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 BIONIC BEASTS by Jolene Gutiérrez


Saving Animal Lives With Artificial Flippers, Legs, and Beaks

by Jolene Gutiérrez

Pub Date: Oct. 6th, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-5415-8940-7
Publisher: Millbrook/Lerner

Gutiérrez profiles five “bionic beasts,” animals whose prosthetic body parts help them to function.

Matter-of-factly, she introduces three animals that each have only three legs: Lola, a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle from Texas; Mosha, an Asian elephant from Myanmar; and Cassidy, a German shepherd from New York. Pirate, a Berkshire-Tamworth pig from Vancouver Island, has a deformed leg; Vitória, a greylag goose from Brazil, lacks a beak. The animals struggled to move or eat until veterinarians, designers, and doctors teamed up to create innovative prostheses and orthoses. The prostheses’ complex design processes are clearly described. Sidebars provide animal facts and highlight various rescue organizations; the book’s bright yellow and green color scheme complements the accompanying color photos. Though technology is the primary focus, the author acknowledges political and environmental issues in the animals’ habitats, such as ongoing civil wars in Myanmar and oceans cluttered with plastic waste. Activities follow each profile. Some attempt to mimic the teams’ challenges by constructing mock prostheses from household items and exploring strengths and weaknesses of various designs. Others edge problematically into disability simulation, such as imitating Pirate’s walk “to understand how Pirate feels” without his orthosis; though well-meaning, the exercise risks encouraging pity for similarly disabled humans and feels incongruous with other, inclusive instructions: “if you are able”; “or observe a friend.” (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-16-inch double-page spreads viewed at 69.1% of actual size.)

Scientifically inclined readers will enjoy this in-depth application of STEM to disabled animals.

(glossary, notes, bibliography, resources, index) (Nonfiction. 10-12)