From School Library Journal
Gr 5 Up-A dazzling visual introduction to natural history. This oversize volume, which marks the centennial of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, begins with an explanation of how the information is arranged, including a discussion of the measurements, icons, and abbreviations used throughout the text. The first chapter offers a brief introduction to Earth, and its geology and life-forms, followed by separate, extensive chapters devoted to minerals, rocks, and fossils; microscopic life; plants; fungi; and animals ("the largest kingdom"). Each chapter consists of sections representing major taxonomic classifications and within these sections lower taxonomic groups are discussed. Numerous pictorial galleries highlight varieties of specific species. Scattered throughout are feature profiles that offer in-depth analyses of single specimens (white water lily, cane toad, etc.). Pages dedicated to a specific life-form include a chart that indicates phylum, class, orders, families, and species. The information provided for each entry (both common names and Latin names are included) is generally brief and limited to two or three sentences. The stunning color photographs (totaling more than 5000) and the volume's encyclopedic approach make it a welcome addition.-Maren Ostergard, King County Library System, Issaquah, WA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
*Starred Review* An introductory visual guide to the natural world, this volume’s strength rests with original and compelling photographs and illustrations. A team of distinguished scientists renders the accompanying text informative yet concise and accessible to nonspecialists, including students and general readers. Six chapters make up the book. In the first, “Living Earth,” copiously illustrated introductory essays on topics such as climate change, evolution, and classification provide context. This is followed by chapters on “Minerals, Rocks, and Fossils”; “Microscopic Life”; “Plants”; “Fungi”; and “Animals,” offering picture galleries that profile about 5,000 specimens and living species ranging from topaz to oyster mushroom to sperm whale. Each chapter is divided into sections representing major groups (for example, “Invertebrates”) with an introduction highlighting the characteristics that define the group. Each subgroup (“Sponges,” “Insects”) also has its own introduction. For living species, “Classification” boxes display the current taxonomic hierarchy. Picture captions provide information such as size, habitat, and distribution. Topics of debate are interspersed in sidebars throughout the text; for example, “Did monocots have aquatic origins?” and “Are birds dinosaurs?” The remarkable color photographs and illustrations, commissioned for this work, depict the natural world in its amazing beauty and diversity. In “Feature Profiles,” close-up photographs provide detailed images of some of the world’s most interesting species, such as the fly agaric mushroom, the Mexican red-kneed tarantula, the Aldabra giant tortoise, and the six-banded armadillo. Appendixes include a 4-page glossary and a 24-page index of scientific and common names. Extensive scope and exceptional photographs distinguish this ambitious work. Succinct commentary, notable for its clarity and authority, deftly burnishes the visuals. Highly recommended for high-school and public libraries. --Nancy Cannon