Monday, January 26, 2015

Nonfiction Monday: Sniffer Dogs: How dogs (and their noses) save the world by Nancy F. Castaldo

I can't believe it took me so long to read this and add it to my "must purchase immediately if not sooner list." It's got high-interest subject written all over it.

The book opens with several stories featuring dogs and their incredible friendship with humans and segueing into the history of domesticated dogs and then working dogs throughout human history and up to the present. The next section focuses on the mechanics of scent and how a dog's nose is designed and utilized. After we've learned out the science of smell, the next section shows how dogs use their superior sense of smell, starting with dogs trained to track live human beings. This section includes both how the dogs are trained and utilized and true stories of their adventures and heroic actions.

The next section focuses on dogs trained to smell out something even more difficult - dead bodies. These dogs can smell the tiniest amount of cremated human remains, a bone and decomposed, buried remains even after long periods of time. This is amazing. Again, both science and anecdote are included pulling the reader through the story as we see how the science and training is used by the dogs in real life.

The next sections are on dogs who sniff out explosives and drugs and those who work at fire sights looking for accelerants. The next section is a fairly new use for dogs and their amazing noses - conservation detection. These dogs help researchers by sniffing out specific types of animal poop or are using to alert to invasive species being accidentally transported or illegal natural materials. Finally, we learn about service dogs. Not the guide dogs most people are familiar with, but those who are trained to use their noses to detect changes in a human's physiology and then alert them. They are used to diabetics and others with dangerous illnesses to help them stay healthy and give them a better quality of life.

The author finishes with an introduction to her own dog, talking about how much she learned about a dog's sense of smell. Included in the back matter are extensive acknowledgements, a bibliography, suggested reading, places to visit, websites, ways to get involved, glossary, photo credits, and index.

Finally, we have the physical aspect of the book. Whoever does the layout of books, TAKE NOTICE. THIS is what a nonfiction book should look like. Not a picture book, not a text-packed chapter book, but this. The book is a sturdy rectangle, a little over 8 x 7.5 inches which gives ample space for a nice, attractive layout of text and colorful photographs. It's 154 pages, which is a perfect length. It's really, really hard to convince older kids (or their parents) to take books that look like picture books and nonfiction chapter books tend to be full of a small font that turns kids off. This is perfect.

Verdict: A high-interest subject, with sensitive subjects delicately handled, well-written, and a beautiful layout. This will fly off your shelves and I highly recommend it.

ISBN: 9780544088931; Published 2014 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Added to the library's nonfiction backlist to order

1 comment:

NanC said...

Thank you for this thoughtful review! I'm especially pleased that you enjoyed the beautiful design. Rachel Newborn did a fantastic job. I hope your readers enjoy it!