It is no surprise that the Junior Literary Guild has endorsed this book—Sneed Collard is a master at writing informational texts about animal life. In this case, he uses a very readable style to convey a great deal of information about the strange breed of creatures known as marsupials. Even struggling readers are likely to stay engaged by the many photos that illustrate the text. At the same time, headings and sidebars such as one that takes a look at "marsupial myths" break the text into manageable chunks and chapters. Collard has done an excellent job of organizing the material so that we move from more general understandings about marsupials and their development to specific information about the many different species, from Australian kangaroos, koalas, bandicoots, and Tasmanian devils to American opossums. The final chapters look at the twin issues of endangered species and conservation. This book would be an excellent choice for an elementary or middle school classroom science library. Many children (and adults) are likely to be drawn into finding out more about this most unusual family of mammals while others will find this book an excellent resource for a science project or report.
This intriguing, comprehensive introduction describes marsupials from the common Virginia opossums to the brush-tail possum, a New Zealand pest. In engaging, readable text, Collard presents familiar species (kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, wombats) and a host of lesser-known ones (bilbies, numbats, quolls, cuscus and the extinct thylacine). Along the way, he tells how marsupials differ from other mammals, dispels some popular myths and touches on speciation, classification and continental drift to explain how the many different species evolved and spread to their current homes in the Americas and Australia. His information is logically organized and supplemented with clear and easy-to-read maps and charts and well-reproduced photographs. With an attractive and functional design, this is appealing enough for the casual browser but also useful for serious middle-school research. The author concludes with chapters about threats to this mammal group and conservation efforts. He provides good documentation and suggestions for further exploration. Two species are described but not pictured (kowari and yellow-sided opossum), but this is a minor blemish in an otherwise splendid informational book. (bibliography, glossary, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)