As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

May 16, 2013

An Introduction to Capstone Press's "Animal Weapons and Defenses" Series

Reviews by Kim Harris Thacker: mommy, writer, and Bookshop Talk host

Capstone Press is known for publishing quality nonfiction books for classrooms and school libraries, but any animal lover will enjoy reading the books reviewed in this post, all of which books are from Capstone's "Animal Weapons and Defenses" series, published under the "Blazers" imprint.  

Each book's intended audience is children about 6-9 years of age, though older readers (even adults) will enjoy the books.  They all contain gorgeous, vivid photographs and graphics and are written in a conversational tone suitable to their intended readership. Also, each book contains a "Fierce Facts" section, a helpful glossary and index, a "Read More" section (which lists other books of a subject similar to that which the book covers), and an "Internet Sites" section (which supplies readers with a code that, when entered into the kid-friendly FactHound web site, provides lists of other critter-loving web sites).

Because the books reviewed in this post are similar in theme, I've created only one "Content Table" for the books, which you can find at the bottom of these reviews.  If there is any content of note for an individual book, you'll find mention of it in its individual review.

In the fight for survival, poison and venom are deadly weapons. They can help animals defend themselves against predators or conquer unsuspecting prey. Find out which animals carry the deadliest toxins, and how poison and venom differ between species. You might want to stay clear of these animals! (Amazon)

Poisonous, venomous creatures can be found all over the world. They range from the poison arrow frog (which possesses enough poison in its brightly colored skin to be deadly to ten people) to the skunk (whose smelly spray can cause temporary blindness). Along with several other animals and insects, both the poison arrow frog and the skunk are discussed in this book.

In the game of survival, these animals take a bite out of the competition. Piercing teeth, sharp claws, and powerful jaws can fight off the most daunting enemy and help catch the cleverest prey. Learn about some of natures most fiercesome opponents. (Amazon)

In this animal-eat-animal world, strong jaws and sharp teeth and claws can mean the difference between being the predator and being the prey. Animals who possess these menacing features range from the hyena (whose jaws are stronger than a lion’s), to the pint-sized mantis shrimp (whose claws can shatter glass). Along with several other animals and insects, both the hyena and the mantis shrimp are highlighted in this book, which contains up-close-and-personal photographs, some of which are rather bloody and would be more suited to readers who are at the latter end of the book’s age-range. 

When these animals face a dangerous situation, they either run away, stay and fight, or hide from sight. Find out which of your favorite animals are masters of speed, strength, and stealth. (Amazon)

Many animals are strong and are quiet hunters. Still more can run and fly.  But only a few creatures possess extreme speed, strength, and stealth. Such creatures range from the peregrine falcon (who can dive to seize its prey at speeds of more than two hundred miles per hour), to the dung beetle (who can carry 850 times its own weight). Find out more about these animals and others in this interesting book!

When it comes to battle, some animals seem to be natural warriors. They may have spines or armor to fend off predators, or horns made to attack. Enemies that mess with these animals are in for an unpleasant surprise. (Amazon)

In days of yore, knights wore armor and carried swords. Though man-to-man jousting has long gone the way of the fabled Round Table, animal-to-animal battles rage daily—and many creatures come equipped with armor and spikes that would make the bravest knight quiver in fear. Such creatures range from the small sea urchin (whose spines are not only pointy, but can also contain venom), to the scimitar-horned oryx (a type of antelope whose long, curved horns look like—and are nearly as sharp as—scimitar swords). What is your favorite animal's prospect of survival in an all-out battle? Does size matter (as in the case of the sea urchin)? Find out all about animal armor in this book!

When it comes to survival, appearances are everything! A harmless animal can frighten predators away by appearing dangerous. A dangerous animal can lure prey by appearing harmless. Discover the disguises of some of your favorite animals. (Amazon)

Modern magicians may be able to make doves vanish up sleeves and rabbits appear inside top hats, but the animal kingdom has been performing such seemingly magical feats for millennia. Take, for example, the courageous bittern, which points its vulnerable neck and chest toward predators, because it is camouflaged in only those areas. There’s also the harmless scarlet king snake, which plays copycat (or copysnake) to a poisonous snake: The scarlet king snake’s body is striped in bands of color (black, red, black, then yellow), like the coral snake’s, though the coral snake’s bands are in a different order. Along with several other animals and insects, both the bittern and the scarlet king snake are highlighted in this book.

Sometimes being gross is an animals best bet for survival. Poop, slime, and vomit arent just nasty. They can save an animals life. Get the inside scoop on some of the most disgusting animal weapons and defenses. (Amazon)

When potential predators corner some creatures, the prey strikes out with sharp claws. Other prey, like hagfish and short-horned lizards, take a more...interesting approach to self-defense. The hagfish covers itself with a slime that clogs the gills of predators, and the short-horned lizard shoots blood (which stings the eyes of its enemies) from valves that are located near its eyes. These bizarre facts and more are contained in this book.

Market: Picture Books, Nonfiction
Violence: descriptions of how animals defend themselves (sometimes to the death)
Language: none
Sensuality: none
Adult themes: I wouldn't necessarily call animal violence an "adult" theme, but parents, teachers, and librarians should be aware that this is a major theme in these books. I didn't find the approach to this theme to be at all unsuitable, except, perhaps, in the TEETH, CLAWS, AND JAWS book.


Sharon Himsl said...

These are exactly the kind of books my young grandson loves. No fiction for him, thank you. He wants the real stuff. Thanks, Kim!

Amy Finnegan {} said...

Two of my daughters have been exactly the same way, Sharon. Nonfiction is by far their favorite. In fact, my 16 yr old still likes very few novels, and if she ever does, it's almost always Jules Verne. But put a biography in front of her, and she eats it right up. And this love of nonfiction started right in the beginning, with books like these. Great reviews, Kim :)

Anonymous said...

These books really are fabulous! My daughters and I gobbled them up ALL IN ONE DAY! They would make the perfect addition to an elementary school library or classroom or to any animal lover's private collection!