Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews



Marilyn Singer
Illustrator:  Emma Stevenson 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 9 and up
Holiday House, 2008   ISBN: 978-0823417278

Animals have several basic needs. They need to have food and water, they need to avoid being eaten, and they need to reproduce. Most mammals, including humans, give birth to live young, but many other animals lay eggs instead.

When we eat an egg for breakfast, most of us don’t think about the fact that eggs are truly extraordinary things. Though most eggs are quite delicate things, they serve a vital purpose, providing a developing embryo with food, water, oxygen, and a safe and stable environment to grow in.

Though all animal eggs fulfill the same role, they don’t look or feel the same. The reason for this is that animals live in a wide variety of environments. A soft fish or amphibian egg is laid in water, and it has to be able to pull oxygen from its aquatic surroundings. Eggs laid on land by reptiles and birds need to have hard shell or a tough outer layer so that they don’t dry out.

Some eggs are so small that we cannot see them with the naked eye, while others are enormous. The egg of an ostrich can hold as much as a pint of liquid. Eggs can be round, oval, spiny, or fitted with tendrils so that the eggs can be attached to something. They can be a wide variety of colors as well.

Some animal parents lay their eggs and then leave them, but others invest a great deal of time and energy taking care of their developing young. Seahorse fathers carry their eggs in a belly pouch, and wolf spiders carry their babies in a specially constructed silken sac. Python mothers wrap themselves around their clutch of eggs to keep them warm, and alligators build a mound of rotting greenery to serve as an incubator for their eggs. There are even some fish that carry their eggs around in their mouths so that the developing babies don’t get eaten by predators.

In this carefully written nonfiction picture book, Marilyn Singer shows her readers how truly extraordinary eggs are. We see how many animals have developed interesting strategies to protect their eggs, and how a basic egg design has evolved to suit the environment and situation of the animal the egg belongs to.

With beautiful annotated paintings throughout, and a presentation that is varied and attractive to look at, this is a book that animal lovers of all ages will enjoy.