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The Tapir Scientist: Saving South America's Largest Mammal

Overview

If you’ve never seen a lowland tapir, you’re not alone. Most of the people who live near tapir habitat in Brazil’s vast Pantanal (“the Everglades on steroids”) haven’t seen the elusive snorkel-snouted mammal, either. In this arresting nonfiction picture book, Sibert winners Sy Montgomery and Nic Bishop join a tapir-finding expedition led by the Brazilian field scientist Pati Medici. Aspiring scientists will love the immediate, often humorous “you are there” descriptions of fieldwork, and gadget lovers will revel ...
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Overview

If you’ve never seen a lowland tapir, you’re not alone. Most of the people who live near tapir habitat in Brazil’s vast Pantanal (“the Everglades on steroids”) haven’t seen the elusive snorkel-snouted mammal, either. In this arresting nonfiction picture book, Sibert winners Sy Montgomery and Nic Bishop join a tapir-finding expedition led by the Brazilian field scientist Pati Medici. Aspiring scientists will love the immediate, often humorous “you are there” descriptions of fieldwork, and gadget lovers will revel in the high-tech science at play, from microchips to the camera traps that capture the “soap opera” of tapir life.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
According to Montgomery, the tapir “looks like a cross between a hippo, an elephant, and something prehistoric,” and indeed the animal has survived for more than 12 million years. In this addition to the Scientists in the Field series, Montgomery and Bishop bring readers into Brazil’s Pantanal, an expanse of grasslands and subtropical forests, where a team of scientists tracks tapirs in an effort to understand them more completely. Profiles of scientists and ranchers, discussions of other animals of the Pantanal, Bishop’s typically electric nature photography, and a few tense moments in the wild combine to create a full, fascinating picture of tapirs and one place they call home, as well as the work being done to protect them. Ages 10–up. (July)
From the Publisher

"Profiles of scientists and ranchers, discussions of other animals of the Pantanal, Bishop's typically electric photography, and a few tense moments in the wild combine to create a full, fascinating picture of tapirs and one place they call home, as well as the work being done to protect them."
Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Chapters about the team's day-by-day experiences, written in a lively, first-person voice, include memorable detail. . . A splendid addition to an exemplary series."
Kirkus, starred review

"This contribution to the Scientists in the Field series seamlessly blends eloquent text and vivid images to spotlight the gentle tapir and those field scientists whose lives are committed to conserve animal species for the sake of our environment and our humanity."
Booklist, starred review

"Bishop's captivating photographs, paired with Montgomery's narrative, not only call attention to a lesser-known endangered species, but also expose readers to the working conditions, obstacles, and emotions experienced by passionate scientists in the field."
School Library Journal, starred review

"[The book] offers a clear-eyed picture of the challenges and the joys of pioneering fieldwork."
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"Montgomery's dramatic account of tracking the elusive animals is interspersed with scientific information about the various tapir species, samples of Medici's data on tapir movements, explanations of the technologies used in the research, and discussions of Brazilian ranching culture."
The Horn Book Magazine

