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The SB&F Reviews page is updated regularly with new reviews. See our featured reviews below. Check back often for the latest science book reviews from SB&F.

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Featured Children's Book Review

Wilson, Christina. National Geographic Kids: Ultimate Reptileopedia: The Most Complete Reptile Reference Ever. (Illus.) Washington, DC: National Geographic Society, 2015. 271pp. $24.99. 2015018687. ISBN 9781426321023. Glossary; Index; C.I.P.

EI, EA, JH,  YA, C, T, GA
Rating: **

It is a credit to The National Geographic Society that this volume can assist both adults and children. If purchased for institutions or for one's own library, here is a compact, best‑reading source on reptiles. From the brilliant green boa portrait on the first page through the credits, this over 270‑page book provides coverage about a variety of unique forms known as lizards, snakes, turtles, and more. The contents begin with generalized coverage on 21 topics. One will find focused zoological highlights about a variety of characteristics for four orders of animals that represent 12% of vertebrates. Featured fine details in this book include: more than 400 color photos, easy to read and understand organization, and 91 full profiles for varied forms. Forms are grouped by scientific families. Each profile has a facts chart with common and scientific names, size, food, habitat, and geographical range. Typically, coverage for a featured animal includes two pages with several interesting facts in highlight circles, plus a multi‑paragraph essay. Length measurement for each specimen is given using metric as well as appropriate feet or inches reference. These offerings encourage even the youngest readers to further their cognitive knowledge with more universal scientific study techniques. Use of this source reference should promote scientific literacy while fostering further enjoyment of reading and learning about animals with amazing and even weird adaptations. From alligators through zebra‑tailed lizards, here is an A through Z coverage of animals that date as a grouping for over 300 million years.‑‑Kathryn Stanley Podwall, Nassau Community College, Garden City, NY

Featured Young Adult Book Review

Zimmer, Marc. Bioluminescence: Nature and Science at Work. (Illus.) NY: Twenty‑First Century Books, 2015. 72pp. $34.65. 2014025675. ISBN 9781467757843. Glossary; Index; C.I.P.


For an introduction to the somewhat mystical world of bioluminescence, scientist Dr. Marc Zimmer of Connecticut College has authored a colorful and excellent guide to the twin themes of bioluminescence and biofluorescence. This short but informative resource to bioluminescing insects and oceanic creatures highlights their morphological adaptations related to luminescence and some basic chemical processes allowing bioluminescence and biofluorescence to occur, including a description of the many medical uses of green‑fluorescent proteins (GFPs), essential for fluorescing.

Although the intended audience is junior readers (ages 12‑17), any adult could delight in this alluring area of science that features clever means by which animals use bioluminescence for mating, communicating, and capturing prey. In addition, GFPs show considerable potential for use in the investigation of some of the most devastating diseases in the world, including malaria, HIV, and the neurodegenerative Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Although bioluminescence has been observed for thousands of years, it is clear that this is yet an infant science. Zimmer informs the reader how GFPs can be used to understand how viruses, parasites, and other pathogens behave. Nature’s organismic diversity, especially bioluminescing creatures, has fascinated many scientists, resulting in the discovery of many compounds including luciferin, luciferase, and aequorin as well as the concept of quorum sensing of bioluminescent bacteria. This book is an excellent vehicle for enticing interested youth to this relatively new field of science. The book concludes with a glossary, bibliography, index, and sources for further information (books, websites, videos, and TED talks).‑‑John D. Chilgren, Education Business Group, U.S. Treasury, Portland, OR

Featured Adult Book Review


Garrigues, Richard. Photo Guide to Birds of Costa Rica. (Illus.) Ithaca, NY: Cornell, 2015. 264pp. $24.95. 2015015122. ISBN 9781501700255. Index; C.I.P.


Rating:  **

Costa Rica is a birder’s nirvana. The 903 species of birds found in this accessible Central American country include startling diversity. With fifty different kinds of hummingbirds, a dozen species of parrots, including two types of macaws, as well as trogons, toucans, puffbirds and cotingas, who can resist looking for birds in Costa Rica? Inevitably, birders identify those birds using the classic field guide written by Richard Garrigues and illustrated by Robert Dean. Now Richard Garrigues has given us something new: An abbreviated guide to about 40% of the Costa Rican birds using photographs instead of illustrations for identification. And these are no ordinary photographs: Collected from 50 different photographers, each color image sharply displays the typical characteristics of the species. In several cases, these photographs show features more clearly than the corresponding illustrations in the author’s more complete guide. We see the bright white plumage of the juvenile spectacled owl, striking color dimorphisms that distinguish male from female trogons, and hanging oropendola nests. The various small green parrots are clearly distinguished by species’ typical color patterns, making identification nearly instantaneous. The author explains that his choice of 40% of the country’s birds actually covers about 75% of the species one is likely to see on a typical birding trip to Costa Rica. And for many, this beautiful guide will fulfill their needs. However, the more invested birder may not forgive the absence in the guide of blue‑headed parrots, azure‑hooded jays, or smooth‑billed anis.‑‑Judy  Diamond, University of Nebraska State Museum, Lincoln, NE