September 15, 2014
Piranha by Ann Ingalls
by Ann Ingalls
I picked this one up for two reasons – I know Ingalls who is an amazing writer and we used to have a piranha. Would this book be able to teach me anything?
There are 30 species of piranha. I knew there was more than one but I never guessed that there were 30.
In spite of their deadly reputation, they very seldom attack large prey or people. Some species eat only plants; I’ve seen pictures of these plant eaters and just going by their detention you’d never guess their diet. The red bellied piranha is most often actually a scavenger, feeding on animals that have died in the water. So when is a frightening feeding frenzy most likely to happen? During the dry season when water levels drop and piranha may get trapped in low lying pools or other areas where they quickly run out of their preferred prey.
At only 48 pages, this book packed in a lot of piranha facts. You read about their physiology, their life birth to death, the Amazon River and their role in it as well as how they are often prey. Their most dangerous predator? People!
I was glad to see that Ingalls touched on piranhas as pets and the problems caused when people who tire of their exotic, toothy friend dump the fish in a nearby body of water. Piranha are cold blooded and draw warmth from the water around them. In colder climates, they may survive the summer but almost always die in winter, doing damage to the habitat in the meanwhile.
This book would be a sure draw for boys hoping to read about ill-fated cattle, people and capybara. Because this is an ABDO book, it is also an excellent choice for the classroom or library. Chapters end with quotes — one from Roosevelt who witnessed piranha attacking a cow and one from a scientific journal. Students are asked to read these passages and then reflect on the main idea as well as how the message might be rewritten for a different audience.
Hats off to Ann Ingalls for teaching me so much about Rex (who is no longer amond us) and his cousins.