Stinky Skunks And Other Animal Adaptations, by Barbara Taylor
In many ways, this is a book that could be a lot better than it is. Let us focus on the positive first, in that this book does a good job in showing some of the odd qualities that animals have been created with. So long as one focus on the interesting and odd qualities that the animals have and are amused by the author’s appeal to the tendency of children to be simultaneously interested in and creeped out by animals and their actions and qualities, this book has a lot to offer. It is certainly an amusing book to read for someone who likes animals. And let’s face it, a great many adults and most children by far like animals and their odd and quirky ways, so this book will likely find a great deal of appreciative readers. That is not to say that this book is perfect, though, as the fact that this book refers to the qualities of animals as adaptations implies a belief in some sort of elan vital or a creative force within evolution that leads to qualities being developed. Yet there is a genuine degree of interest that people have in knowing the odd qualities that people have, even if a thoughtful exploration of these matters is going to be beyond the scope of a book of the size that this sort of book is. Given the superficial treatment that the author pays, by necessity, to the adaptations themselves, there is no chance of talking about the implications of the adaptations that do not exist given the explanations for why they do exist for some animals.
This book is, as one might expect, a rather short one. The book has 32 pages, all told, a fairly typical length for this sort of book, and it manages to discuss a lot of adaptations, some of which seem downright perverse an the result of life in a fallen world that has affected people. Be that as it may, the book talks about the choice of “survive or die” that animals face, which again seems to imply that there is a creative force that helps animals to survive. After that comes a look at sharks, and then a short chapter of monster killers, many of them at the bottom of the ocean that have some very odd quirks that allow them to feed or to avoid predators. There is a discussion of pack power to show animals like wolves and ants and piranhas that are more powerful and frightening as a result of being in a pack. After that comes a look at some animals that have lethal weapons and others that are cannibals and eat their own for various reasons. There are other animals, like tapeworms, that are noted for their eating of us as parasites. After that comes a discussion of creepy camouflage, then a discussion of animals that deal with poop and pee, and still others that are stinky and squirty. The book comes to an end with chapters that look at poisons, animals associated with the night, animals in the deep-sea, as well as a glossary, website and places to visit, and an index.