♦ Markle successfully presents the astonishing world of Bracken Cave, the largest nursing colony of Mexican free-tailed bats. As they follow the activities of one mother and her newborn, youngsters (and adults) will effortlessly absorb the facts woven throughout: habitat, eating habits, echolocation, communication, predators, social network and childrearing. At the end of the baby’s first week, his survival is in the balance when his mother fails to return. But another mother who has lost her own baby steps in to care for him. Marks’s watercolor artwork is amazingly detailed—close-ups of the animals are lifelike, while wider-angle views give a realistic impression of the huge numbers of bats in the cave. Backmatter includes a list of resources, a bulleted list of brief facts and an author’s note explaining that research on the raising of Mexican free-tailed bats is ongoing, and new findings could refute what is presented here as fact. Nonetheless, this is a must for every nonfiction collection and bat fan.
—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
♦ Through the story of one newborn bat that loses its mother, this beautiful picture book brings close the incredible facts about the more than 20 million Mexican fee-tailed bats that live in a cave close to Austin, Texas. When the baby bat is born (“naked-pink and tiny as a peanut in its shell”), it crawls onto its mother, and, tucked beneath her wing, it nurses, “clinging to her fur/with tiny hooked claws.” Every night the mother races out to gorge on insects, then returns to nurse her little baby. One night, she is killed by an owl, and the little bat waits and waits. Finally a new mother finds the baby and takes over the role of keeping it safe. The lucid free verse tells the elemental nature drama, and Marks’ beautiful double-page watercolors with delicate ink details are equally effective at depicting the expansive blue sky and the tiny, furry brown baby, alone and then cuddled up safely at last. Back matter includes annotated resources, and amazing facts and numbers about bats that are as dramatic as the story. Children will want to go on from this to Markle’s Outside and Inside Bats (2004) and Markle and Marks’ A Mother’s Journey (2005).
—Booklist, starred review