Thursday, April 27, 2017

Beastly Brains: Exploring how animals think, talk, and feel by Nancy F. Castaldo

Nancy Castaldo presents another excellent middle grade nonfiction title, this time exploring the emotions and intellect of animals.

There is so much information packed into this book it's hard to know where to start, but Castaldo kicks off the discussion by delving into the workings of brains, both human and animals and then taking the reader on an exploration of the exciting science of animal intelligence. Do animals communicate? How? Do they feel? Do they think? Castaldo explores current and historical science, interviews scientists, adds in quotes, experiments, results, failures, and more.

Readers will learn how bees communicate, how dolphins talk, how dogs feel, and more. They'll also be able to explore the exciting and growing body of science around animal communication. Along the way Castaldo asks poignant questions about animal welfare, rights, and how they intersect with science. The book ends on a humorous note and then jumps into many suggestions for further research. There are suggestions and guidelines for kids to do their own experiments with their pets and other animals, resources for advocating for animals, fiction and nonfiction to read for more information, and online resources. There is also a glossary, notes, bibliography, and index.

For readers who are interested in communicating with their dog or those who want to delve into the science more deeply, this is a perfect book to get them started. It's well-written and, while the author's own feelings on animal cognition are clear she presents a balanced view of the science and research. There are also some side discussions on how women in science, like Jane Goodall, affected the way animal intelligence is researched. I feel that the perfect science books not only convey information but get the reader excited about exploring the subject further and this book definitely accomplishes that goal.

Verdict: Animal communication is a perennially popular subject and this book is a great addition to that field. Pair it with some of the more specific Scientists in the Field titles (Dolphins of Shark Bay or Crow Smarts) for a great class project, book club session, or just to recommend to readers who are interested in animals and science. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9780544633353; Published 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Purchased for the library

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