I love Jess Keating’s series “The World of Weird Animals.” I’m not the only one. Recently I checked out Pink is for Blobfish to use in a presentation; many of the pages were stuck together from all the sticky fingers that had loved that book to death. The books are brilliantly designed with compelling photos, deftly-written facts, and insightful thematic links. She’s already announced the third book in the series but I just got the second one from my library. What Makes a Monster examines creatures with a reputation–sometimes deserved, sometimes not, for monstrosity. Along the way I learned lots of cool facts about animals and had a serious think about what I personally consider monstrous. My favorite thing about Keating’s books is that when I’m reading one, I feel absolutely impelled to share it with the people around me. I have to grab my kid or my spouse to show them just this photo, or tell them just this cool fact. The next book is about cuteness. I think I better order it much, much earlier from my library.
My Awesome Summer by P. Mantis is a funny, fact-filled book about praying mantises. The end papers are covered with typical nonfiction sidebars about the science of praying mantises (about how they camouflage, where they originated, how they catch prey, etc.). But the main text of the book masquerades as a journal. It starts “May 17. I was born today! It’s a beautiful, sunny spring day!” We follow along as P. Mantis enthuses over delicious aphids and also eats his siblings, catches prey, evades predatoIrs, and grows bigger and bigger. I learned a lot about praying mantises and enjoyed looking at the world from an insect point of view. It was interesting to read the book next to What Makes a Monster since some of the praying mantis’ habits could be considered monstrous (that whole eating your siblings thing). A really fun book that conveys great nonfiction content.
What Makes a Monster? by Jess Keating, illustrations by Dave DeGrand. Alfred A. Knopf: 2017.
My Awesome Summer by P. Mantis by Paul Meisel. Holiday House: 2017