by Dianne MacMillan
Of all the j-nonfiction animal books I've been reading with my kid lately, this one stands above the rest. All the pictures are good quality, some stunningly beautiful. It's well-organized and really informative. And it's also very well-written. The prose is lyrical and descriptive, while still being easy enough for a child to understand. I very much enjoyed reading it. I think it's a good example of how a kid's book can still have lovely writing even when it's just mostly stating facts. Cheetahs describes where cheetahs live, compares them to other big cats, describes how their bodies are adapted to speed, and mentions something of their history with man. Most of the book is a description of a cheetah's daily life, how it hunts, raises a family, interacts with other predators, etc. The final pages (a common theme in these books, I am finding) discusses why cheetahs are endangered. It goes a bit beyond the usual habitat loss and poaching issues to also talk about genetics and captive breeding programs. A beautiful little book overall, one that impressed me so that next time kiddo is looking for "true books" about animals in the library, I just might type in this author or series name to see what else comes up.
One thing jumped out and made me question; that was the information on how cheetahs (and other cats) purr. This book says they do it by the sound of blood flowing near the vocal chords. I thought the theory of vibrating blood making the purr was an outdated theory? and that it was established knowledge now that cats purr by vibrating muscles in their larynx. But this is something that has puzzled scientists for a long time, maybe we still don't know exactly how they do it.
Rating: 4/5 ........ 48 pages, 1997
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