Animal Architects by Amy Cherrix,  illustrated by Chris Sasaki

Animal Architects by Amy Cherrix, illustrated by Chris Sasaki. Beach Lane Books, Simon & Schuster, 2021. 9781534456259

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

Format: Hardcover

What did you like about the book?  This lovely, large-format picture book offers plenty of eye-popping facts and illustrations that reward close examination. The author describes the natural world as a “construction zone” filled with amazing animal architects. We visit the Great Barrier Reef, described as an undersea city, built by coral over 10,000 years. The satin bowerbird is shown building his upside-down arch of a nest and then decorating it with petals and shells in order to attract a mate. Ants, termites, bees, and a trapdoor spider represent the bug world while gentoo penguins and prairie dogs up the cuteness factor. The illustrations are vividly colored and look like oil paint with visible brush strokes, although they were rendered digitally. Moody and impressionistic, they still give us a sense of the animals’ talents. There’s a bit of humor too, in the animals’ expressions and antics. Attractive dark blue endpapers resemble architectural plans and feature leaves, acorns, shells and coral. 

The text alternates between white on dark backgrounds and black on bright backgrounds, all rendered in a readable typewriter font. I loved the clever placement of some written sections: in one of the “rooms” of an ant nest, for example, or in a stripe dividing two vignettes of the harvest mouse, the top showing her during the night and the bottom showing her busy during the day. The book’s prose reads very smoothly; I think this book would be a lot of fun to read aloud.

Anything you didn’t like about it? I felt that calling these animals “architects” without ever defining the term was confusing. These animals are building, but that’s pretty different than what human architects do. I would also have liked to see some sources and endnotes (there are none). Some of the facts were startling enough that I wanted a bit of confirmation; notably the factoid that the largest recorded prairie dog town spanned 25,000 square miles and housed 400 million rodents. That is a lot of prairie dogs.

To whom would you recommend this book?  Children ages 5-9 interested in zoology. I liked the lines connecting the animal kingdom to STEM. This is a popular topic and there are other books that cover the same ground, but the quality of the art sets this one apart. 

Who should buy this book? Elementary and public libraries

Where would you shelve it? 591.564

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: October 3, 2021

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