Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Urban Animals

Urban Animals

Isabel Hill
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 5 to 8
Star Bright Books, 2009   ISBN: 978-1595722102

It is true that some animal species do live in cities, and even thrive there. Squirrels, raccoons, falcons, pigeons, and plenty of other creatures can be found living in parks, gardens, and in and around buildings. Typically the animals one finds in cities are not very exotic though.

   What many of us fail to realize as we walk around cities and towns, is that exotic animals are often around us. We just aren’t seeing them. Many buildings are decorated with images, statues, and friezes of animals, and the author of this book shows us some of these stone and metal urban creatures that she has found.

   She begins with a building where the image of snakes is carved in the stone beneath some windows. Next, we see a photograph of a window with a green frame. Above the window, in the stone keystone, is a little carved relief showing a squirrel eating an acorn. The carving is beautifully detailed, though it is not as impressive as the images of seahorses that we see later in the book. Over the entrance to a building four proud-looking art deco metal seahorses “shimmer and glow.”

   Of course lions are often used as architectural details, and sure enough, in this book, we see the head of a lion, its mouth open in mid-roar. The head is carved in stone, serving as a building bracket on either side of a doorway.

   In this excellent title the author shows young readers a wide variety of architectural details that she has photographed in parts of New York City. The book can be enjoyed on several levels. Little children will like trying to identify the animals that they see and will appreciate the rhyming text. Older readers will enjoy seeing how architects incorporated decorative details into their buildings in a variety of ways. At the back of the book there is a glossary where the architectural details mentioned in the text are explained further. A drawing accompanies the glossary showing where the architectural details mentioned in the book appear on the buildings shown in the photographs.