Using a limited vocabulary and a large-print, easy-to-read format, Levinson maintains reader interest with a detailed description of Death Valley. Part of the nonfiction "Holiday House Reader" series, this title tells of the plants and the creatures that manage to survive the intense heat and dryness of the valley. Hearn's muted color, double-page scenes depict the various animals and plants in their habitats. Frequently they are labeled in small, lower-case letters. Although we know that her descriptions are really more peaceful than factual, it is informative to blend the features of this arid landscape with the surprisingly large number of native inhabitants. The interpretive use of color to express mood and the studied placement of animals, rocks and cactus make the visuals attractive without detracting significantly from the natural history. Added facts about Death Valley and identified silhouettes of the individual flora and fauna complete this useful volume. 2001, Holiday House, $14.95. Ages 6 to 9. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
Gr 1-2-An uninspired "Level 2" reader about desert life that reads like a dry encyclopedia entry. Levinson begins with a tangential, and confusing, reference to polar deserts before presenting shotgun descriptions of the various indigenous flora and fauna that populate California's famously inhospitable desert. Leading questions are answered with a fact or two. An appendix includes silhouette identifications of some of Hearn's cutesy pastoral colored-pencil images. Individual plants and animals are labeled throughout but the type is too small and too often blends in with the pictures. Elsa Posell's Deserts (Children's, 1982; o.p.) is a much better introduction to this topic.-John Sigwald, Unger Memorial Library, Plainview, TX Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Interesting, well-written nonfiction easy readers are almost as scarce as, say, a rainstorm in the desert. Levinson (She's Been Working on the Railroad, 1997, etc.) effectively summarizes the amazing facts surrounding one of the most famous deserts, Death Valley, in her latest easy reader, which is written at a 2.9 grade level with just three to four sentences per two-page spread. The text describes one day in Death Valley, from sunrise on the front cover through animals feeding at a waterhole at night before a rare pre-dawn thunderstorm. A wide variety of flora and fauna are identified in the text and in captions unobtrusively worked into the full-bleed spreads with attractive illustrations that capture the glowing, golden heat of the dry desert and friendly-looking animals that will appeal to children. The final spread identifies common Death Valley animals and plants with small silhouette drawings, and an additional page of facts about Death Valley completes the book. This title will be useful for elementary school reports or class units on habitats, and it will also serve well as an intermediate easy reader for the primary grades or for older new readers or ESL students. (Nonfiction/Easy reader. 6-9)