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Nature Books for Kids

Marsupials
By Nic Bishop
Scholastic, 48 pages, $17.99 (Ages 4–8)

Warning to parents: After reading Marsupials, your child is going to want a wombat, or a bilby, or, really, any of the irresistibly adorable creatures featured inside. Engaging, digestible facts about marsupial biology and behavior temper the cute overload, however, and will educate youngsters about a few familiar species, such as eucalyptus-crunching koalas, as well as ones they may have never heard of. Take the noolbenger, or honey possum, for example. Slightly longer than a pinky, this marsupial has a “special feathery tongue” and “runs from flower to flower, as busy as a hummingbird, lapping up almost its body weight in nectar every night.” In contrast, the aptly named fat-tailed dunnart is carnivorous and stores a day or two of food as fat in—you guessed it—its tail. With almost pleading, black buggy eyes, the dunnart, which grows no bigger than a mouse, surely made an impression on award-winning photographer and author Nic Bishop, who spent nearly six months working on his book in Australia, where many marsupials live. “I could not help falling in love with them,” he writes. Neither will his readers.—Julie Leibach
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Camping With the President
By Ginger Wadsworth/Illustrated by Karen Dugan
Calkins Creek, 32 pages, $16.95 (Ages 8 and up)

Coinciding with Ken Burns’s latest documentary series on national parks, Camping With the President is a kid-friendly companion about two great historical figures who had an enduring impact on our national parks and forests. Ginger Wadsworth’s chatty, well-researched narrative tells the true story of Theodore Roosevelt’s camping trip into Yosemite Valley with renowned naturalist John Muir. For four solid days the pair rode horseback amid giant sequoia trees and granite mountains, sleeping in tents and awakening to birdsong—evading the press and the president’s Secret Service at every turn. Karen Dugan’s watercolor illustrations depict the characters and scenes in delightful detail: Roosevelt is robust in tan Rough Rider–like attire, round spectacles, and cropped mustache; lithe and bearded, Muir dons a simple charcoal suit. In one inspiring scene, a halo of firelight ensconces the two men as El Capitan’s indigo facade rises behind them in the growing darkness. Muir waves his hands animatedly while Roosevelt reclines pensively, revealing how the president “respected the mountaineer’s advice on the importance of preserving land”—indeed, Roosevelt established Muir Woods National Monument, among others—as well as his understanding that to appreciate nature, it helps to spend time under the stars.—Julie Leibach
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