Reviewed by David Gillam
Mutualism takes on many forms in the animal world. Many animals form mutually beneficial symbiotic relationships with each other. How these relationships work and how they benefit the animals involved are explored in this well-done picture book, which was honored as an NSTA/CBC Outstanding Science Trade Book.
The book's simple language and clear illustrations will help readers understand the unique interactions and how each animal in the relationship benefits the other. These partnerships take a variety of forms. For instance, the wildebeest, ostrich, and zebra are three animals of the savannah that often move together for each one's safety. Each one has a different way to sense danger. When each one’s ability is combined with the others' abilities, they have a better sense when danger approaches. Others, like the tiger shark and remora help each other in a different way. The remora uses its sucker to hold on to the shark as it travels.The remora then eats scraps from the shark's meals and parasites on the shark's skin. The shark benefits from having the parasites removed.
Designed in graphic novel style, the book's text is clearly written and colorfully illustrated. It could also be used with older students as a way to introduce symbiotic relationships among organisms. At the back of the book is a list of the organisms that includes their size, habitat, where they are found, and their diet. The author also includes a short bibliography of other books that contain information about animals and their partnerships.
This book provides detailed descriptions of more than 50 animals involved in such partnerships at a level that might suit readers from elementary to secondary. The book's reading level is relatively high, and the concepts are sometimes complex. A careful reader might sense a bit of anthropomorphism in some of the descriptions (such as calling ravens thieves or crabs messy eaters.) But the many types of relationships in the book provide a rich basis for discussion and impetus to do further research. At the back of the book an appendix provides a thumbprint of each page with extra information about the size, habitat, and diet of each animal described in the text. It also explains other types of symbiotic relationships.
Review posted on 12/20/2010