- The Hidden Life of a Toad by Doug Wechsler
ISBN 978-1-58089-738-9 $17.99 R 4-8 yrs
“What is this tangle of stuff? It looks like a pile of spaghetti,” says the text about the photograph of black-spotted, jelly-like squiggles creeping over the gutter from the recto spread that is surely enigmatic and even a bit creepy. A page turn reveals that the spots are embryos, thousands of them encased in each jelly string, and a [End Page 384] single little egg “would just fit inside this o.” The book updates every few days the progress of the eggs as they hatch into tadpoles, bringing readers along with large close-up photos, enhanced by insets and labels, that make it easy to view each new anatomical bit discussed in the text. In his closing notes Wechsler addresses how he captured his photographs both in the wild and in an aquarium and also his surprise at unexpected observations. This personal sense of wonder and discovery translates well into his text, inviting the audience to puzzle out stages of tadpoleto-toad development. On Day 27, “Legs grow out. Toes are forming. Why would a tadpole need legs and toes?” Some twenty days later we find out, as the tadpole becomes a toadlet and “it moves to the shore.” Eventually (year three), she’s ready to mate and the life cycle narrative reaches its logical next chapter. Although some adult readers may be a bit squeamish at the frankly voyeuristic close-ups of the toads’ copulation, kids will be simply be amused by the male rivals vying for their reproductive rights: “Whack! He kicks another male who tries to grab her.” End matter is written in the same kid-friendly tone as the text, covering the difference between frogs and toads, trivia, conservation; an illustrated glossary and additional resources are also included. This will be an excellent addition to primary-grade science collections.