Creature Features


Written by Steve Jenkins & Robin Page, Illustrated by Steve Jenkins

Houghton Mifflin, 2014

Dear tapir:

Why is your nose crooked?

The plot in a nutshell: Animals explain their unique features

Each featured animal is asked a specific question regarding an aspect of their body that seems unusual. They reply by explaining what purpose the strange feature serves. A few examples include the Egyptian vulture, whose featherless face is suited to its carrion diet, the leaf-nosed bat’s strange nose that helps direct his sounds forward and the long tongue of the sun bear, that helps him reach into termite mounds.

I have always been a fan of books that manage to walk the line between information and entertainment and there are few author/illustrators who pull it off as well as the husband and wife team of Steve Jenkins and Robin Page. In past books, they’ve covered everything from animal relationships to the different ways that specific animals move. I love the format of this book, in which the animals get to respond to questions about their appearance. It provides a lot of opportunity for fun, with the animals responding very conversationally and occasionally, reacting the same way that a person would react. (The mandrill, for instance, would rather not talk about his colorful rear end.)

The axolotl is kind enough to share a guide to pronouncing his name.

The axolotl is kind enough to share a guide to pronouncing his name.

A lot of work went into the pictures for this book, which are done in torn and cut paper collage. Mr. Jenkins features a section on his website where he outlines the entire process for creating these unique and eye-catching images and you can even watch a video of the pictures being put together. The back pages feature a size comparison chart of all the animals mentioned in the book, with a human thrown in as a point of reference. Each animal’s geographic location and typical diet is listed as well. A bibliography offers suggestions for further reading. I thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful book and learned a lot of things I didn’t know before.

And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that many things that seem foreign have very simple and logical explanations.


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