Monday, November 23, 2015

Nonfiction Monday: What's up in the Amazon Rainforest by Ginjer Clarke

I really wanted to like this book - I'm in the market for more chapter-book-like nonfiction and Ginjer Clarke has done some very serviceable nonfiction series before. However, there were some layout decisions and other elements that made me take this off the list, for my library at least.

The rainforest and general terms and concepts are covered in the introduction, then the book is divided into sections covering the Amazon river and the different levels of the rainforest. There are chapters on the native peoples of the Amazon, different products and medicines we get from the rainforest, and how readers can participate in conserving the rainforest. Back matter includes a brief bibliography, lengthy index, and fold-out map.

The book is a small paperback size, 140 pages. I like the glossary included directly into the pages and the many photographs and additional information breaking up the text. However, there were a couple things that annoyed me. First, the book is formatted like a journal, complete with water stains, highlighting, and areas on maps and photographs are circled by what looks like red marker. I don't know about other libraries, but this type of book in my library inspires an endless stream of kids to the desk "Ms. Jennifer, someone WROTE in this book!" and those who don't join that stream are busily scribbling on the book themselves, since "someone wrote on it already."

I found several typos; one on page 27 "One night, a water lily blooms a giant white flower that smells like pineapple." and some turns of phrase that I just didn't appreciate, like the anaconda's "fangs" on page 32. Now, it's true that all snakes have teeth of some kind, but I think it would have been better to explain how the anaconda's fangs are used, rather than inadvertently joining in with the "all snakes are venomous and will attack you" sensationalist view. Again on page 40, when talking about piranhas, it labels them "deadly" and mentions that the native people tell stories about them attacking humans, but it's my understanding that piranhas do not attack large prey and only eat humans and other large mammals if they are dead or dying. I'm skeptical about the claim of poison dart frogs having the "strongest poison in the world!" on page 93. Maybe, maybe not, but there's no source to prove it either way.

Verdict: So, basically, I liked the idea of the book and the chapter book size, but the journalistic details bothered me and I found myself reading skeptically the information included. It would probably be fine as an introduction for kids who just want to read about the rainforest, but I can't quite bring myself to recommend it.

ISBN: 9780448481036; Published 2015 by Grosset & Dunlap/Penguin; Review copy provided by publisher

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