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"Come in and take a look - if you dare!"

So starts our featured book Animal Planet Strange, Unusual, Gross & Cool Animals* by Charles Ghigna and the folks at Animal Planet. It was recently a finalist for the 2016 Cybils award in the elementary/juvenile nonfiction category.

(*Amazon affiliate link)

Kids go wild over these kinds of books. With over 200 photographs of weird animals, how can you go wrong? Add text by award-winning poet and children's author Charles Ghigna, and you know this is a book that deserves a second look.

First up in the book are the Strange animals. Some of the animals include the blobfish, which was once voted the world's ugliest animal (see video below); the red-lipped batfish, which turns out can't swim very well; and the lowland streaked tenrec, a tiny animal which looks like it got tangled up with the spines of a porcupine. After all the weird creatures in that section, it's hard to imagine what they found for the Unusual, Gross, and Cool animal categories that follow.

Budding zoologists will definitely dare take a look at Animal Planet Strange, Unusual, Gross & Cool Animals. In fact, even the most reluctant reader will want to explore it. Check out a copy today!

Age Range: 8 - 12 years
Publisher: Animal Planet (October 11, 2016)
ISBN-10: 1618931660
ISBN-13: 978-1618931665

This is a regular armadillo. If you think it looks weird, wait until you see the pink fairy armadillo on page 43.

(Public domain photograph by Jean Beaufort)

Suggested activity:  Make an Animal Fact Sheet

Pick a strange, unusual, gross, or cool animal and put together a fact sheet about it. Include facts like the animal's name, its scientific name, where it lives, its habitat, what it eats, how big it is, and how long it lives. Does it have any unique features? Does it migrate? Be sure to include a picture. You can use crayons and markers on paper, or a computer.

Here's a made-up example:

Need help picking an animal?  Here are two suggestions.

Warthogs look pretty strange, but wait until you see what happens when one meets a group of mongooses:

Find out more about the blobfish:

If you choose, share your fact sheet with friends and family.

Additional Activities

Try these two free downloads (may take a little time to load):

Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher/author for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.

Want to learn more about your local birds? One of our favorite bird-related activities, the Great Backyard Bird Count, is coming up next month:  February 17-20, 2017.

This bird count is a prime example of a child-friendly citizen science project. Basically all you need to do is count the birds you see over 15 minutes and then report them on the website. Although it is called "backyard," you can count anywhere birds are found, including parks, preserves, or fields.

There is plenty of information and instructions about getting started at the website.


Looking for more children's books about birds? Check out Taking Flight: a List of Children’s Books About Bird Migration at Science Books for Kids or...


...the list of children's books for young birdwatchers at Science Books for Kids


You may also want to try:

Are you planning to participate in The Great Backyard Bird Count? What kinds of birds do you see in your backyard? Let us know!

Even after all these years of recording insects in our yard, it is still possible to discover a few new ones.

Take last week. I found this tiny caterpillar feeding on a Thurber's cotton leaf.

(I'm afraid the photograph is a bit blurry because it was a windy day.)

With a little research I found out it is the larva of the cotton leaf perforator moth, Bucculatrix thurberiella. The youngest caterpillars mine the leaves on the inside, creating tiny tunnels. When they get larger, they stay on the surface chewing out window panes of leaf tissue.

You can see photographs of the adult moth at Discover Life.

Am I worried about this caterpillar feeding on my plant?

Well, no. First of all the caterpillar is very small, and the plant is very big. Secondly, it is winter and the cotton plant is losing its leaves anyway. What difference does it make if a caterpillar takes a few bites before the leaf falls off?


This is what the Thurber's cotton plant looked like earlier in the year:

You can see more at this related post about Thurber's cotton.