Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Speed Demons! Speediest! by Steve Jenkins

What do the cheetah, the Mexican free-tailed bat, and the sailfish have in common?

They are the fastest animals in their class: the cheetah is the fastest land animal (twice as fast as the best human), the Mexican free-tailed bat is the fastest in flight, and the sailfish is the fastest fish in the sea.

But like the Olympics, there are lots of categories in the speed awards.

In his 200 mph dive, the peregrine falcon is the fastest bird. But, the green darner dragonfly is the fastest-flying insect, and the ostrich, the biggest (but flightless) bird, is also the fastest--running bird, while the roadrunner is the fastest runner among the flying birds. (Beep! Beep!) The black mamba is the fastest slithering snake, hands down, (if it had hands--which luckily, it does not!).

Some critters are outstanding for oddball speed awards: The aardvark is the fastest digger, the titan of tunneling, and the Panamanian termite has the fastest jaws in the West, creating a shock wave that can knock out its prey! The kangaroo is the longest leaper on on land, but the flying fish can leap and soar a whole lot more--over the sea, that is.

That shaman of the superlative, author-illustrator Steve Jenkins has all the fast facts on speed in the animal kingdom in his recent entry in his Extreme Animals series, Speediest!: 19 Very Fast Animals (Extreme Animals) (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018). Loaded with the facts and figures, Jenkin's book on animal locomotion is illustrated with his Caldecott-award-winning torn-and-cut paper collages of wild animals in motion in all sorts of earthly habitats, each with size-and-speed thumbnail comparisons to human powers, accompanied by a scholarly appendix with bar graphs of comparative velocities in all classes, a glossary, and a bibliography for young researchers. With their detailed and lively illustrations and troves of facts, the titles in this series are a first purchase for libraries and classroom collections.

Other books in this series by Jenkins are Trickiest!: 19 Sneaky Animals (Extreme Animals), Deadliest!: 20 Dangerous Animals (Extreme Animals), and Stinkiest!: 20 Smelly Animals (Extreme Animals). (Read my reviews here).

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