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Children's LiteratureMontgomery's lively prose shows readers what a passion for a topic can turn into. Sam Marshall, a college biology teacher and researcher, is followed by Montgomery and photographer Nic Bishop as he studies Goliath bird-eater tarantulas on the forest floor in Tresor Reserve, French Guiana. It is along way from Hiram, Ohio to South America. Without the emphasis of sidebars or headings, the text simply tells what Marshall does but the reader learns plenty about scientific procedure, patience, preparedness and the right tool (even if it is a stick or cottage cheese container), comparison by quadrant, measurement and its uses, and careful notes. Montgomery works readers through the way science classifies spiders, types of spiders, the Goliath's qualities, and what Marshall is learning. Bishop's pristine photos show close-up, and well-lit, the spider part under investigation and the way scientists sometimes look as a somewhat worn and sweaty Marshall lies in the dirt, making notes, teasing spiders out of their holes or weighing them. Invitations to readers are sprinkled through the book in the form of direct address, posing of unanswered questions, interesting speculations as to why certain spiders behave the way they do, listing other spiders that no one has studied yet, and fittingly, the book ends with one of Marshall's college students who is seen back in Ohio using the computer in her own spider studies. As in other books in the series, this one introduces us to animals, habitat, a career in the sciences, and ecology with a thoughtful note on why we would wish to preserve the habitat of these animals. End matter includes cautionary notes about handling tarantulas (preferably not at all),spider stats, spider vocabulary, "how this book was researched," bibliography, websites, how to contact spider watching sites in French Guiana, and an index. This excellent entry in the series shows just how good Montgomery and Bishop have become in the hard work of conveying information by seeming effortlessness. It is a wonderful nonfiction book, in every sense of the word. This is a volume in the "Scientists in the Field" series. 2004, Houghton Mifflin, Ages 9 to 14.
—Susan Hepler, Ph.D.