________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 7 . . . . November 24, 2006


How Animals Defend Themselves. (Kids Can Read).

Etta Kaner. Illustrated by Pat Stephens.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2006.
32 pp., pbk. & cl., $5.95 (pbk.), $14.95 (cl.).
ISBN 1-55337-905-5 (pbk.), ISBN 1-55337-904-7 (cl.).

Subject Headings:
Animal defenses-Juvenile literature.
Animal weapons-Juvenile literature.

Grades 1-3 / Ages 6-8.

Review by Renée Englot.

** /4


If you were a very small animal, how would you protect yourself from being eaten? Take a look at what these animals do.

If a snake is near, a toad may puff itself up and stretch out its back legs. This makes it look too big for the snake to swallow.

The citrus swallowtail caterpillar scares away hungry birds by pretending it's a snake. It has a fake red tongue that looks just like the tongue of a snake.


How Animals Defend Themselves is a levelled reader from the “Kids Can Read” series. Designed for newly independent readers, it is a reworking of Kaner's Animal Defenses (1999).

     The book begins effectively, comparing what a child does when frightened to what animals do when they are faced with dangers. The book proceeds through adaptations grouped by theme. Though the groupings do not neatly fit scientific categories such as camouflage, structural adaptation, behavioural adaptation, etc., there is a certain logic to the groupings. There is a table of contents, but it will not facilitate the location of specific information. There is no index. Unfortunately, the book does not conclude as well as it begins. Instead, it comes to an abrupt end with no conclusion.

     The text and illustration are interdependent. There is a nice balance of words and pictures. Though the drawings are detailed and accurate, the animal adaptations might have been more effectively portrayed with photographs. An illustration leaves room for doubt. It is easy enough to draw a flounder which blends in with the seabed or a bird which looks like a tree branch, but budding scientists may wonder if the actual fish blends in to such a degree. 

     The book is adequate, but the publishers failed to capitalize on the chance to make it outstanding. The author ought to have provided definitions for new vocabulary, bolding new words and defining them either in a glossary or a footnote, or both. The book's impact could also have been greater if the designer had added a small world map for each animal, with a red dot indicating its habitat. As it stands, little or no information is given about the animals' locations in the world. In addition, many of the animals are pictured only in their "after" mode. For example, a three banded armadillo is shown rolled into a ball for defence. However, there is no "before" picture. Many children will not know what a three banded armadillo looks like unrolled, thus lessening the impact of this dramatic defence mechanism. It is also interesting, and I would say disappointing, that the Canadian publishers chose to use American spellings (e.g. color).

     Despite its shortcomings, this book will capture the attention of young animal lovers. The text and illustrations provide some amazing facts sure to surprise even adults. 


Renée Englot is a former junior high school teacher now working as a storyteller in school settings.  She holds a Master of Arts in Children's Literature.


To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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