Gila Monsters are the largest lizard in the United States. During the winter, they live off fat stored in their tails until spring. More can be found about these magnificent, endangered creatures within this 24-page title. Simple text and photographs inform younger readers about the Gila monster's looks, where they live, and what they do. Close-up photographs complement the text, reveal the Gila monsters' regal stature within their natural desert homes, and display the unusual texture and color patterns of their bodies. One picture revealing a Gila monster eating its rodent dinner may be a little too shocking for some. The repetition of language and phrases help early readers learn new words. The content introduces subject-specific vocabulary like endangered, hibernating, hunting, and deserts. The glossary section defines new vocabulary, but the words do not appear in bold print within the text. The reptile titles in this "Pebble Plus" series contain text features that support young readers' understanding of nonfiction text. Although each of the life cycle diagrams in this series contain the same information, not all begin with hatchlings which may cause confusion for some when making comparisons. Early readers may need assistance with some words and may need help using the table of contents, glossary, the "Read More" section, the list of internet site (Facthound, a Capstone sponsored web portal), and the index of the book. Discovering the Gila monster will spark an awareness of the diversity of animal forms in young readers. Reviewer: Laura Backman
School Library Journal
Gr 1-3–The reptiles in this series, some of which are kept as pets, are explored and photographed in their natural, exotic habitats. The books provide rudimentary introductions to the creatures through spreads that feature one or two simply written sentences opposite a full-page photograph. Geckos, for instance, describes the lizards as making a “squeaky noise” and having “sticky toes.” Gila Monsters informs readers that the creature’s bite is poisonous and that it can have a 20-year lifespan. Each title includes a range map. Some graphic photos are included, such as one in Chameleons that shows the creature swallowing another lizard, and another in Horned Lizards that depicts the animal after it has shot blood from its eyes as a defense. Though the photographs are well reproduced, the titles have a muted appearance and an old-fashioned layout. Extras in each book include a “Life Cycle” illustration and a recommendation to use the publisher’s Fact Hound Web site, which offers related Internet resources. Readers may be drawn to this series to learn more about uncommon reptiles, but the books lack visual appeal.