________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 4 . . . . October 12, 2007


Naturally Wild Musicians: The Wondrous World of Animal Song.

Peter Christie.
Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 2007.
48 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $19.95 (hc).
ISBN 978-1-55451-097-9 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55451-098-6 (hc.).

Subject Headings:
Sound production by animals-Juvenile literature.
Animal sounds-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-11.

Review by Gillian Richardson.

*** /4


Fruit flies may seem insignificant, but they're sophisticated musicians. Male fruit flies perform by vibrating their wings, and their song is an important part of courtship.

In northern Scandinavia, four different fruit fly species breed at almost the same time. The flies gather on rotting plants and fruit, and a courtship free-for-all takes place. Males of one species often woo females of another.

Song sorts this out. When a female responds to his courting, a male will sing. It's the make-or-break moment for many fruit fly romances. Males sing songs typical of their species. If the music doesn't jive with that of the female's species, she loses interest.


In his second science book for children, author Peter Christie has assembled a list of animals species to show the fascinating use of song for communication. Included in the cast are some critters familiar to most of us - starlings, crickets, cicadas, chickadees, song sparrows, toads, humpback whales. But you might enjoy learning about the lesser-known examples of plainfin midshipman fish, tungara frog, Hermann's tortoise or concave-eared torrent frog. Christie's trademark is his extensive research, and his thorough examination of the topic of animal song will definitely add to your bank of knowledge. Chapter headings are intriguing: Love Songs & Battle Hymns; Song of the Guess Who; Songs in the Key of Yikes! Accompanying each descriptive section are quality close-up photos, especially useful for those unusual examples. One exception: the moth's head is cut off in the photo on page 31.

     The author does well to simplify the sophisticated science language of this topic making it accessible to kids. But the reading level of this book appears to be a bit higher than the previous one, Well-Schooled Fish and Feathered Bandits. Both were billed as suited to ages 8-11. The different perception may be due to the layout. In this book, the wider top border and added bottom border have reduced the space left for text, resulting in smaller type that is more closely set. It may be less attractive to the lower end of the target age range. More page space is taken up with wider photo borders as well. More problematic is some repetition: in at least seven instances, the author has written a variation of the same detail, basically, "animal songs are specifically for courtship and defending breeding territory." The bibliography has grown to two full pages, likely far more than is needed in a book aimed mainly at young readers. The list of Further Reading will satisfy the curious with recently published books on this topic.

     If this book encourages kids to listen to the remarkable voices of various members of the animal world, or even to their pets with greater understanding of the meaning behind the sounds, then it will have made a fine contribution to nature study for young readers.


Gillian Richardson, a freelance writer and former teacher-librarian, lives in BC.

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

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
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