Reviews: Animals, biology, evolution

ANIMAL BEHAVIOR REVEALED including How Animals Think, How Animals Feel, How Animals Communicate, and How Animals Play

Gr 5-8–Lively, informative scientific writing explores animal behavior in this excellent series. Engaging sentences smoothly define terms within the texts and develop concepts with logic and clarity. By describing a behavior, then examining human efforts to analyze and understand it, the author brings readers right into the world of science and inquiry, making this set a great vehicle for Common Core concepts. Numerous examples reveal commonalities and differences between species, as well as multiple research approaches used by scientists. The quality of the photographs is average, but many images effectively depict described behaviors (e.g., a baboon opening a car door and the courtship dance of two blue-footed boobies). The indexes are limited; animals such as kangaroos and elephants are not included, but specific creatures such as Koko the Gorilla and broader categories like birds and primates are. Despite this minor flaw, the set is a strong example of high-quality nonfiction. . . . For older readers, Cavendish Square’s “Animal Behavior Revealed” meets high nonfiction standards with lucid prose and well-organized presentation of information.

–School Library Journal, November 4, 2013


HUMANS: AN EVOLUTIONARY HISTORY including Origins, First Humans, Ice Age Neanderthals, and Modern Humans

Gr 8 Up–The origin of the human species is always a topic of educational inquiry as well as fierce debate. Providing students with information that is credible, detailed, and appealing can be challenging: these books exceed the challenge. Stefoff provides an enlightening and entertaining history of the evolution of Homo sapiens, their ancestors, and cousins, from primitive origins to today. The clear, insightful texts are accented by intriguing sidebars and colorful photos, maps, and graphs. The author provides compelling details from the lives of innovators such as Darwin and Leaky, intelligently discusses the tools of the trade, and deftly explores many monumental discoveries, such as those of Australopithecus in 1924 (First Humans) and the Old Man of La Chapelle in 1908 (Ice Age Neanderthals), and of a “family tree” for mitochondrial DNA (Modern Humans). Readers will be drawn into these discussions and the mysteries that surround our evolutionary story.

School Library Journal, March, 2010


“Four meticulously detailed introductions. In each volume, a preface discusses the development and principles of two classification systems–-the traditional Linnaean system of hierarchical divisions and the new phylogenetic system, based on DNA, which groups together all organisms descended from the same ancestor. Succeeding chapters trace the featured animals’ evolutionary history; describe their basic anatomy, shared features, habitats, diets, and life cycles; and survey dozens of smaller groups within the class or order (e.g., suborders, families, genera, species, etc.). The final chapter discusses threats to the animals’ survival and efforts to protect them. Several special features focus on discoveries of new species and recent, rare fossil finds. Sharp color photographs appear on about every other page. Other illustrations consist of classification charts and anatomical diagrams. Readers will need a basic background in biology to understand every concept discussed, but unusual terms are defined as they appear in these well-organized and clearly written titles. They provide more material on animal evolution and classification than other introductions aimed at about the same audience. . . . The Marsupial Class, in addition to discussing such well-known animals as kangaroos, koalas, and opossums, includes material on less-familiar species-–’marsupial mice,’ quolls, bandicoots, and bilbies. Stefoff’s well-researched titles will be excellent resources for reports on these remarkably diverse animal groups.”

School Library Journal, May 2008


“These delightful series books focus on a single group to develop concepts of taxonomy (classification). Skillful weaving of engaging text and superb illustrations will incite interest in a topic that is frequently dreaded by both teacher and student. . . . Both books give a foundation for understanding relationships and classification of living organisms in a palatable manner, even for younger readers. . . . Carefully selected colorful illustrations with informative notes encourage browsing for the casual reader who may skip much of the text. These are must-haves for any library serving youth. Teachers need to be aware of these remarkable resources, which join other titles on marsupials, insects, and primates among other classifications.”

VOYA, February 2008


“Stefoff is an excellent, lucid writer, and her book contains moving passages on Darwin’s personal losses and triumphs. . . . [T]his delightful little book is quite accessible to readers with little background in biology.”

Quarterly Review of Biology

“Stefoff told part of Darwin’s story in Scientific Explorers (1992); here she expands a chapter into a lucid, lively, systematic account of his two great journeys – one physical, one intellectual – and the modern course of the controversy he sparked. . . . This is a first-rate portrait of the man, public and private, as well as his circle and his scientific legacy . . . thoughtful and authoritative.”

Kirkus Reviews


Last updated October 2011.

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