Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

At Home with the Gopher Tortoise: The Story of a Keystone Species

At Home with the Gopher Tortoise: The Story of a Keystone Species

Madeleine Dunphy
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Web of Life Children's Books, 2010   ISBN: 0977753956

In many ecosystems, there is a species of animal or plant that is especially important in that ecosystem because so many living things depend on it. One such “keystone” animal is the gopher tortoise. This unassuming reptile provides “more than 360 different kinds of animals” with shelter in the burrows that the tortoise digs.

The tortoises dig burrows because these secure homes keep them warm in winter and cool in the hot southern summers. Many other creatures take advantage of the burrows for the same reason. Others use the burrows in a wide variety of ways.

At night a skunk walks down the tortoise’s burrows looking for food. This is a great place to hunt because it is sheltered. One of the animals that the skunk looks for, the Florida mouse, raises its babies in a tunnel that she has dug off of the main tortoise burrow. She is not the only one who uses the burrows as a nursery. Burrowing owls also find that these burrows are the perfect place to raise their chicks.

For this excellent book, the author has written an interesting narrative that paints a picture of what it is like to live in the world of the gopher tortoise. She combines science with a writing style that is easy to follow and a joy to read. Children will quickly come to appreciate how many animals of all kinds depend on the tortoise for their survival.

At the back of the book there is a section that provides readers with more information about the gopher tortoise. Here children will learn that this vital species is threatened and in need of protection.