Mason, Adrienne, illus. by Nancy Gray Ogle. Skunks. Kids Can Press, 2006. ISBN 978-1553377344. 32 pp. $11.99
Did you know that the spotted skunk does a handstand before spraying its musk at potential predators? Or that skunks eat snakes? This picture book covers species, habitat, anatomy, feeding habits and more of these black and white nocturnal mammals. Written in simple language and illustrated with vibrant and painstaking detail, the narrative is punctuated by boxed “Skunk Facts” on each page. Illustrator Nancy Gray makes the natural world nearly tangible. Each animal, each leaf has a unique look, and the details of each habitat are authentic. Quantitative data such as size and weight is made relative through comparison to objects a child might be familiar with: apples, cats, city blocks. Figures are given in metric and English measurements.
The book concludes with an examination of people’s attitudes towards skunks, and a reminder of the benefits of these badger-like animals. Occasionally there are teasers that remain unfulfilled; such as the author stating that the scientific name for skunk means bad odor – but not giving the scientific name. Geographic range is only depicted for one species, although over a dozen are illustrated. Such eliminations, coupled with a lack of source notes or further reading materials, make this an inappropriate choice for school reports. As leisure read, however, it is engaging and fascinating.
A page on skunk signs (scat, paw prints), a glossary (only about half of the words defined within the context of the book are included) and index are appended.