Offering fascinating insight into life in the grassland, this book follows a hyena through its day as it sleeps, eats, and moves.
Children's Literature - Denise A. LockettYoung readers will likely come to this book with preconceived notions about hyenas, from Disney's enormously popular The Lion King. However, the author turns attention to the more familiar: a hyena "looks like a dog." The analogy is an engaging and useful reference point. This book offers fantastic, expressive photos as it illustrates the daily life of spotted hyenas in their grassland habitat. Part of the "A Day in the Life Grassland Animals" series, this book offers intriguing hyena details, such as that lions are afraid of them and therefore do not hunt them, that a group of them is known as a "clan," and that females (slightly larger than the males, typically) lead the clans. "Where do they live?" provides a great introduction to the grassland habitat: "It is mostly hot and dry here, but some months it rains a lot." The reader will become familiar with this description, which is used in all of the books in this series. The idea of seasonal cycles could be more clearly introduced in this text, which is focused on a distinct biome. In addition, the reader is never told the difference between a "hyena" and a "spotted hyena," a specific species that actually differs significantly from other hyena types. Rather, the text jumps between the terms as if they are interchangeable. Additionally troubling are superfluous exclamation marks, as in "[F]emale hyenas are leaders of the clan!" Are we shocked? Jubilant? The strength of the series is its ability to draw the young reader into the animal's lives through interesting and sympathetic details and photos. One instance is the evocative section in which the author describes how hyenas mark their territory with scratches and smells particular to their clan. Further information about hunting behaviors includes the fact that hyena's strong teeth enable them to eat bones, and that "they eat so many bones that their droppings are often white." The author engages the young reader's senses with such details. She later shares the fact that hyenas make giggling noises when excited. The most compelling photos are likely those of the hyena pups. Again, however, the author misses the opportunity to introduce a useful word such as "mammal," noting instead that the babies drink milk from their mother. This series continues to define "female" as "an animal that can become a mother when it is grown up" and "male" as "an animal that can become a father when it is grown up"; this is not only biologically inaccurate, it is also possibly confusing to the young reader and overly anthropomorphic. The hyena young learn to hunt from their mothers at around one year of age. Because they hunt at night, the nighttime is described before the day. This ordering may confuse the young reader, although it also occurs in the Coyote volume of this series. That there are no nighttime photos in the two-page section on night activities is disappointing. Otherwise, the photos generally assist in the development of the text and are often visually stunning. One striking photo depicts three hyenas cooling themselves in a pool of water; this is perfectly paired with the text, which discusses their drinking water needs. Reviewer: Denise A. Lockett
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