Friday, March 30, 2012

Amazing Animals by Design: A Review

Why do elephants have trunks? Why do giraffes have long necks and such long tongues? Why aren't zebras camouflaged?

There are many questions children ask when they visit the zoo. In the 1990s I had two little girls, and we used to go visit the Denver Zoo. We especially liked to go visit the white giraffe, who seemed to be so unique to us. We were also always amazed to watch the giraffes, with their long necks and tongues. Their yard was bare, hard packed dirt, with a few tall trees with fenced trunks. We would watch them streeeeeetch their necks and snaaaake their tongues up into and around the few scant branches of the trees. They would wrap that tongue around the branch and strip off those leaves and eat them. It was amazing. And we were told that giraffes evolved to be able to find food that had not been eaten by the other animals that were lower to the ground. I cringed.
I wish now that I had then had Amazing Animals by Design, a new book written by Debra Haagen, another member of the TOS Homeschool Crew. In her home schooling of her children, Ms. Haagen found that there were books written to discuss animals as uniquely designed for where they live, how they eat, etc., but that these books were all targeting older students. There were no such books available for the younger students, and Ms. Haagen set out to change that.

I initially thought I would be able to review this book with a six year old boy of a friend of mine, but that arrangement did not work out, so I am only able to give you my own impressions of the book and not the impressions of a child. What I found, in reading the book, is that it would have fit right in with my Charlotte Mason teaching style. Each animal mentioned in the book, with just a few snippets of information about the animal, opens the opportunity for the children to ask more questions and learn more information about animals they are interested in.

"Just how long is a giraffe's neck?"

"How many stripes does a zebra have?"

"How fast can a cheetah run?"

"What is a caracal?"

"Do ostriches really stick their heads in the sand?"

"Barbary sheep? That looks like an antelope!"

All of these questions give the opportunity to pursue more information. Some children may look for the answers on their own; others may ask mom or dad for help. But questions lead to learning, and in my opinion Amazing Animals by Design leads to questions, which is a good thing.

I had never heard of a caracal, so I looked it up. I particularly wondered if they were supposed to have a bobbed tail, like a bobcat. (They are not.)  I thought Barbary sheep looked different than the illustration, so I looked it up. (I still think the horns in the illustration don't quite capture reality, but I shouldn't complain -- I'm not an illustrator, so It's not like I could do a better job...)

Amazing Animals by Design is a 24-page book geared toward K-3rd graders. Younger children might also enjoy it as a read aloud. Older children might be able to read it aloud to your younger readers or pre-readers.  While this is a good book to just generally have in your child's picture-book reading basket, it is also an ideal book to use as part of a zoo unit study, or to be read in preparation for a trip to a zoo. Then you can make a scavenger hunt to see if all the animals in the book are found in your zoo, and list other fun animals your zoo has that are not in the book.

Amazing Animals is currently available as a digital download for $7.99 (as a PDF e-book). You can also purchase a paper version for $8.99 to be sent to you after the book's release date, April 1, 2012 (at which time it will also be available through other retailers).

I received a digital copy of Amazing Animals by Design  in exchange for my honest review.

This has been a TOS Homeschool Crew Review.
To see more reviews of this product, go to the TOS Homeschool Review page for Amazing Animals by Design.

Let me know what you think. Throw me a comment. Thanks! 


  1. Thank you for your review! :) Just a note: you can get the paper version from Tate Publishing now. They seem to be taking about 3-5 days. The book will be available from other retailers after April 3, which is just in a few days anyway! :)

  2. Thanks for letting me know! Best wishes on your book's success!