Thursday, October 05, 2017

Beware! Deadliest! 20 Dangerous Animals by Steve Jenkins


For millions of years, animals have been killing and eating other animals.

Luckily, most animals don't want to eat us. But if we are not careful, many of them can still be deadly.

Take, for example, the Kodiak bear--ten feet tall and capable of consuming most of a full-grown deer in a day and not opposed to stalking a human if necessary. But unlike his paler cousin, the polar bear, the Kodiak is limited in range to a few islands off Alaska.

But the equally dangerous bull shark is found in shallow fresh or ocean waters along most of earth's coasts. What does he eat? Anything he wants!--from old tires to seals, bottles to sea turtles, and the bull shark is responsible for most of the shark attacks on humans worldwide. Still, this big boy trails the saltwater crocodile, a seeming leftover from prehistoric days, at nearly twenty feet long and 1,500 pounds, a formidable hunter who is known even to attack small boats. Fearful as they can be, though, Kodiak bears and bull sharks together annually count for less than two annual human deaths worldwide. The monstrous and poisonous Komodo dragon, the saltwater crocodile, and even the tiger are less of a danger to people than hippopotamuses, who kill 300 to 500 humans annually, and King cobras, whose yearly toll is around 1,000.

Deadliness comes in smaller sizes, too, with the venomous box jellyfish, stonefish, and sea snake, the poisonous dart frog, blue-ringed octopus, and stonefish lurking about in exotic locations. But these heavy hitters in the animal kingdom are minor threats to humans compared to (wait for it!)--dogs and mosquitoes! Yes, feral dogs can kill up to 55,000 people a year, and mosquito-borne diseases kill more than a million of us annually.

In his book in series, Steve Jenkins' just published Deadliest!: 20 Dangerous Animals (Extreme Animals) (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017) reveals a score of pretty scary creatures, with plenty of "Hey, look at this!" appeal. Along with his strikingly realistic paper collage illustrations, naturalist Jenkins details both the physical characteristics and natural habitat map of each animal, with scale drawings of each animal compared to a human. These deadly animals are appropriately intimidating, but Jenkins' detailed thumbnails and glossary provide some reassurance that most of them are limited to very small ranges on earth.

Still, there is just enough scare-factor to whet the appetite of young naturalists to seek out more information on their favorite deadly critter, and for that this author-illustrator also provide a handy bibliography for both recreational reading and those sure-to-come research reports. Along with its new companion book, Trickiest!: 19 Sneaky Animals (Extreme Animals) (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017) these short, inexpensive, and irresistible natural science books should be first purchases for school, classrooms, and home libraries.

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