How to Talk to a Tiger… and Other Animals

On an average day, the average person will use around 7000 words to communicate. Animals do not have such complex language systems and yet they still manage to give each other messages about food and mating, share warnings with each other, and ward off predators. They do this using a staggering array of sounds, gestures, pheromones and physiological signals, some of which humans can understand and others which we can still only marvel at.

This is a delightful introduction to animal communication, covering everything from dogs using their tails to signal aggression or submission, to the coordinated group dances of flamingoes, and the complex electric flashing of deep-sea fish. Bittel writes with a palpable sense of playfulness, delighting in facts about dung and farts while also explaining complex concepts in highly readable prose. He is careful to point out how much of our knowledge on this topic is still theory and highlights fascinating stories about scientific observation and discovery.

Appropriately in a book about communication, Buzzel’s illustrations are wonderfully expressive. Her hippos are charming, her cockroaches somehow adorable, and her tiger is fiercely stunning. The images are informative as well as aesthetically pleasing, once again striking that elusive balance between educating and entertaining. A book that younger children will beg for at bedtime and later pore over as they become independent readers.