Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Rodent Rascals

Rodent Rascals

Roxie Munro
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Holiday House, 2018   ISBN: 978-0823438600

Though many people do not like them, rodents are remarkable creatures. They are the largest order of mammals, and live on every continent except Antarctica. Their ability to adapt means that they live in trees, on the ground, or under the ground. Some rodents are excellent swimmers, and a few species can even glide through the air. There are species, like the porcupine, who like to live alone, while others, like prairie dogs, live in large colonies. Rodents come in a wide variety of sizes. The African pygmy jerboa is less than two inches long. At the other end of the size spectrum the capybara can be more than four feet long and can weigh up to two hundred pounds.

We tend to think of rodents as pests, but in many parts of the world they are a valuable source of food. Eating a guinea pig might not be your cup of tea, but in South America roasted guinea pig is a popular food.

Rodents can also help out on occasion. Trained African pouched rats are used to detect buried landmines and therefore save lives. Their extraordinary sense of smell can even detect when a person has tuberculosis. The accuracy of their noses means that they can evaluate more lab samples in ten minutes than a human technician can in a whole day. And they are more accurate too!

In this wonderful book we are going to meet twenty-one species of rodents from around the world. Some, like the naked mole rat, are rather peculiar looking. These bizarre creatures live underground in African deserts in large family groups. They are “expert excavators,” and can move through their tunnels backwards or forwards.

Others, like the chipmunk, are rather cute. They are especially endearing when they stuff food into their cheek pouches. The pouches, which serve as “grocery bags” for these animals, can expand and expand to accommodate a large amount of food.

People are often described as being pack rats if they like to keep a lot of ‘stuff.’ We use this term because the real pack rat (or bushy-tailed wood rat) loves to collect things. Anything shiny is fair game, and keys and jewelry will disappear if they are left lying around where there is a pack rat on the loose.

Capybaras, the largest rodents of all, are quite remarkable creatures. They are excellent swimmers and since they are “gentle and friendly” many people keep them as pets.

Children and adults alike are going to enjoy reading about the rodents that are featured in this book. It is particularly interesting to see how big or small they are in real life. The face of a capybara fills a whole page!

Further information about the rodents featured in this title can be found at the back of the book.