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Arnosky (Beachcombing: Exploring the Seashore) looks at the littlest inhabitants of the Southern marshland, while still exposing the tooth-and-claw nature of life in the wild. "There are babies in the bayou with black and yellow tails," he writes, introducing, in turn, alligators, raccoons ("with rings around their tails"), turtles and ducklings. Arnosky portrays all the babies under the watchful eyes of their mothers ("Mother alligator guards her babies well. She lets no one come near"). But he also makes it clear this is an ecosystem, where just about every creature is some other creature's dinner. When the raccoon mother teaches her adorable babies "how to dig for tasty turtle eggs," their meal occupies one side of a spread, while more fortunate turtle babies emerge from eggs in another area of the swamp. Young alligators regard the fuzzy ducklings as potential dinner, and may be in hot pursuit as the book closes. And yet, this book never feels grim. Quite the contrary: the incantatory prose and luxurious, color-saturated artwork—reminiscent of vintage Golden Books—invites readers to immerse themselves in a mysterious watery landscape, and watch life unfold. Ages 3-up. (Jan.)Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.