Book Reviews: Informational Story Book

Quest for the Tree Kangaroo; An Expedition to the Cloud Forest of New Guinea

Quest for the Tree Kangaroo: An Expedition to the Cloud Forest of New Guinea (Scientists in the Field Series)

Bibliography:

Montgomery, Sy. Ill. Nic Bishop. 2006. Quest for the Tree Kangararoo; An Expedition to the Cloud Forest of New Guinea. Boston. Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN 9780618496419.

Plot:

Scientist Lisa Dabek and her team of international explorers are accompanied by author Sy Montgomery and his photographer Nic Bishop on their journey to the cloud forest in New Guinea.  Working together as a team, the group travel to a location where humans are not known to the native animals.  “Then, in late 2003, everything changes.  Lisa found out about a place where the tree kangaroos hadn’t been hunted in many years…They had little fear of people.”  Taking advantage of this opportunity, the team of scientists are able to study the habits of the incredible tree kangaroo and other species up close and personal.  This is truly a saga of successful teamwork between the cloud forest natives, explorers, and natural scientists.

Critical Analysis:

It is difficult to classify this beautiful book.  Is it a photo essay, or an informational story?  Is it an adventure log or a journal?  Sy Montgomery beautifully crafts a saga introducing the reader to Lisa Dabek’s team of scientists and the local inhabitants of the New Guinea region.  The first part of the book sets the stage for adventure, introduces the characters, and outlines the science project.  The center section of the book carefully describes the preparations, travels, trials, and experiments, as it documents the findings of the group.  Finally, the tale is wrapped up with a discussion on species conservation at home and around the world.  Each page consists of narration, dialogue, and observations accompanied by a stunning Nic Bishop photograph. Montgomery’s skill in capturing moments, thoughts, and memories blur the line between the non-fiction genres and provide a wonderful read for anyone interested in the rich environment of the New Guinea cloud forest.  The beautifully formatted work includes readable type and lovely captions.  After careful consideration, this would be a great addition to any coffee table book collection.

Awards:

This is a Robert F. Sibert Honor Book

Reviews:

“With early references to Dr. Seuss and hobbits, Montgomery connects the world of the young reader to this beautiful, distant place. She paces her narrative well, alternating focus on people and place, keeping the reader engaged and concerned about the expedition’s success.” Kirkus Book Reviews

The book’s fascinating glimpses into a little-explored region will hold the attention of anyone interested in unusual creatures and the efforts to study them.” The School Library Journal

Connections:

Talk about what it takes to survive in the field.  What kind of creature comforts do the students take for granted?  Discuss how they would deal with doing the chores described on page 47 of the book.

Have each child choose a photograph of either an animal, insect, or plant life featured in the photographs and talk about why that photo speaks to them.

Discuss the differences in the culture of the villagers.  Why do they dress in that way?  How do they live in the huts?  Why are the thatch houses constructed on stilts?  Using the photographs as a springboard, have your older students write a story about a fictional family living in New Guinea.