Monday 11 November 2019

Weird, Wild, Amazing!

Weird, Wild, Amazing! by Tim Flannery, illustrated by Sam Caldwell (Hardie Grant Egmont) HB RRP ISBN 9781760501587

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

A mammologist, author Tim Flannery was curator of mammals at the Australian Museum in Sydney for 20 years. During this time, he visited most of the islands between eastern Indonesia and Fiji, discovering new species of marsupials, rats and bats. In an interesting introduction to this substantial and very interesting book, Flannery tells how his discovery, at the age of eight, of the fossilised remains of an extinct sea urchin, inspired his love of dinosaurs and the years that followed leading to his illustrious career.

This handsome non-fiction book begins with colourful spotlights on land, sea and air creatures and then a list of contents under headings, ‘Concepts’, ‘Water,’ ‘Sky’, ‘Forest’ and ‘Desert’ plus an index and a glossary. In the section titled ‘Water’, there’s a list of water animals including jellyfish, piranhas, frogs and toads, pufferfish and many more. Pages are devoted to animals: under ‘Whales’ for instance, there are fascinating sub-headings such as ‘Huge Heads V Big Brains’, ‘Singing Stars’ and ‘Seasoned Travellers’. In ‘Diving Champs’, the reader learns that sperm whales can dive more than a kilometre deep in the ocean to look for giant squid, holding their breath for up to an hour and a half at a time. It seems their heads are packed with ‘spermaceti’ which is thought to help these whales adjust their ability to float or sink in the water.

Throughout the book which has many break-out boxes on each page, there are amazing facts and figures. Consider some of the interesting sub-headings” ‘Poop and Pee’, ‘The Biggest Creature Ever’, ‘Terrible Table Manners’ and ‘Spitting’. Flannery certainly knows what will amuse and interest young readers and provides facts and figures from his many scientific studies. There’s a great few pages about naked mole rats which live in colonies of about 75, each with its own job to perform. Reading about them, you realise a similarity with bees insofar as there is a queen whose job is to eat all the best food and have lots of babies, their dads, security guards and workers which dig tunnels for everyone, gather food and look after the queen’s babies.

Information is broken down into small columns which invite the reader to either read from cover to cover or to dip in wherever and whenever. And there are plenty of colourful critters on each page with boxes of all colours to draw the eye in.
A terrific read for children aged 10 years and up. Highly recommended.

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