Secret of the Puking Penguins and the other books in the Animal Secrets Revealed! series are actually well kept secrets themselves. Hidden behind the blaring, attention-grabbing titles are serious books for kids interested in real science. Ana María Rodríguez interviews five actual scientists about their research and describes new and interesting discoveries that they have made.
In the first chapter, scientists Anthony Herrel and Jay Meyers investigate how chameleons’ incredible tongues work. The tongues are not only sticky, as many of us already knew, but also are physically shaped to act like a suction cup. As the activity at the end of the chapter demonstrates, the suction cup action works much better at grabbing prey than stickiness alone.
The second chapter is about sensory apparatus in alligators. It isn’t until the third chapter does the reader find out about the “puking penguins.” As anyone who lived through the penguin craze of a few years back knows, penguins regurgitate food to their chicks. Rodríguez discusses how three French physiologists are so fascinated by the king penguins’ ability to hold food in their stomachs for long periods that they decided to study it further. By taking samples, the scientists revealed the penguins produce numerous antimicrobial substances (antibiotics) in their stomach to help preserve the food, including one completely new substance that no one had discovered before! How cool is that?
The final two chapters are about research of cuckoos, a bird that lays its eggs in the nests of other birds, and about how peacock feathers create their iridescent colors. “Chapter Notes” at the end are numbered references from each chapter. This is a nice touch that parallels how literature would be cited in an actual scientific paper, getting budding scientists ready to produce the real thing.
Other than the author should have included a few more activities to reinforce learning (there is just one), this book is fascinating and informative for young readers interested in science. Now let’s get the secret out.
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Library Binding: 48 pages
Publisher: Enslow Publishers, Inc. (September 1, 2008)
Here’s another book from the same series.