Vulture (Amazing Animals), by Kate Riggs
In my reading of books about odd animals, I have found it interesting that there exist multiple attempts on the part of authors to write about vultures in a way that is appealing to young readers. I assume that this book is written for young readers, as it makes no sense that someone would write a hardcover book with large pages and mostly photos. Most adult readers of books would be embarrassed to read a book that is so basic, even if they are not in the habit of reading hundreds of books a year. That said, I find it interesting to see what it is that people write when they are trying to convince children not to think that a particular animal that is commonly hated is gross. I love skunks, though, so I’m very familiar with the way that one has to frame a discussion about such an animal so as to point out the noble or beautiful things about that animal. And when it comes to vultures, it must be admitted that there are definitely good things that can be said about them, even if most people do not bother to try.
This book is about twenty pages long, and most of the material it includes is made up of pictures and maps, so the text is very limited here. The book begins with a discussion of the distribution of vultures and their division into Old World Vultures and New World Vultures, although the book does not comment on the fact that New World Vultures are not thought at present to be raptors, but instead something closer to storks. The authors talk about vulture feathers and the fact that they have feathers everywhere except for their faces, and often colorful ones as well. The author discusses the size of the wingspan of vultures (which includes the condor) as well as the difference in legs between them and their excellent sense of smell. There are discussions of the childhood of vultures and their sharp beaks and the fact that (understandably) they lack many predators and the fact that they look for food in the daytime. By and large this book does a good job at showing vultures in a positive light and in framing the talk about vultures with pictures that show them in a good light and not in a way that would be thought of as gross or uncomfortable.
Still, I am not sure exactly who would most appreciate this book. If you are a parent of a reader who loves quirky animals and is willing to think of vultures as something other than gross scavengers, this kind of book is definitely worthwhile, especially if it is attached to a unit involving science. The book’s discussion of vultures in African myth, however brief, can lead to a contrast of what the Bible has to say about vultures with this book. And for those who are older, a Bible study about vultures is something that would be very profitable if somewhat odd. This book is not very deep, but it can hardly be given its small size and very limited text. This book succeeds at its modest goal, and that is presenting vultures in a positive light to an audience that would likely appreciate it and that doesn’t mind a bit of foolish speculation about why the vulture is bald. This isn’t a book that will gross out its readers, but it is the sort of book that can put the best face on an animal that has far fewer friends and supporters than it deserves, and may indeed help the vulture find a few more.