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March 2015 / Bronx/​Riverdale Family / Brooklyn Family / Long Island Family / Manhattan Family / Queens Family / Staten Island Family / Columnists / The Book Worm

‘Dead or Alive?’ is pure fun

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Even though your children quarrel, they still love each other, and nothing dangerous happens — unlike with the creatures in the new book “Dead or Alive?” by Clive Gifford, illustrated by Sarah Horne.

When an animal in the wild gets hungry, there aren’t a lot of options. They have to catch their supper, and while nature has given them speed and claws, potential meals have a few tricks on their side, too.

Take, for instance, opossums and hognose snakes.

When opossums and hognoses are threatened, they act dead, they smell dead, they look dead, and are very unappetizing to predators. That allows them to play dead another day!

On the other hand, though, what about those critters that gotta eat?

They can pretend to be rocks, like an alligator or snapping turtle, and lure their lunches straight to their mouths. Or, like the anglerfish, they might use bioluminescence to invite other creatures to dinner. Or, like orange barnacles, they could turn their prey into zombies and wait until snacktime.

Mayflies have mouths, but they don’t use them, because mayflies “don’t live long enough to get hungry.” Scientists think there’s a possibility that the Antarctic volcano sponge might live for up to 10,000 years! A 4-month-old puppy in England accidentally got flushed down the toilet and survived, and a cat in Boston fell 19 stories and lived. Extinct animals have been discovered alive, and scientists are trying to figure out how to bring other animals back from extinction.

Anybody can spout information about cats and dogs. Many kids know things about horses and cows. But who knows about tardigrades and thylacines? Your child, that’s who, once he’s got “Dead or Alive?” in his hands.

Inside this book, there are creatures that crawl, walk, run — and are eaten. There are animals that fly, swim, wiggle — and are hunters. And, of course, author Clive Gifford includes critters that have uniquely adapted to survive in ways that your child will find fascinating, maybe a little icky. And if icky isn’t enough, there’s fun to be had in Sarah Horne’s colorful, informative, but cartoon-like illustrations, too.

This book is perfect for kids ages 7 to 12, and I think even adults could learn a thing or two by paging through it. If you’ve got a young biologist or animal lover around, look for it. Getting him to read “Dead or Alive?” shouldn’t be much of a fight.

“Dead or Alive,” by Clive Gifford [48 pages, 2015, $14.99].

Terri Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was 3 years old, and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill with two dogs and 12,000 books.

Posted 12:00 am, March 25, 2015
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