Why do toy companies and children's books celebrate some animals but ignore others? Authors Jacob Lentz and Steve Nash couldn't stop wondering and started a blog about the topic: Animal Review. According to a story on NPR, the pair recently published a book by the same title. The NPR story summarizes some of the more interesting entries on animal species, which are systematically evaluated much like new products or cars.

According to the article, there is an art behind evaluating animals. After all, these authors don't want to go the way of Steve Irwin and tick off a stingray. The article quotes the authors joking about respect for great white sharks and king cobras, just in case they are reading the blog.

For example, Lentz and Nash give the panda an F because the animals rarely mate and because they eat bamboo, which their bodies are not adapted to digest.

The octopus, on the other hand, received an A, and not because of the animal's usefulness during hockey playoffs. The authors recognize the high intelligence of the critters and also enjoy the fact that they can "slip through tiny crevices" and shoot ink.

The article follows the pair musing over the attributes of the rhinoceros (the big horn and hatred of fire bode well for the beasts, which have not yet been graded) and the failures of the alpaca (dopey, dumb, and of little use to the Incas in warding off the Spanish, says Lentz). NPR also includes an excerpt from the new book, which takes readers through the humorous case against the panda.

The audio interview on All Things Considered discusses the negative reaction of panda supporters to the book, which Lentz counters by emphasizing the importance of reproduction. While the book and blog are all in good fun, Lentz hopes readers will develop an interest in the natural world and understand the importance of adaptation and survival in a dangerous, changing world.

Failure to breed
New book called 'The Animal Review' grades animals on reproduction, superhero traits and even the coolness factor.