Monday, December 30, 2013

Non-Fiction Monday: Wild Animal Neighbors: sharing our urban world by Ann Downer

64 p. Lerner/ Twenty-first Century Books, November, 2013. 9780761390213. (Borrowed from the public library)

I have to inject the personal right away because that I find that the cover alternately fascinates and repels me. I live in the suburbs, in a town that borders on a reservoir and boasts two golf courses, so there's plenty of wildlife to contend with. I regularly startle herds of deer while walking my dog at night. More creepily, three times in the last year, we've encountered coyotes, singly and in small packs, and luckily, from a distance. Still, I detour every time. There's something about them, as small as they are that scares me. I absolutely cannot imagine encountering one on a city street. (Shivers.)

And raccoons. Don't get me started. There's a very noisy family living in the hollow of a tulip tree in my side yard. Luckily, many years ago, my ingenious husband constructed a raccoon-proof garbage enclosure so I don't deal with shredded garbage all over the yard. I live across the street from the 18th hole of a golf course that is home to a huge pond, so they have water, and I'm sure there are plenty of neighbors with garbage that is more easily accessed.

Admittedly, these animals in my neighborhood are probably closer to wild than urban and, aside from using methods of deterrence, wouldn't dream of doing anything to harm them. It seems that many feel the same way as the non-migratory Canada geese in my town regularly cause traffic jams as they cross the street from the pond to graze on the grass on the island dividing our main drag. There's also a small flock (?) of turkey vultures that hang out in the vicinity and caused a massive traffic jam at a busy intersection nearby. I had to laugh when I learned that turkey vultures in south Jersey were read about by the author but didn't make the cut. There's a map of interesting urban animals around the world interested readers can research themselves. Web sites are provided.

I loved everything about this book from its conversational yet non-judgmental tone to its design. Seven animals are highlighted in short, attractively organized chapters featuring plenty of crisp, full-color photographs, well-placed text boxes and sidebars, an introduction, an epilogue, which explores ways of making cities more eco-friendly, and plentiful back matter. The only thing missing was a glossary which is a minor quibble since the neat vocabulary, such as plasticity and habitat fragmentation, are nicely defined within the text. Still, the teacher in me likes having a glossary of terms set apart for further reading.

I'm embarrassed to admit that I hadn't known about this book, despite its starred review in SLJ in October, until I spotted it in the new book display while browsing in my local library. It's going in my book order for school. Not only will it be of interest to browsers, but I think it will fit in nicely with a careers in science project the seventh grade science teacher and I collaborate on.

Lerner has links to some resources for teachers if you're willing to establish a user name and password.


  1. Oh, the connections that students in my classroom can make with this book! A very relevant topic. Thanks for sharing this.

  2. That's great! Thanks for stopping by and happy new year!