top of page

Animals as an entry point to developing a love for science in gifted students

Written by: Christina Barber

Animals are such a great entry point into science as kids are so often fascinated by creatures great and small from an early age. From questions around where they live, to what they eat and do, inquiry easily develops towards the more complex topics of adaptations, evolution, niches, and interconnectedness to the plants and animals in its environment. I often see passions develop in students for endangered species, which can lead to full-scale activism projects, with students educating others and even raising money for charities. The great thing about the topic of animals is that there is no shortage of easily available resources for intrepid researchers. My second selection in this Science - Questions & Answers series is the newly released English translation of Lena Anlauf and Vitali Konstantinov’s Genius Noses. This well-researched and engaging, non-fiction book centres around the topic of the different noses found in the animal kingdom. The myriad ways in which noses have evolved is sure to spark more questions and further interest in Animal Biology.


The Set-up:

This non-fiction book is organised into portraits of animals with accompanying details. Each animal is featured in its environment, accompanied by information about where it lives, what it eats, and most importantly how its nose functions. Additionally, there are other interesting and sometimes unusual facts about behaviour, relationships with other animals, and environmental concerns. Not your usual host of animals, there are many less well-known creatures, Bilbies, Desmans, and Tamanduas among them, and even the most passionate animal enthusiast is sure to find some new information. While this book is primarily dedicated to mammals around the world, there is a section at featuring a variety of strangely nosed creatures like the Pig-nosed turtle and the Short-nosed unicorn fish.

What I love:

This vibrantly illustrated compendium of unusual creatures has so much to offer for a wide range of readers. Information is presented with accompanying illustrations that whet the appetite for further questioning. With creatures from around the world, this book is as much about geography and ecological zones as it is about the animals. The introductory map, based on Hajime Narukawa’s AuthaGraph world map, presents a more accurate distribution of the world’s continents and can further discussion around how Earth’s geography is presented. A comprehensive glossary with accompanying notes present accessible definitions for more complex terms and concepts and there is a full index of creatures to facilitate browsing.

In the classroom:

* In younger grades (2-4), children could each read about one creature and present what they learned in small group discussions or to the whole class. * Analysis and Comparison: Compare two different animals presented in the book. How are they similar/different? Compare the animals living in one region with that of a different region, do you notice any patterns? What patterns do you observe in the various adaptations?

* Research: do a mini-research project and collect information about an animal that isn’t in the book, look at birds for instance and the different ways that beaks or feet have evolved to complement their environments. Make a class book in the style of Genius Noses.

* Reflection: How will climate change potentially affect animals that are so highly adapted to their environments? Check out Yolanda Ridge’s Evolution Under Pressure: How We Change Nature and How Nature Changes Us for some great examples.

GeniusNoses by Lena Anlauf, illustration by Vitali Konstantinov © NorthSouth Books, an imprint of NordSüd Verlag.


Lena Anlauf lives in Marburg, works as editorial director and editor at the kunstanstifter verlag, researches historical picture books, and writes and designs her own book projects. Genius Noses is her children’s book debut.

Vitali Konstantinov works as a freelance illustrator and author and lives in Marburg. He drew the illustrations for Genius Noses with drawing ink and colored pencil on watercolor paper. His work has been exhibited extensively, has received many prizes, and has been published in forty different countries. Most recently he was nominated for the Deutsche Jugendliteraturpreis.

Publisher: NorthSouth Books Publishing date: Sept. 19th, 2023

Language: English

Softcover: 64 pages

ISBN-13: 9780735845350


Christina Barber is a writer and educator who lives in Vancouver, Canada. She teaches a full-time gifted program for students in Grades 5-7. An avid reader, she shares her passion for Canadian literature and history through her reviews at The Miramichi Reader and on Instagram @cb_reads_reviews. She has most recently been committed to writing and staging formally innovative single and multi-act plays for her students.


bottom of page