Bionic Beasts by Jolene Gutierrez

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

Bionic Beasts: Saving Animal Lives with Artificial Flippers, Legs, and Beaks

Jolene Gutiérrez, Author

Millbrook Press, Nonfiction, Oct. 6, 2020

Suitable for Ages: 9-14

Themes: Animals, Injuries, Rescue, Veterinary Surgery, Prosthetics, Bionics, Designs and Technology

Opening: “Not long ago, a bird without a beak might have starved to death. An elephant without a foot would have hobbled painfully, permanently damaging her spine and remaining legs. Now animals like these are becoming bionic beasts, animals who have artificial body parts that help them move or function.”

Publisher’s Synopsis:

What happens when a young elephant steps on a buried land mine? What happens when a sea turtle’s flipper is injured by a predator? Thanks to recent advances in technology, we have new ways to design and build prosthetic body parts that can help these animals thrive.

Meet an Asian elephant named Mosha, a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle named Lola, a German Shepherd named Cassidy, a greylag goose named Vitória, and Pirate, a Berkshire-Tamworth pig. Each of these animals was struggling, but through a variety of techniques and technologies, humans created devices that enabled the animals to live and move more comfortably. Discover the stories of how veterinarians, doctors, and even students from around the world used 3D printing and other techniques to build bionic body parts for these amazing animals.

Why I like this book:

Jolene Gutiérrez’s Bionic Beasts is both engaging and heartwarming. It will appeal to animals lovers, budding scientists, engineers and innovators. She introduces readers to five animals from the United States, Canada, Brazil and India, who have been helped to lead more normal lives by veterinarians, scientists, prosthetists, orthotists, engineers and college students working with 3D printing. So much thoughtful research went into the writing of this extraordinary book. And I feel lucky to share it with you!

The book is beautifully designed and easy to read. Each chapter features a different animal. The flowing narrative draws readers into the center of the action by sharing information on each animal injury, the healing process, the impact on the animal’s body and the teams that work together to find solutions to make devices that will help, and the progress each animal makes. There are sidebars about the animal species, special surgeries. 3-D printing, and animal sanctuaries.  Gorgeous color photographs adorn every page chronicling the design stages from beginning to end, when the animal is swimming with its new fin, walking with a prosthetic leg, or feeding and preening its babies with a new beak.

Readers are also challenged with STEM activities for each animal.  For example, there are directions for students to experiment with different gelatins to design a flexible fin for the turtle or build a robotic hand to mimic how the elephant will bend its leg in a prosthetic leg. Jolene always asks the question, “can you improve upon the design?” After all, students from 8th grade to college, helped in developing the original designs.

Bionic Beasts is a wonderful resource for middle grade school libraries or for parents who homeschool.  It’s also a perfect Christmas gift. The material is age appropriate and can be read aloud to younger elementary students. There’s a teacher’s guide on Jolene’s website.

Jolene Gutiérrez has always loved animals. She grew up on a farm where she rode horses, bottle-fed calves, chased kittens, and raised tadpoles that grew into toads. She’s been a school librarian for 25 years and lives in Colorado with her husband, two teenage kids, three preteen dogs, and one prickly hedgehog. Learn more at Jolene’s website.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the MMGM link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Review copy won in a book giveaway by the author on Beth Anderson, Children’s Writer blog, in exchange for a review.