Animals by Keith Laidler

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Animals by Keith Laidler

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Category: Popular Science
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A superb introduction to the animal kingdom for the budding zoologist and an essential for the library with its stunning pictures and accesible text.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 208 Date: October 2009
Publisher: Quercus
ISBN: 978-1849160049

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Animals is described as a visual guide to the animal kingdom, but please don't think of it as a picture book as it's far more than that. Don't think of it as a coffee table book either – despite the fact that its size – midway between A2 and A3 – might tempt you to think that way. It's a journey through the complex diversity of the animal kingdom based on sound scientific principles.

It's organised according to the scientific classification of animals – orders, families, genus and species – with each chapter looking at a different family of animals. There's a short introduction covering common points such as evolution, behaviour and conservation and then we see pictures of the most unusual (exotic, endangered, etc) animals within that group. The pictures are simply stunning – many of them larger than life-size, but of amazing clarity. There's a picture of a toucan and you can see the lines in the roof of its beak and another of a ladybird in flight where you can actually see through the transparent wings. The supporting text is sufficient to give good background knowledge but is readily understandable by the non-specialist.

I found the book fascinating and I'll confess that it's taken me some time to review it, simply because every time I've looked at the book I've been side-tracked into rereading quite large sections. My particular favourite is the section on mammalia. I was fascinated by the development from tiny shrew-like creatures to the most dominant animal group on the planet helped by their high metabolic rate – and hair. I've a confession too – I couldn't cope with the section on snakes. I've a phobia and the pictures were simply too life-like.

For anyone with an interest in animals this is a splendid introduction although it might be too basic for the specialist and it's not exhaustive, concentrating as it does on the exotic, the endangered, or the unusual, but it would make a wonderful gift for the budding zoologist and should be in every library – particularly in schools.

There are a couple of practical considerations. My copy had a sticker on the front giving the price as £25 – this was very difficult to remove without damaging the dust cover. The other point arises from the superb quality of the paper used. Even with clean hands it's virtually impossible to touch the pages (and particularly the ones with a dark background) without leaving visible fingerprints.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to Bookbag.

If the development of the animal kingdom interests you then you might like to look at our List Of Books To Celebrate Charles Darwin's 200th Anniversary. For another book showing the fundamental unity of all living organisms we can recommend Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin.

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