Monday, February 16, 2009

Nonfiction Monday - Stinging Scorpions

The new series No Backbone! The World of Invertebrates examines a range of "creepy crawlers" from leeches to centipedes. Stinging Scorpions, written by Natalie Lunis, offers young readers an up close and personal look at this oft-feared arachnid. Readers will also find another name on the title page under the author's. It is the consultant for the book, Brian Brown, Curator of the Entomology Section of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

The text begins this way.
Deadly Stingers
Scorpions are small animals with big
front claws.

Like spiders, they have eight legs and
belong to a group of animals called

A scorpion, however, has something
that no spider has—a tail with a
deadly stinger.
This excerpt, like all text in the book, appears on the side of each page. Next to it readers will find themselves face-to-face with a scorpion that covers the entire right side of the page. Images of stones placed throughout the book serve as "interest bubbles," providing readers with additional facts about scorpions. On this first spread the bubble reads:
Scorpions can
be from half an inch
(1.3 cm) to 8 inches
(20 cm) long.
Let's just stop here for a moment to think about that number. Eight inches! Now that's a scorpion I do not want to meet.

The next spread introduces readers to a scorpion's body. The accompanying photograph is labeled to help readers identify the claws, legs, tail and stinger. The interest bubble describes a scorpion's exoskeleton. The text describes where legs are attached, what they're used for, the tail, and the purpose of the stinger. The page begins:
Like all arachnids, scorpions have two
main body parts—a front part and a back part.
This is the only part of the book I found a bit disappointing. In a text that introduces and defines words like pectines, molt, invertebrate, exoskeleton and more, I found myself wondering why the terms cephalothorax (fused head and thorax) and abdomen were not used to describe the body parts of arachnids. Even though this book is targeted at younger readers (K-3), big words are part of what makes reading nonfiction, and particularly science, so inviting. What kid doesn't like trotting out his/her knowledge of some new found term that mom, dad or the teacher may not know?

This minor point aside, the book moves easily through a variety of topics, including scorpion habitats, how they find and eat their food, a description of their predators, their danger to humans (are they?), how they reproduce, and how they grow. The text ends with a description of invertebrates and a number of photos of related species of arachnids (spiders, ticks, mites), a picture glossary, and extensive index.

Here are some things I found particularly interesting.
  • While there are about 1,500 different kinds of scorpions, only 90 or so species live in the United States.
  • Scorpions have from 2 to 12 eyes, but don't see well.
  • Scorpions have tiny hairs all over their bodies that help them feel movements in the ground and air. (The close up view of the hairs on a scorpion's tail is amazing!)
  • Scorpions don't lay eggs, but rather give birth to live scorpions. As soon as they are born they climb onto their mother's back. (These photos were squeal inducing!)
This is a well-written, engaging text that is accompanied by big, bold photographs. You should expect to hear plenty of oohs and aahs as the pages are turned in this one. I thoroughly enjoyed this introduction to the world of scorpions and can't wait to read about the other invertebrates in this series.

Book: Stinging Scorpions
Author: Natalie Lunis
Publisher: Bearport Publishing
Date Published: 2009
24 pages
Source of Book:
Review copy received from publisher.

This post was written for Nonfiction Monday. This week our host is Jennifer at the Jean Little Library. Do stop by and see what others are sharing in the world of nonfiction today.

If this book peaks the interest of a reader in your life, check out some of these additional resources.

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