Monday, 27 January 2014

Crazy Creatures, by Gill Arbuthnott

A short wander through some of the world's more unusual and bizarre creatures including vampire bats, naked mole rats and a bird that has the World's smelliest attack sick.  I found the information in this book interesting, but struggled to understand the format a little bit.  The text is kept to a minimum and there are no images, but it's not a fact-file and it doesn't really have any sort of reads more like a series of quite interesting animal anecdotes that are just grouped into four vague groups...

I have seen similar books to this that include eye catching colour layouts, photos, habitat information and interesting or gross facts. These types of books are accessible, engaging and popular with low ability readers who don't seem to have too much trouble understanding them.  I just found it odd that a book about weird, mind boggling creatures didn't provide any pictures or any other information at all about the animals, apart from the fact that they did something odd or looked a bit strange.  It is quite difficult to appreciate how strange some of the animals are, unless you know already what they look like.  I'm not sure there is much demand for accessible books that just provide random chunks of information and odd animal attributes without any sort of context- I liked the information, but thought that by itself, the contents of the book was lacking in substance.

I think these factual snippets might have been better used as flashcards, perhaps with an image of the creature on the back that could still be used to develop literacy skills, but in a way that fits the format a bit better.


  1. We used this book as the central part of a partnership project with Dundee's Science Centre. The results were incredible from both a science and literacy perspective. The pupils were hooked on the book from the off, even taking it home and sharing it with their families. When the funding for this project ended we didn't want to lose the impact of the book and this year we have introduced it to four primary 5 classes with a follow up visit from the author. Once again, it has worked its magic, the children couldn't put it down and were able to share a huge amount of information with Gill Arbuthnott when she came to see them. Although there is no longer funding for the partnership project, one of the staff from the Science Centre has moved to another part of the country and she is replicating the project, using this book, in her new location. In my experience of this book, it is not one children necessarily pick up of their own volition. However, if they are introduced to it, it becomes very powerful.

  2. Hi Moira,
    It's good to hear of your sucess using the book- I'm sure it works better with primary aged pupils than secondary...

    There are other books, similar in purpose and theme that are not much more complex in terms of vocabulary, but that feature incredible pictures and facts. Shelved side by side, pupils will always go for the photo book.

    I found the anecdotal style of this strange.