A noteworthy review of Science Around Us from Science Books and Films on March 1, 2005
These seven volumes are part of a larger set of 20 new titles, collectively called Science Around Us. Along with five others, the seven are devoted to biology, while eight more treat physics. Each title is 32 pages, with all color photographs, a full table of contents and an index, a glossary, related sidebars, topical questions, and related sources, including the Internet. Although the books are written for younger readers, the information and pictures in them may be used by students in middle grades as well. The individual books relate the basic information on each group of animals, but each also gets specific as needed. Invertebrate animals are covered in seven volumes, including three described here. Worms covers all the major types of worms, but includes even giant tube worms, bristle worms, and the far more familiar earthworms and leeches. Mollusks and Crustaceans combines two quite different animal groups. First each group is described and then the various subgroups. Almost each major type in each group is illustrated in color. Spiders and Scorpions includes the closely related ticks and mites. The four other volumes on invertebrate animals are about insects, sea jellies, sea stars, and sponges. Vertebrate animals have a volume devoted to each major class. These books follow the same format and are notable for their excellent and detailed color photography. Amphibians examines an evolutionary line from fish to terrestrial amphibians and then describes the major groups in the line, including the less common tropical caecilians. A final discussion is a very timely introduction to endangered wildlife and conservation needs. Reptiles, too, discusses evolution and briefly mentions extinct dinosaurs, but the book mostly reviews the major groups of living reptiles. The cover photo of a large iguana is exceptional. Although all of the volumes are quite on the mark, there is one mislabeled photo in this volume, but obscure enough to be unlikely to worry most readers. Birds, more than other of the volumes, concentrates on the anatomy and behavior of the animals of the title, with only a few pages devoted to the main groups of birds. One chapter is devoted just to the egg. In many ways, this is a more satisfactory book by giving more details to the characteristics of birds. Mammals devotes half of its pages to the characteristics of mammals and half to the types of mammals. The brief review of primates does include the most successful mammal: human beings. The text in all the books is clear and does not avoid technical terms, which are highlighted in blue and are briefly explained (but not necessarily defined) in a glossary at the end. These simple books are nicely packaged and should inspire young naturalists to seek further.
—James W. Waddick