Hip-Pocket Papa
by Sandra Markle

32 pp.
Charlesbridge Publishing
Watertown, MA
ISBN: 9781570917080

Grade Level: K-4

Reviewed by Judy Kraus
Science Teacher, Hyde Park Middle School

In the animal kingdom, parenting is often thought to be the primary responsibility of the mother.  But in the Australian temperate rainforest, the male of the species Assa darlingtoni (the hip-pocket frog) has many of these duties. This fascinating story of a unique life cycle will attract young readers.

Both parents guard the fertilized eggs beneath a pile of moist leaf litter. Their small size (18-21 mm) helps them stay hidden, but they remain on guard for predators like arthropods, which are even smaller! Once the eggs hatch, the mother’s job is finished and the father waits for the tadpoles to meander their way into the pockets hidden in his hip area. The tadpoles continue to stay moist in this environment and have nutrition supplied by the remaining yolk. The father continues to search for his own food and an appropriate place to release the froglets in 30 to 60 days.

Woven into the story are animals unique to the temperate rainforest ecosystem, including the dusky antechinus, a rat-sized marsupial, and the currawong, a bird with a 50-cm-long body. Told from the frog’s point of view, this story makes it is easy to imagine the dangers this miniscule organism faces as well as its importance within the fabric of the ecosystem.  Illustrator Alan Marks complements the tale masterfully with his watercolor, pen, and pencil drawings. The frog’s perspective is pictured in the relationship between the leaf litter and the hip-pocket frog and the dangers faced when confronted by a boobook owl. The vibrant colors combined with the text are engaging. The author closes with a summary of the animals including their scientific names, characteristics, and preferred diet. Fast facts and sources for more information are sure to entice readers to find out more about the hip-pocket frog.

Review posted on 5/18/2010

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