Lynn: There are many official measures of excellence for nonfiction books—and then there are personal ones. Two of my go-to measures: how often I find myself reading passages aloud to anyone around me, and if I feel the urge to ask innocent bystanders to look at a page. Rebecca L. Johnson’s book, Masters of Disguise: Amazing Animal Tricksters, had me pouncing on my older grandsons the minute they came home from school. This one gets a five out of five on my Listen to This! scale. Now that I’ve retrieved the book from my grandsons, I can recommend it to all of you.
Trust me on this: Masters of Disguise will teach something new even to those kids who have checked out every bug, bird and animal book the library owns! Johnson puts the spotlight on nine fascinating creatures who have taken the art of deceit to new heights. Each creature gets a chapter divided in two sections. The first part describes the creature in its habitat. The second part, called the “Science Behind the Story,” describes what scientists who are studying the animal have observed, including what is being postulated about the reasons for the creatures’ strange adaptations.
Most kids are familiar with practitioners of disguise like walking sticks, but most of the ones my grandsons found in Johnson’s book were new to us and absolutely fascinating! They range from a bird who mimics a poisonous caterpillar to a fish that takes on the smell of coral. Moreover, Johnson’s writing is clear, concise, and completely engaging, making the science behind the “wow” understandable for young readers.
And then there are the photographs! These are truly outstanding large close-ups of animals, details of their habitat, and pictures of scientists at work. Excellent back-matter includes a Glossary, Bibliography and Selected Readings. An ideal book for classroom, use as well as independent reading. Choose any chapter to use for infusing nonfiction CCSS practice and have fun at the same time.