Gr 3-5Despite its picture-book format, this brief text includes enough factual material to give a fairly complete picture of the animal's habitat, life cycle, hunting and eating habits, and natural enemies. The lack of an index does not detract from the book's usefulness; with just two to three paragraphs of text per page, the book is easy to thumb through. Gouache illustrationsmost painted against yellow or gold-washed backgroundseffectively show the sleek felines within their natural habitat. The stunning, lifelike depiction of a cheetah leaping across the cover is a guaranteed draw for young readers. Gladys Conklin's Cheetahs, the Swift Hunters (Holiday, 1976; o.p.) details the life of one female cheetah and her cubs. Caroline Arnold's Cheetah (Morrow, 1989) is a more thorough study for older children. Purchase Esbensen's book where additional material is needed.Susan Scheps, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH
As attractive as "Tiger with Wings: The Great Horned Owl" (1991), this new information book introduces an animal of a very different kind. The concisely written text, replete with active verbs, vivid adjectives, and an apt simile here and there, evokes both the behavioral characteristics and the sheer power of the cheetah, the fastest land animal. Esbensen thoroughly explores such topics as the cheetah's habitat, hunting habits, and endangered status. Information about scientific investigation into a genetic factor that threatens cheetahs with extinction is particularly interesting. The striking double-page spreads offer close-ups of the animal's physical characteristics and draw readers into hunts on the Serengeti, allowing them to peer over the shoulder of big stalking cats and face a cheetah head-on as it closes in on its prey.
Another fine science title from the author of Tiger with Wings (1991), focusing on the cheetah, the swiftest animal on earth. Esbensen points out that, despite the cheetah's speed and expertise as a solitary hunter, its survival as a species is severely endangered due to larger predators like lions (who both compete for prey and kill cheetah cubs), dwindling habitat, and its own impoverished gene pool. The author also describes the specialized anatomy that helps the cheetah's bursts of great speed, including oversized internal organs, claws that never retract, long legs, and a springy backbone. The straightforward text follows the cheetah as it hunts on the African plains and cares for its young. Cassels employs a sandy palette, heightened by rich gold, tan, and black accentsthe colors of the cheetahs themselves. Especially appealing are the many close-ups of fuzzy cubs and the dramatic jacket painting of a cheetah at full gallop.