Armadillo Trail: The Northward Journey of the Armadillo

Overview

Follow the journey of this "armored" creature to the north. It is descended from an animal that evolved fifty-five million years ago in South America. It looks like a miniature tank, with its stiff armor and short legs. When the Spanish arrived in the New World and saw this strange-looking creature, they called it el armadillo, "the little armored one." Stephen Swinburne and Bruce Hiscock follow the trail of one armadillo in Texas that gives birth to four female pups. When her babies are ready, the mother leads ...

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Overview

Follow the journey of this "armored" creature to the north. It is descended from an animal that evolved fifty-five million years ago in South America. It looks like a miniature tank, with its stiff armor and short legs. When the Spanish arrived in the New World and saw this strange-looking creature, they called it el armadillo, "the little armored one." Stephen Swinburne and Bruce Hiscock follow the trail of one armadillo in Texas that gives birth to four female pups. When her babies are ready, the mother leads them out of their burrow. Soon they learn how to dig for worms and beetles to eat. The young armadillos keep growing and keep moving, staying alert for dogs and other predators. They wander ever northward on a journey of survival fraught with danger.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Beverley Fahey
In a hole in a Texas field, a mother armadillo gives birth to four females. Within weeks, she takes them out to explore their world. Almost immediately, one of the soft-shelled babies falls victim to a predator. In the ensuing weeks, the mother teaches her young to find food and make their way in their surroundings. The largest of her pups wanders off on her own heading north, always keeping close to the river for water and the woods for insects. For two years, she journeys. She uses her keen sense of hearing and ability to walk underwater for long periods of time to make up for her poor sense of sight. In Kansas, she mates with a young male and soon gives birth to four identical pups. She is home, but soon one of her pups will leave and the cycle will begin again. Young readers will glean much about the habits and habitats of the armadillo from this engaging story. Swinburne's narrative is accompanied by warm watercolors that aptly portray the Texas/Oklahoma landscape as the armadillo's journey plays out. Additional information explains the phenomena of the expansion of the armadillo's territory. It has grown exponentially since 1850 when the nine-banded species first made its appearance in the United States. Other curious facts (e.g., they are the only creature besides humans to contract leprosy, they evolved in South America 55 million years ago, they give birth to four identical pups) make for fascinating reading. The picture book format with typeface on crisp white paper gives this book added appeal for young readers. Reviewer: Beverley Fahey
School Library Journal

K-Gr 4

This informative and appealing introduction to armadillos covers the growth and development of a mother and her four pups. One of the grown pups meanders northward and eventually starts her own family in Kansas. Beautiful watercolor illustrations (the hard carapace of the armadillo is very effectively rendered) accompany evocative imagery-"Her hind legs work like excavators catching the loose dirt and flinging it backward." There is some slight anthropomorphizing: "Her children watch and learn," and "she is Texas-born, but she has a traveling soul." The loss of a young pup to a predator is deftly handled: a picture of a burrow shows the mother armadillo resting with her remaining three pups. The landscapes show vibrant wide open spaces; one reveals the soft glow of a sunset, another shows a pond bottom, its soil disturbed by an armadillo walking underwater; it discloses the unusual ability of an armadillo to store air and submerge itself for "up to six minutes." Additional material about armadillos and a map showing their current range in the United States is included on the final two pages. This lovely book is packed with information, but it is more suitable for browsing or as a read-aloud than for reports.-Kirsten Cutler, Sonoma County Library, CA

Kirkus Reviews
Unknown in the United States before 1850, the nine-banded armadillo has expanded its range northward and eastward as far as Kansas, South Carolina and Florida. Former National Park Ranger Swinburne demonstrates this trend, following a particular female armadillo from the Texas landscape where she was born and raised to adulthood and child-bearing of her own in Kansas. Hiscock's detailed watercolors extend across the fold of each double-page spread, illustrating the vast landscape, the ungainly mammal's cozy home and the obstacles and hazards she meets on her journey. The clear text easily brings readers into the journey without actual personification. Both text and pictures are surrounded by generous white space, adding to the sense of potential expansion. Backmatter includes a more general description of the species and a helpful map. As they did for yellow butterflies, sea turtles and snowy owls, this author-illlustrator pair has again provided a fascinating example of the phenomenon of migration in animal behavior. (Informational picture book. 7-10)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590784631
  • Publisher: Highlights Press
  • Publication date: 2/1/2009
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 7 - 9 Years
  • Product dimensions: 10.00 (w) x 11.20 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen R. Swinburne is the author of Turtle Tide: The Ways of Sea Turtles, illustrated by Bruce Hiscock.  A former national park ranger, he also wrote Black Bear: North America's Bear; Coyote: North America's Dog, and Saving Manatees. He lives in South Londonderry, Vermont.

Bruce Hiscock is the author-illustrator of a number of books, including Ookpik: The Travels of a Snowy Owl; The Big Caribou Herd: Life in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; The Big Tree; The Big Storm; and Coyote and Badger: Desert Hunters of the Southwest. He lives in upstate New York.

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