Funny Bums, Freaky Beaks

Funny Bums, Freaky Beaks
Alex Morss & Sean Taylor, illustrated by Sarah Edmonds
Welbeck Publishing

Here’s a clever idea for presenting animals to youngsters: the authors of this alluringly titled book have grouped them by their distinguishing features. In addition to bums and beaks however, there are plenty of other creatures with something special that makes them stand out from the crowd. Moreover those strange features all have a purpose and a story behind them. Those are recounted herein.

Facial features – noses – of the odd kind, extraordinary eyes, ears – weird ones, terrific teeth, so chosen for their size, shape or function, as well as tongues (the stranger the better) are explored. Sun bears, ( they’re the smallest of all bears), have dangly tongues the length of which is a quarter of the creatures’ height. Why? you might wonder. As well as it being essential for obtaining food, a sun bear uses its tongue for grooming purposes.

So what do a blue bird of paradise, a luna moth, a scorpion rattlesnake, a Willani sea slug and a young hoverfly have in common? They all have ‘stunning tails’ – I certainly would never have guessed that. Strictly speaking though, the baby hoverflies’ ‘tails’ are actually breathing tubes used during their early underwater lives.

Necks (perplexing) and toes (puzzling) are also presented. We probably all know about the very long neck a giraffe has but I was amazed to know that it has the same number of neck bones as a mouse; and imagine having toes that you can stretch wider and longer than your entire body like a jacana – very useful if you want to appear to be walking over water.

The authors have found at least ten creatures to include in each of their ten groups and every one has an explanatory paragraph and a gently humorous illustration – some of them are downright alarming-looking.

Compelling reading for wild animal enthusiasts, as well as for budding zoologists and celebrators of difference.

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