their mothers give birth.) There’s something remarkable on nearly every page of this gorgeous guide to the animal world, which is also a kind of greatest-hits collection, featuring many of the themes he’s explored in such books as “What Do You Do with a Tail Like This?” and “The Beetle Book.” (Did you know that one of every four living things is a beetle?) The astounding variety of animal life is pictured and described, from its earliest and smallest creatures to its biggest, fastest and deadliest. In one chapter, Jenkins uses an assortment of animals, including the Galapagos finch, sharks, mice and frogs, to explain the theory of evolution. In the final pages, Jenkins shows how he creates his nonfiction picture books, from inspiration and research to first sketches and the “fun, messy process” of making collages. Speaking of a fun and messy process, the crucifix toad regularly sheds its sticky skin, on which captured insects have been stored, and eats it.
THE ANIMAL BOOK
A Collection of the Fastest, Fiercest,
Toughest, Cleverest, Shyest — and Most Surprising — Animals on Earth
By Steve Jenkins
Houghton Mifflin. $21.99. Ages 6 to 10