Saturday, February 28, 2009

Marsupial Mom: A Wombat's World by Caroline Arnold

Animal study is a staple of elementary grade science, and dipping into introductory taxonomy usually includes a study of a fascinating subgroup of the home page of us all--mammalia--a sojourn into the world of that easily identified subclass marsupials, with their signature pouches.

Caroline Arnold's A Wombat's World (Caroline Arnold's Animals) (Picture Window Books, 2008), with the author's soft cut-paper collages and engaging story of a wombat mother's preparations for and care of her growing baby, is especially appealing and accessible to primary grade students.

Arnold, an author/illustrator well known for her nonfiction nature study books, leisurely tells the story of a mother wombat, beginning with the digging out of a new tunnel and chamber for herself and her expected baby. The reader sees the tiny bean-sized, hairless baby finding its way to her pouch for the first six months of its life. The author then deftly pictures the wombat's habits and behavior--its daytime sleep in the cool of the underground chamber, its nocturnal feeding habits, its predators, and the development of the single baby, which nurses and stays with its mother until it is ready for independence at about 15 months of age. Small colored text boxes set off significant facts related to each double-page spread (e.g., "Dangers to wombats include dingoes, foxes, and eagles.")

Included is a useful appendix which features a map of Australia, showing the range of the common wombat, featured here, and its relatives, the southern hairy-nosed wombat and its less numerous variant, the northern hairy-nosed wombat; "Wombat Fun Facts;" a glossary of terms; a short bibliography, "To Learn More" with books and a website (; and a brief but detailed index.

Books in the Caroline Arnold's Animals series feature other marsupials (kangaroos and koalas) as well as pandas, penguins, zebras, killer whales, and that mammal in a class almost by itself, the platypus.

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