A Mess of Iguana, a Whoop of Gorillas - book cover

An Amazement of Animal Facts, Complete List Collective Nouns, a Review

A miscellany of animal facts with emphasis on collective names. It is a useful reference for lovers of the English language or with an interest in the natural world.

Many people are fascinated by the collective terms for animals and the name of sounds that animals make. With A Mess of Iguanas, a Whoop of Gorillas Alon Shulman has produced a useful collection of such terms and other, often overlooked, facts about animals.

A Fascinating Collection of Facts

The opening chapter is an introduction setting out the background to the book and Alon Shulman’s enthusiasm for both the natural world and the language associated with animals. A Mess of Iguanas is clearly a labour of love based on a long term interest.

There is a straightforward list of collective nouns for animals and then the books moves on to the main content. Each animal is featured, in no particular order, with its associated terms for a group. All have additional snippets of information providing interesting and often amusing facts that would not usually appear in more formal texts.

For language lovers the author provides the names for the sounds many of the listed animals make. Many are common knowledge: lions roar. But not many people will know that a capybara, large rodents, purr and bark – even if they knew what they were.

A Mess of Iguanas, a Whoop of Gorillas finishes with is a useful guide to additional reading and a comprehensive index.

Illustration by Andy Watts

A Mess of Iguana’s is comprehensively illustrated with pen and ink drawings by Andy Watts. The style is slightly stylised that fits with the overall mood of the book. It gives an open and inviting feel to what could easily have been a simple list of facts; it works well.

Useful Reference and a Light Read

A Mess of Iguanas is not organised with a story line but as a book that is fun to dip into. That makes it a pleasant bed time read as it can easily be picked up and put down. Most importantly it is a reference books that will address the common questions of “What do you call a group of ...?” or “what sound is made by a ...?”.

In that respect it should be read by all quiz team members as it will fill in a lot of gaps that feature in quiz competitions. Quizmasters will find it a useful source to provide some challenging questions.

A Mess of Iguanas, a Whoop of Gorillas; An Amazement of Animal Facts by Alon Shulman (2009, ISBN: 978-1-846-14255-0) is published in hardback by Penguin through their Particular Books imprint.


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