Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

A Strange Place to Call Home: The World's Most Dangerous Habitats & the Animals

A Strange Place to Call Home: The World's Most Dangerous Habitats & the Animals

Marilyn Singer
Illustrator:   Ed Young 
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 7 to 10
Chronicle Books, 2012   ISBN: 978-1452101200

Choosing to live in a place that has a temperate climate without extremes is a strategy that many animals have adopted. After all, who wants to deal with extreme temperatures (either hot or cold) and a lack of water and food. The problem with living in temperate places is that so many animals do it, and competition for resources and living space is often fierce. For this reason, some animals have chosen to live in, and adapt to, environments that have “challenging conditions.” Deserts, polar ice caps, steep mountainsides, and salt lakes do present challenges, but at least one does not have to compete with many other animals for food and space.

This remarkable book looks at just a few of the species that have chosen to call extreme environments home. For example, Japanese snow monkeys live in a part of the world where the winters can be very cold and snowy. The monkeys have, over time, adopted a very strange habit; they sit in the hot spring pools to keep warm. It is a remarkable adaptation, one that we still do not fully understand. What gave the monkeys the idea that sitting in hot springs would keep them from freezing to death?

Just like those snowy Japanese mountainsides, the zone where the sea meets the land is a very inhospitable place. Here “waves are prone / to be forceful” and animals that choose this place to set up house have to find a way to prevent the waves from washing them away. This the limpet has done with great success. Using “suction,” the limpet is able “to cling” to rocks and thus avoid being washed away by the waves.

Whereas the limpet has to deal with too much water action, Spadefoot toads live in deserts where “dryness is the norm.” How can these amphibians procreate in such a place where there is no water? Their solution is simple. They wait until rain arrives and then, in a short period of time, they breed, lay eggs, and their young develop.

In this fascinating book, Marilyn Singer’s memorable poems show us how fourteen very different animal species survive in harsh environments. Using a variety of poetry forms, including free verse, a haiku, and a sonnet, the author presents words pictures of creatures that are truly fascinating.

At the back of the book, the author provides readers with further information about the animals mentioned in the book, and she also talks about the poetry forms that she used.