Sunday, July 3, 2022

Review: Beware the Burmese Pythons by Etta Kaner

 I'm super excited about today's read! I stumbled across this one, while taking a peek at all the upcoming kidlit this Fall (of course, I always have my eyes open!), and discovered this little gem. It's a non-fiction read, holds a bit of a graphic novel form, and promises to introduce readers to all sorts of lesser known, invasive species. Doesn't that sound amazing? I know my kids (and I as a kid) especially loved nonfiction with lesser known and interesting facts.

So, ready to take a plunge? (Okay, you'll have to wait until later in October to get your hands on a copy yourself, but trust me, this one is worth the wait....woops! I'm not suppose to say that yet, am I?

by Etta Kaner
Illustrated by Phil Nicholls
Kids Can Press
48 pages
ages 4 to 12

OCTOBER 22nd!!!

A kid-friendly introduction to invasive animal species that explores how they got into new ecosystems and the damage they've caused.

It might not seem like a big deal when a non-native animal species finds its way to another environment. But it can be! Invasive species reproduce quickly and often have no natural predators, allowing them to overtake native species, and even destroy the ecosystem of their new home. Here's an intriguing look at 10 of these species from around the world --- from tiny cactus moths to mighty Burmese pythons --- and the problems they're causing. As each section explains, humans were responsible for bringing all these animals to their new locations. And now it's up to humans to do something about it!

In this unique, highly visual book, Etta Kaner's accessible text and Phil Nicholls's vibrant art reveal a fascinating world of “aliens” that invade new habitats. With two spreads for each animal, the book is chock-full of information, including the animal's features, habitat and invasion route; a narrative describing how it became invasive and why it's become a problem; and a list of ideas for what can be done, ending with the question, “If you were a scientist or conservation officer, what would you do?” The text is presented in fun, eye-catching formats, ranging from comic strips to posters to newspaper articles, keeping the engagement level high and highlighting what scientists are currently doing to solve the problems. There are strong life-science connections here on characteristics of living things, ecosystems and habitats. Contains a glossary, sources, further reading and how to help.


Non-fiction with interesting, lesser-known facts is always a treat, but slide in a bit of graphic novel atmosphere, and this one is a definite winner.

What is an invasive species? These pages dive right into that question before taking off with examples of lesser known ones and troublesome ones. There are ten species presented, including nutria, cane toads, killer shrimp, and more. Each one is introduced with its common name, scientific name, and a cartoon-like but still detailed illustration, where little lines and phrases point out its unique characteristics. The size and habitat as well as a global map, showing the general area where the animal is native and where its wandered to, is also presented. There's a fun introduction as to how the animal was taken to the 'new' area, a page presenting the problems it has caused, and then, another section which explains how scientists are trying to deal with the problem. This last section ends with the question of what the reader thinks could be done to stop the animals' destruction.

While all of the information is very well done, laid out, and does teach all sorts of things from animal facts to ecological problems and connections, the fun is never forgotten. I do enjoy the variety given in the ways the animals were inadvertently 'spread', since this does show that even scientists make mistakes...and how many are stupid or even an unknown side product. And the lists of things being done are just as broad in variety, and illustrate how much ingenuity is used. Since kids are then asked for their thoughts, the entire thing gains clout, exercises the brain gears, and is even great for group or homeschooling situations. And, of course, an awareness for the environment and balance of life is strengthened.

But what really makes this one fun is the writing style and illustrations. The author keeps the information light and entertaining. There's a spark of humor without really being silly. The illustrations and their comic flair make everything digestible, also hinted with humor, and keep boredom away. It creates an atmosphere, which will drawn in even reluctant readers, and marks information in a manner, which sticks in the mind better than dry numbers, terms, and facts. 

I do see kids really enjoying this one and know my own would grab it off the shelf without a second's thought.

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