Australian Geographic, Ultimate Predator, Australian Geographic, April 2021, 32 pp., RRP $19.95 (hbk), ISBN 9781922388117
Australian Geographic offers a unique take on the traditional non-fiction book, presenting a kind of animal Olympics to determine which Australian animal is the ‘Ultimate Predator’. This approach makes for a highly entertaining as well as educational book.
Animals are divided into family groups: reptiles, fish, land mammals, sea mammals, birds and mini beasts. A page spread is dedicated to a ‘Tournament Round’ held within each animal family, with a selected group of predators individually profiled and assigned a ‘Predator Power’ score based upon their size, speed, strength, senses, attack style and ‘smarts’. On the following page spread the ‘Family Champion’ is announced. Then in the ‘Final Round’ the ‘Family Champions’ are pitted against each other with the final ‘Ultimate Predator’ decided. You’ll just have to read the book to find out which animal that is!
The individual animal profiles focus on the predators’ physical and behavioural attributes and are succinct and fascinating. There is no shying away from the harsh reality of survival in the animal world but importantly the animals are not labelled as being evil or bad. Children who like a bit of ‘blood and gore’, ‘thrill of the chase’ or ‘the weird and wacky’ are sure to enjoy the graphic imagery. Personally, I was a little disturbed by the knowledge of a three-metre-long worm burrowed under the sea floor that suddenly leaps up to catch and then slice through its prey. Eek.
The profiles are pleasingly arranged over the spread of pages with bright colours and high-quality photos accompanying the text. Speech bubbles attached to some of the animals allow them to talk up their predatory prowess and adds a nice touch of light heartedness. The underlying pursuit to discover first, the family champions and eventually the ‘Ultimate Predator’ makes for an exciting read bound to motivate even reluctant readers. I highly recommend this book for children aged 7-17 years.
Reviewed by Julie Bertola