Ackerman travels the world to see animals in their native habitats, focusing in this book on bats, American alligators and crocodiles, whales and penguins. For those who are not particularly familiar with these animals, this book is an excellent introduction. I found the section on bats to be the most interesting, followed by that of the penguins, mainly for it very evocative descriptions of the scenery. The sections on whales and gators were less interesting to me, since they didn't have a lot of information that was new to me.
As for the section on bats, what I most enjoyed were the adventure stories provided by Merlin Tuttle, bat expert and founder of Bat Conservation International. I don't know if he has ever written a book about his adventures, but if he hasn't he sure should. He has led a very exciting life, out in the field studying bats. What a guy!
This is a book poorly served by the ordering of its chapters. I enjoyed most of the book. I even enjoyed most of the end chapter (though it was a bit rougher than the rest, and harder to read because of it). The very end, however, was a jarring violent image that did not flow with the rest of the book and left a bad taste. Inaccurate? No, but jarring--she mentioned the violence of the natural (and human) world elsewhere without being so jarring, and not usually right at the end. If there had been another chapter after, it still would have been jarring but not marked the entire book so much.
While not the best nature writer I've read, I did enjoy her travels into bats and whales and alligators. I learned quite a bit, as well. Her introduction was I think the best part of the book, simply because of her discussion of risk. People should read introductions to books; they often are insightful and interesting (and those that aren't are at least usually short).
This collection of essays is certainly beautifully written. The topics of bats, crocodiles, whales and penguins were all fascinating and fairly informative. The book just didn't really wow me - much of the information was not new and though the author put herself into the essays, there wasn't really enough of that to put a more interesting angle on the collection as a whole.