The number of natural science books available to young readers is large and ever-increasing. Discovering Life on Earth offers a high-quality, straightforward, factual approach that presents documentation about the variety of life that has existed on Earth through geological eras and that continues to exist today. The organization that Attenborough employs is logical and easy to follow. The development of lifeforms from the simple to the increasingly complex is treated in an interesting manner with the inclusion of representative examples that capture the imagination and attention of the younger reader. While natural selection is an underlying theme of the book, Attenborough does not overtly address organic evolution.
This is an ambitious work. The animal kingdom is composed of several million species in existence today, and a vast number more are a part of the geological record of life on Earth. Paring down this population to a comprehensible level without losing meaning is a formidable task. As an accomplished scientist and producer of television programming that concerns animals, Attenborough has skillfully picked and chosen among the possibilities and has delivered a finished product that retains coherence and valid content. While the arrangement of the chapters does not deliver complete faithfulness to phylogeny, it is a logical approach to the animal kingdom and should not cause any discernable conceptual errors.
Each chapter brings the reader into immediate involvement with the topic, losing no time to long-winded introductions. Attention-getting incidents and stories carry the reader into the content of the chapter, with many engrossing examples provided along the way. There is a captioned photograph for almost every animal described. Stories unfold as Attenborough presents puzzles and questions...
(The entire section is 749 words.)
Discovering Life on Earth demonstrates to the reader that zoology is a fascinating, diverse, and complex science. Attenborough has done a commendable job of condensing his thirteen-week television series into a book that can be comprehended by young readers. His approach to natural history—in which specific, isolated examples of behaviors within the animal kingdom are described and illustrated—can be criticized for being scattered. Yet, it can be argued that the amount of information available on this subject is too vast to present in its entirety in a way that would engage young readers.
Given Attenborough’s intention, the flow of the subject matter and the coherence among the chapters are commendable. Discovering Life on Earth delivers a large number of interesting stories and examples that should inspire young readers to keep reading, to seek other sources in order to learn more about animal behaviors and relationships. The text is useful both as an entire volume and as a reference work on specific animals, animal behaviors, and the diversity within the animal kingdom.