First Animal Encyclopedia

DK First Reference Series

Dorling Kindersley's First Animal Encyclopedia

Book review by Monica Friedman

Ages 6-12

A Full-Color, Photographic Guide Makes a Great Gift for Animal Lovers

Fans of Dorling Kindersley (DK) books are familiar with the high-quality, close up photography that draws kids into the non-fiction subject matter, and this gorgeous encyclopedia of animals around the world is no exception. It’s a fascinating book for children of all ages, including pre-readers, along with their parents, and is both engaging enough to attract the youngest kids, but detailed enough to grow with your child.

Book review - DK's First Animal Encyclopedia

My stepkids (ages six and nine) as well as their father (age thirty-seven) found this book appealing. The colors are bright and the details are sharp and defined. Want to see the inside of a roaring lion’s mouth? How about an up-close macro shot of a gecko’s scales or a porcupine’s quills? Insect eggs, bee hummingbirds, and kangaroo joeys are only some of the tiny details made large in this book, while giant pandas, tigers, and the massive beak of the toucan are also made to fit the big pages.

Animals are divided into five major categories—Mammals, Birds, Reptiles and Amphibians, Creepy-crawlies, and Fish—with further division in each category: “The Mighty Elephant,” “Flightless birds,” “Slithering snakes,” “Pests and plagues.”

cropped image from First Animal Encyclopedia

A two-page introduction discusses the animal kingdom and the differences between vertebrates (animals with a backbone) and invertebrates (animals without a backbone). The body of the book is color coded by category. Each page is dominated by dozens of photos of different animals, along with text describing the animals, lists helping you differentiate among similar species, quizzes, interesting fact, and suggestions for other pages in the book that relate to that page in some way with the heading “Become an expert….”

While there is plenty of great information here, it is the pictures that make this book so special. There are wide views, extreme close ups, animals in their natural habitats, series showing animals in motion, or in comparison to other animals, or being born. The lifecycle of the ladybug, the texture of different reptiles’ skins, and the defense mechanism of the woodlouse are all documented in colorful detail.

Mating habits are also explained in kid-friendly, non-graphic ways, under the titles of “Making more frogs,” “Making more fish,” and so on.

The reference section at the end offers a few extras. In “Amazing Animal Facts,” we learn about the largest land animal, the deadliest snake, and the fastest fish, along with other surprising superlatives. The index allows readers to search for animals by name as well as, in some cases, behaviors.

Book review - DK's First Animal Encyclopedia

The scope of First Animal Encyclopedia is beautiful to behold. All the living creatures you can imagine, and some you might not yet be familiar with, are represented here. Whether used as a reference book for research on a specific topic, skimmed for eye-catching details, or read cover to cover over a period of days or weeks, it’s an excellent addition to any young person’s library and a welcome present for animal lovers.

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Read more of Monica's reviews.

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