Just the Right Size: Why Big Animals Are Big and Little Animals Are Little
By Nicola Davies
Illustrated by Neal Layton
Candlewick Press
ISBN: 9780763639242
Grades 3-6
In Stores
Review copy provided by publisher



Is it just me, or does it seem that more and more, nonfiction books are trying to be all things to all readers? A mile wide and an inch deep, these collections of facts are no doubt fun to read (I’ve read, enjoyed, and reviewed a few of them in these here pages), but don’t delve too deep into any one topic. Just the Right Size not only picks a topic and gets into the nuts and bolts, but the topic chosen is one that I don’t recall getting much play anywhere else. For the right child (or for classroom use), Just the Right Size ably delivers.

Why can’t people lift 10 times their body weight like ants can? How come I can’t crawl on my ceiling like a gecko? As Biggie Smalls (never) said: “Mo’ mass, mo’ problems”. Most of the information in Just the Right Size is based on a scientific rule (they call it The BTLT Rule) that is explained early on:

If you double the length of something, its surface area and cross section go up four times, while its volume and weight go up EIGHT times!

This exponential increase in weight is to blame for our species’ inability to walk on water and crawl on the ceiling. Over the course of 60 pages, Nicola Davies and Neal Layton (Extreme Animals) apply The BTLT Rule to explain the dietary, migratory, and evolutionary differences between large and small animals. Of special interest to many young readers will be the section that, in gleeful detail, explains why giant humans and spiders can’t exist. In short? They would be so heavy their legs would break. Indeed, there is a certain segment of scientific-minded youngsters who will eat this up.

The brightly colored doodle illustrations serve the text well, illustrating the concepts presented in a style that young readers will be able to grasp. However, I can’t help but envision this one getting passed over due to the overall presentation. The dimensions, cover, and interior illustrations of Just the Right Size may give kids on the upper end of this book’s intended constituency (5th-6th grade) the impression that it is for a younger audience than it really is. That would be a shame, as the content is well-suited for that age group.

Here’s hoping Just the Right Size is able to find it’s audience, be it kid or classroom. An engaging, understandable, refreshingly focused look at a topic every child has considered.

Check out the Nonfiction Monday roundup at MotherReader.

Find this book at your local library with WorldCat.