Wanted! Criminals of the Animal Kingdom by Heather Tekavec, illustrated by Susan Batori

  Wanted! Criminals of the Animal Kingdom by Heather Tekavec, illustrated by Susan Batori, Kids Can Press, 9781525300240, 2020 

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Format: Picture book

What did you like about the book?  This is a light-hearted look at the so-called criminals of the animal kingdom. Really, it’s a way to explore gross or unusual behavior in a fanciful way. Detective X has case files full of details on each nefarious crook, including a rap sheet, aliases, sightings, previous arrests, etc. It’s a cute way to present a lot of factual information. The common cuckoo is wanted for bad parenting; we learn she’s a bird, has a striped belly, secretly lays eggs in other bird’s nests and then abandons her offspring, eats insects, worms and caterpillars and has been seen in fields and forests of Europe, Asia and Africa. Other animals on his list include antlion larvae, Christmas Island red crabs and the tufted capuchin. Each animal gets a mugshot and a smaller, second illustration labeled “EVIDENCE” with the accused caught in the act. Batori’s drawings are cartoonish and heavily anthropomorphized; the mother cuckoo wears a necklace and the llama holds a placard with his case number despite having hooves. The layout is the same for each page, with paper clips and pencils scattered across the files to simulate the detective’s cluttered desk. The book is fun and interesting and I liked how much information Tekavec was able to provide for each critter.

Anything you didn’t like about it? I don’t know if kids would enjoy this book as much as adults. It’s quite tongue-in-cheeck and students who are very literal probably won’t get the jokes and may even leave feeling confused. For example, the Roman Snail is described as shooting darts full of love hormones (hormones, yes, love? no) and readers are warned “If you see Lil’ Cupid, try not to look cute or it might aim a dart at you before you can get the cuffs on!” To me, the implication is that Roman Snails might actually shoot darts at humans…not the case. Also, my experience is that animal lovers prefer photos — the book could have been improved by pairing the mugshot with an actual photograph.

To whom would you recommend this book?  Children aged 5 and up who appreciate some humor with their zoology. Kids who like the Magic School Bus books might enjoy this one.

Who should buy this book? Elementary and public libraries.

Where would you shelve it? Nonfiction 591.5

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: March 22, 2020

This entry was posted in *Book Review, Animals, Zoology and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.