Reviewed by Jacqueline Pfeiffer
3rd Grade Teacher
Marsupial mammals are especially fascinating to children. This book, one in a series of four, explores these mammals is an easy-to-read way and is an NSTA/CBC Outstanding Science Trade Book for 2009. The books are written with ages 5-7 and grades K-2 in mind, but older and younger children would also enjoy this series. A zoo curator and a literary educator served as consultants on the series. Sidebars, fun facts, and maps are scattered throughout each book. Also included are a glossary, an index, a list of safe websites to explore at Fact Hound, and benchmarks for science literacy. Accelerated Reader tests may also be accessed at the identified website.
Each book focuses on one marsupial and follows the animal from birth through its first year of life in its natural habitat. At the beginning of the book is a list of where the animal lives, its habitat, the food it eats, its length and weight, its class, and its scientific name. Other plants and animals that would be in the animal's habitat are identified throughout the book.
The facts scattered throughout are fascinating. Platypuses have burrows up to 60 feet long and come out at night. They have pouches inside their cheeks where they store their food, and they eat up to half of their body weight per day and store fat in their flat furry tails. A platypus has no teeth but crushes its food between small pads in its jaws.
They often have one burrow for nesting and others for resting. Less than one month after mating, a platypus will lay usually two tiny white eggs. These eggs stick to the fur on the mother's body, and 10 days later the platypus eggs hatch. Babies drink milk out of holes on their mother's skin. At six weeks of age, the babies have fur, their eyes are open, and they are about 12 inches long. At 14 weeks they are ready to explore their habitat and watch out for predators--who are foxes, dingoes, and owls.
At 5 months, baby platypuses are nearly as big as their mothers, can find their own food, and are ready to be on their own. At about two years old, the platypus will mate and have its own babies. They can dive for food up to 80 times per hour. If they are feeding, they can stay underwater for 20-40 seconds. If they are resting, they can stay underwater for up to 14 minutes.
The illustrations are unusual in that they are all cut paper with no photos or actual pictures. I found myself longing for a "real" picture of a platypus, but this was not enough to detract from my overall recommendation.
Review posted on 6/20/2008