Secrets of Sound: Studying the Calls of Whales, Elephants, and Birds Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2018-06-29 
Review Score: 5 out of 5 star From 0 user ratings

" Pretty interesting book about animal sounds, including ones that humans can't hear. " said.

" You probably knew that whales sing songs, but did you know that elephants communicate with noises below the range of human hearing? Bioacousticians study the sounds that animals make and apply the information to conservation efforts. This is an interesting book about an unusual topic and will appeal to middle grade animal lovers. " said.

"Secrets of Sound: Studying the Calls and Songs of Whales, Elephants, and Birds
By: April Pulley Sayre
Category: Scientist in the Field
I have to admit I fell asleep twice while reading this book! The book contains some really cool information, but I thought it dragged and was a bit too technical for my liking. The book details the adventures of scientists that are trying to unravel the language of whales, elephants, and birds. Do these creature talk to each other? These scientists believe so. Katy Payne claims that elephants make a noise so low that the human ear cannot detect it, but we can feel the rumbles in our feet. She also claims that the elephants can communicate from miles apart from one another. What glows in the book is the passion each of these scientists have for their jobs. Their excitement was not contagious, but evident. One way this book could be used in the classroom is for vocabulary. The scientist share the terms of above water and underwater devices they use to record the noises the animals make. The photos of the animals are breathtaking. Because of the technical words I think students in 5th grade and up would find this book interesting.
" said.

"Genre: Junior Book- Informational
Summary: Three acoustic biologists’ work is studied all over the world. The first is Christopher Clark who studied whale sounds, next they followed Katy Payne to Africa to study elephant noises in the rain forest, and finally Bill Evans’ study of birds was discussed. What seems like a boring textbook, reads like an interesting newspaper article including pictures and direct quotes from the scientists.
The highlight of this book is that it applies the knowledge, and shows the reason as to why the scientists are researching the particular subject.
Every student that studies sound in the classroom is probably asking themselves why they need to be learning it, and this book answers that question for them. Students are shown people that have made the study of sound into a career, and shown why their work is important. The reading is made interesting with facts like, “Some of these [elephant] sounds are too low for humans to hear, but people can feel them as a throbbing in the air.” (p.7) Children are not only shown how the study of sound can be turned into a career, but also how it affects the biodiversity of the planet. The importance of the subject is displayed in how it helps save species of animals. Bill Evans works to save the songbird populations. “In short, he believes that the more people know about birds, the better chance they have of saving them.” (p.58)
Curriculum Connection: The most obvious curriculum connection would be to the study of sound. Students could become acoustic biologists and study different sounds in the classroom and at home. Students could create videos of certain animal’s sounds and research what they mean. Students could learn about endangered species and biodiversity.
" said.

"1. Informational
2. Follow three Bioacoustician scientists (Christopher (whale listener), Katy (elephant sound expert) and Bill(bird call decoder)) as they learn from animal communication, specifically from whale songs, bird calls, and elephant calls and search for a way to promote conservationism. Learn how whale's communicate across hundreds of miles of dense ocean and about a secret elephant language. This book celebrates science and discovery and teaches readers there is more to animal languages then what meets the ear!
3. critique
a. The personal aspect of the story-like quality of this informational book would give young readers the ability to relate to and therefore see themselves as a scientist.
b. This book is appropriate for young students (young scientists if you will) who are struggling to find a meaning for learning science or how science relates to their lives. Learning about sound waves connected to communication is what preteens are all about! The language used is in a fitting dialog for students of about 4th grade.
c. The book is written with facts intermingled into the scientists research quests.
4. Curriculum connection: I would apply this text to learning about the hearing during a lesson on the five senses. I would play a recording of whale sounds and then ask students to relate how whales and humans are similar (both stay close to family, both are mammals, etc.). We would also play a game that shows them the importance of language and sound where students are asked to play a sort of Pictionary without using words but only gestures and are asked to rely a complicated message. I might also play different clips of various animals communicating using sounds (wolves, gorillas, horses) and ask students to compare and contrast their sounds.
" said.

"Genre: Children’s, Informational


Through the lens of three individual scientists, the study of sounds and the different applications for technology and research regarding them is explored in depth within this single text. The three main areas of focus are whale song, elephant calls, and bird calls with the common thread in each the use of technology to record and learn from each.

Each section highlights the history, work, and habits of the scientist responsible for collecting the sound data and gives valuable insight. The reader is afforded an in depth look at how each scientist came to study what he or she does and the implications for that research in the future.


The information within the text is presented in a technical format while also providing personal notes about the scientists themselves. The scientific context for their research is well documented and the personal aspect gives the reader a more casual look at their lifestyles. In making the reader better able to imagine what life might be like as one of these scientists, children can envision themselves as scientists and open up the possibility as a future career.

The comparison of three different types of animal studies all utilizing some aspect of the same technology brings the stories together in a meaningful way. Although they might seem to be very disparate, the methods, tools, and goals are the same, to learn and gain understanding. In presenting them together that similarity is highlighted and explored.


The educational nature of this text is clear as the information provided is extensive and the multiple uses of similar technology are quite apparent. The incorporation of documents, graphics, and pictures brings another dimension to the text, showing each scientist out in the field working. This real life element to each story gives the text authenticity and personal interest.

The photography also makes the reader familiar with the more technical aspects of the research, showing tools used and information collected. While textual descriptions can provide detail, the photos bring the words to life and place them in a realistic setting. Potentially never having seen such remote locations, the reader is treated to a small window into another world.


The comparisons between the three scientists are a key element to the text, focusing on the individual uniqueness of each type of research while maintaining a common theme. “While Christopher Clark and Katy Payne seek sounds close to the ground or under water, Bill Evans is looking to the sky.”

The comparison runs throughout the text, making multiple connections. “Katy Payne, knew that elephants, like whales, live in family groups and have complex behaviors…” In bridging the gap between whales and elephants, the reader is prepared to look for other similarities in the stories. Finding more comes as no surprise as the research areas overlap.

Curriculum Connections:

The scientific nature of this text lends itself to a host of projects based on this content area. Projects could focus on sound, each individual animal, the practice of research in science, or the technology they use to conduct their research. Exploring in greater detail each of those areas will allow the students to deepen their understanding and make larger connections.

If students are challenged to find a scientific field they might like to pursue when they get older, they can share each of their possibilities with their classmates’ and build a repository of careers. Students could create a poster advertising their chosen field, or write an ad to entice people to join their career field. In doing so they would need to find out the specifics of the job, how it is done, and who usually performs it to adequately inform themselves and their audience.

Writing a comparison piece will also provide an alternate means of processing the multitude of information within this text. If the students first create a graphic organizer, write an outline, and then make continual revisions they will be able to follow a quality writing process while using a science content area as a topic. The final product can be designed to reflect the informational nature of the text, using the vocabulary correctly and referring to technical terms with accuracy.
" said.

" Pretty interesting book about animal sounds, including ones that humans can't hear. " said.

" You probably knew that whales sing songs, but did you know that elephants communicate with noises below the range of human hearing? Bioacousticians study the sounds that animals make and apply the information to conservation efforts. This is an interesting book about an unusual topic and will appeal to middle grade animal lovers. " said.

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