Children's Literature - Natalie Gurr
Writer-photographer team Montgomery and Bishop here take readers to the Pantanal wetland, to meet the elusive lowland tapir. The tapir resembles “a cross between a hippo, an elephant, and something prehistoric,” and little is known about how it lives. On this trip, Pati Medici is the team guide and local tapir expert. She has spent years studying tapirs and educating the public about these mysterious creatures. A rollicking first-person account describes how Pati’s team searches and tags tapirs in the enchanting Pantanal, a rich home for many animals, including feral pigs, exotic birds, venomous snakes, anteaters, and pumas. Gorgeous accompanying photographs illustrate the biodiversity of the tapirs’ habitat and the beauty of the wetlands. This enthralling journey will cause readers young and old fall in love with the ancient tapirs. It is a stunning edition to the “Scientists in the Field” series that profiles scientists and the animals they have dedicated their lives to protecting. Reviewer: Natalie Gurr; Ages 12 up.
School Library Journal
★ 09/01/2013
Gr 5–10—In this addition to the series, readers join Pati Medici and her team in their quest to study tapirs in the world's largest wetland, the Pantanal Wetlands of Brazil. Although its appearance may lead some to suppose that the tapir falls somewhere near elephants or hippopotami in the family tree, this flexible-snouted, hoof-toed tropical creature is most closely related to rhinoceroses and horses. Medici has dubbed the tapir "the gardener of the forest" for its critical role in maintaining foliage by ingesting fruits and excreting the seeds elsewhere, but little else is known about this vanishing species. By observing and trapping the animals to outfit them with radio collars or microchips and collect samples including blood and ticks from infestations, Medici's team hopes to better understand their lifestyles to enhance conservation efforts. Although in-text pronunciation guides are included for some Portuguese names and select scientific terminology is explained, no glossary is provided, and many of the exotic birds discussed are not shown. Following each chapter are several pages of related information with text and photographs placed on top of a marbled background with shadows that can make the text difficult to read in some places. A list of several websites and YouTube videos is included, and the index differentiates between text and photographic references. Bishop's captivating photographs, paired with Montgomery's narrative, not only call attention to a lesser-known endangered species, but also expose readers to the working conditions, obstacles, and emotions experienced by passionate scientists in the field.—Meaghan Darling, Plainsboro Public Library, NJ
Kirkus Reviews
The writer-and-photographer team who introduced readers to flightless parrots, snow leopards, tree kangaroos and the Goliath bird-eating tarantula turn their attention to the elusive lowland tapir. Traveling in Brazil's Pantanal wetlands with biologist Patricia "Pati" Medici and her team, Montgomery and Bishop experience long, hot days, cramped conditions, nervous waiting and itchy tick bites while searching for this solitary, nocturnal animal. There is a satisfying natural structure to this tale of science research in the field, as initial difficulties give way to the team's most productive expedition ever. In less than a week, they see tapirs in the wild, find their tracks, take photographs, locate them through radio telemetry, collect "samples of tapir poop, skin, fur, and blood," and capture and collar two new tapirs, with more to come. This research matters, and the author clearly explains why. Chapters about the team's day-by-day experiences, written in a lively, first-person voice, include memorable detail; interspersed are sections introducing team members, the ranch where they (and a team investigating giant armadillos) are doing their research, a British teen who helped fund an expedition and record-keeping. Clearly labeled photographs of scientists at work, ranch life, tapirs and other animals of this unfamiliar part of the world add to the book's appeal. A splendid addition to an exemplary series. (bibliography, websites, index) (Nonfiction. 10-15)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547815480
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 7/23/2013
  • Series: Scientists in the Field Series
  • Pages: 80
  • Sales rank: 730,066
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Lexile: 970L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 11.30 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Sy Montgomery

Sy Montgomery is an author, naturalist, newspaper columnist, scriptwriter, and radio commentator who writes award-winning books for children as well as adults. She lives in Hancock, New Hampshire. Visit her website at symontgomery.com.
Sy Montgomery and photographer Nic Bishop won the Sibert Medal in 2011 for their collaborative work on Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World's Strangest Parrot, another Scientist in the Field title.

Nic Bishop, who holds a doctorate in the biological sciences, is the photographer of many acclaimed books for children. He lives in Auckland, New Zealand.Visit his website at: www.nicbishop.com

Nic Bishop and author Sy Montgomery won the Sibert Medal in 2011 for their collaborative work on Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World's Strangest Parrot, another Scientist in the Field title.

Good To Know

In our exclusive interview with Montgomery, she revealed a few fun anecdotes:

"My companion pig, Christopher Hogwood, age 12, lost 60 pounds on his new diet and now weighs in at a trim 690 pounds."

"My first known act of Eco-Conscience: I was sent home from kindergarten for biting a little boy who had pulled the legs off a daddy longlegs. I would do it again today."

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    1. Hometown:
      Hancock, New Hampshire
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 7, 1958
    2. Place of Birth:
      Frankfurt, Germany
    1. Education:
      Syracuse University: B.A., Newhouse School of Public Communications, 1979; B.A., College of Arts and Sciences, 1979

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