This minimalist combination of alphabet book and informational book makes interesting use of metonym. The more I looked, the more I appreciated how McLimans used a representative part of the animal to connect to the alphabet letter (most of the time). The red ink illustrations of the whole animal help us notice how this works. The cleanness of each page, with its clear placement of the black illustration and the red vignette for information it is very easy to look at and pay attention to each element on the page. Even the titles at the top of each page are clearly set apart from everything else.
Part of me is thinking about how children prefer photographs in informational books, and another part is respecting the high definition of his drawings. It would be interesting to see how kids would read this book with an iPad cued up to google images--if they want to see a picture of an animal they read about, they don't need it to be in the book anymore. The internet should be freeing illustrators up to be less bound to photographic representation.
The explanation at the beginning was thick, and might have been spread across the entire book as a subtext (but that would have ruined the style of the pages). I wondered why each animal was repeated again with more information at the end? Maybe McLimans or an editor sensed the book's market as an informational text rather than an alphabet book? The book does enable inquiry questions to be hooked to animals students find themselves drawn to. But this confuses purposes. The book's strength is the experience of the illustrations. The fact that it's based on information and research didn't need to become such a big part of this book. Patricia Mullins also already did this idea back in 1997--did McLimans review that book?