Just the Right Size: Why Big Animals Are Big and Little Animals Are Little

Just the Right Size: Why Big Animals Are Big and Little Animals Are Little

by Nicola Davies, Neal Layton
     
 

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From a celebrated team comes a fascinating look at why we don’t have super powers (alas) — and why size matters, for creatures big and small.

Did you ever wonder why there are no high-flying, wall-climbing, tall-building-leaping superheroes in real life? Find out what keeps big animals (like us) from engaging in astonishing feats of strength

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Overview

From a celebrated team comes a fascinating look at why we don’t have super powers (alas) — and why size matters, for creatures big and small.

Did you ever wonder why there are no high-flying, wall-climbing, tall-building-leaping superheroes in real life? Find out what keeps big animals (like us) from engaging in astonishing feats of strength and agility, and yet why being tiny and all-powerful might have a downside. What if you could lift fi fty times your weight (hello, ant), but getting wet could kill you? Or you could soar like a bird, but a cold breeze would do you in? Whether big or small, our size defi nes more about us than we could ever imagine. Join the duo that brought us POOP, EXTREME ANIMALS, and WHAT'S EATING YOU? for a fun and intriguing exploration of what it means to be just the right size.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

This witty and informative book uses the "Big Thing, Little Thing" rule (which explains how the length, surface area and cross section of an object or creature are relative to its volume and weight-thus, there are no "car-sized spiders") to explore how size affects living things. Davies's often humorous text and Layton's energetic illustrations demonstrate why humans don't have superpowers ("we'd need toes tens of thousands of times bigger than a gecko's to hold us on the ceiling"), and later spreads discuss the advantages and limitations of being very small or very big ("Small animals have a bigger outer surface area for their volume than big animals, so they have trouble keeping warm"). The spot-on comic delivery and readily comprehensible explanations make this a prime pick for readers curious about physical science in the natural world. Ages 8-up. (July)

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Children's Literature - Carolyn Mott Ford
The author, a zoologist, presents an interesting and unusual take on the scientific rules governing the size and abilities of various creatures. Kids may be aware that ants can carry objects many times their size and weight, but they are not likely to know why humans cannot do the same. This is explained, as are many such conundrums, by what the author calls the "BTLT Rule." BTLT stands for "big thing, little thing," and this rule states that, "[i]f you double the length of something, its surface area and cross section go up four times, while its volume and weight go up eight times." The clever illustrations and informative asides add to both the book's appeal and its factual content. Young students will read this with enthusiasm. Reviewer: Carolyn Mott Ford
School Library Journal
Gr 4–8—This unique title uses geometry to discuss the varying strengths and capabilities of different animals. In a chatty tone, Davies starts off by describing the strict rules that control what bodies can and cannot do. She goes on to explain how the strongest animals are much smaller than humans. "Some important features of bodies—like how much food and air they need—depend on volume and weight. Others—like the strength of muscles—depend on cross section or surface area." This is the basis for the BTLT (Big Thing, Little Thing) Rule: "If you DOUBLE the length of something, its surface area and cross section go up FOUR times, while its volume and weight go up EIGHT times!" BTLT is used throughout to explain why humans cannot fly, yet Arctic terns can travel 20,000 miles every year from pole to pole and back again. Humans cannot lift buses, but the rhinoceros beetle can lift 850 times its own weight. The author uses clear language and engaging examples throughout. Cartoon illustrations add humor and clarity to the book. A handy introduction to animal sizes.—Anne Chapman Callaghan, Racine Public Library, WI
Kirkus Reviews
The pair behind such child-friendly explorations as Poop and What's Eating You? (2004, 2007) deliver a similarly windily subtitled discussion of size in the animal kingdom. The pair begins by describing how the doubling of a creature's length increases its surface area and cross-section (and therefore muscle power) by a factor of four and its weight and volume by a factor of eight-leading to such conclusions as, "That's how ants can be stronger than humans!" They go on to explore how increasing the size of a creature necessitates increasing complexity, explaining how single-celled organisms can get by with osmosis but mammals require respiratory and digestive systems. The tongue-in-cheek tone, concrete examples and Layton's undeniably appealing cartoons will go a long way with kids, as will the compact trim and one-topic-per-spread organization. But as a science book, it flirts with oversimplification. While evolution is mentioned multiple times, for instance, the concept of survival of the fittest is given short shrift, leaving unqualified such teleological assertions that gibbons attained their modern, house-cat size because "having a nice, light little body was very useful." A shame. (Nonfiction. 8-12)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780763639242
Publisher:
Candlewick Press
Publication date:
07/28/2009
Series:
Animal Science Series
Pages:
64
Product dimensions:
9.60(w) x 6.00(h) x 0.50(d)
Lexile:
NC1140L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Nicola Davies has written many award-winning books for children, including POOP, EXTREME ANIMALS, and WHAT'S EATING YOU?, as well as BIG BLUE WHALE, ONE TINY TURTLE, SURPRISING SHARKS, and BAT LOVES THE NIGHT. She lives in Somerset, England.

Neal Layton is the illustrator of POOP, EXTERME ANIMALS, and WHAT'S EATING YOU? He lives in Portsmouth, England.

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