BEYOND WORDS: What Elephants and Whales Think and Feel is new adaptation of Carl Safina’s 2015 bestselling book is aimed at younger readers, ages 10-14. The first half is devoted to the Lives of Elephants, and the second to Killer Whales, or Orcas. Thankfully, the adaptation doesn’t oversimplify the descriptions or the topics, and the volume (the first of two) maintains the balance of deep research and loving observation.
The first part of the book, Lives of Elephants, includes topics like family, play, grief, and communication. Using dialogue and a journalistic style of pondering questions and then answering them based on observation will appeal to young readers and reluctant readers. While not image-heavy, the photos includes are wonderful and emphasize elephant generations and the people who work to help them.
Part two, Killer Whales, includes sections of the social lives of Orcas as well as singing and sonar, as well as the effects of captivity on the animals. The section “Defying Explanation” is especially interesting, and it is sure to prompt conversation amongst readers. As with the first section, while there are not many photos, they are well-chosen and suit the text.
Beyond Words is readable, informational, and interesting volume is highly recommended for children interested in animals in the wild. The conversational and journal entry style also lends itself well to reading aloud, which is a wonderful way for families to connect over a shared interest.
Review by Kristin Wald