Firefly Encyclopedia of Animals: A Comprehensive Look at the World of Animals with Hundred of Superb Illustrations

DE LA BÉDOYÈRE, Camilla & , eds. 256p. glossary. illus. index. Firefly. 2014. pap. $19.95. ISBN 9781770854574.
Gr 5 Up—This guide attempts the Herculean task of fitting the entire animal kingdom into a single volume, with limited success. Though it's certainly chock-full of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, insects, and other creatures, there are glaring omissions that seem puzzling for a work that calls itself "a comprehensive look at the animal kingdom." For instance, while there's a section on "Horses and Tapirs," which covers Przewalski's horse, the ancestor of the modern horse, the domestic horse isn't mentioned. Further, the organization is also problematic, with entries grouped by variables, such as distinguishing features ("Hoofed Mammals") or poetic whimsy ("Birds of the Trees and Masters of the Air"). Those familiar with taxonomy might find the organization self-evident, but casual researchers will not. Readers seeking material on a specific animal need to consult the index, which at times presents further problems: a search for parakeet turns up a photograph of two unidentified birds (presumably parakeets). Each animal gets a brief entry, which mentions its size, geographic range, and habitat, and there are scattered entries discussing aspects of animal behavior. However, the work lacks a chapter explaining its methodology and intended audience, which is unclear. Featuring attractive illustrations and a magazinelike layout, it seems aimed at browsers, but the information is more appropriate for report writers.
VERDICT Though aesthetically pleasing, this overly ambitious title attempts to do too much.

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