Prezler, June. 2009. Meat-eating plants and other extreme plant life. Read by Charity Jones and Patrick Olson. Mankato, MN: Capstone Press. (audiobook version)
Yes, this is an odd choice for an audiobook review, but there are reasons. My mp3 player was empty. I needed a quick downloadable audiobook for my commute. My daughter recently performed in the pit band for a local performance of "Little Shop of Horrors," and, in addition to the obligatory, closing night bouquet, she received, a meat-eating plant! (It has since become the only one of my thirty or so houseplants which my husband holds in any regard. He even bought a companion plant. We now own Fred and Wilma, the Venus fly traps. But I digress.)
Meat-Eating Plants and other Extreme Plant Life is part of the Capstone's FactFinders series for younger readers - Grades 3-5. (Complete reading level information is available from the publisher) It begins, of course, with the Venus Fly Trap, a great way to grab the reader's (or listener's) attention. Did you know that their leaves are "spring-loaded," and snap shut with the aid of a forceful stream of water shot from within the plant? And how about the Pitcher Plant? Did you know that it has been known to trap a mouse?! The first few chapters deal with all manner of "extreme plants," and their prey.
Later chapters explain the photosynthesis process, but in a way that kids will find interesting. Rather than dwell on the process for a simple house or garden plant, Prezler explains the process for plants adapting to extreme circumstances - intense temperatures, lack of sunlight, etc. The deviations are so much more interesting than the norms!
Also included is the role of plants on earth (and in space!). Plants are tested on the International Space Station and are seen as key in any attempt to colonize space. If it weren't for plants, we wouldn't have meat to eat, or clean air to breathe. Plants have numerous and quite interesting ways to travel and propagate themselves.
If this book doesn't awaken an interest in plants, nothing will. It features meat-eating, poop-eating, and poop-traveling plants - what more can you ask for? Meat-Eating Plants doesn't translate easily to an audiobook format, however - photographs are a must for this type of book (in at least one instance, a caption is read for a photo that the listener cannot see). The simple text is made more interesting with the employ of two narrators, one male and one female. Patrick Olson reads each word very precisely - even using the long A sound for each instance of the word "a." I found it slightly irritating, but in truth, his exacting pronunciation would likely make this a great companion audiobook for struggling or reluctant readers to use in tandem with the text copy.
Bottom line - for plants, this is about as interesting as it gets, however, the book version makes a better choice than the audiobook. For struggling readers, choose the audiobook as accompaniment for the book.
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Nonfiction Monday roundup is at L.L. Owens.