The Prairie Dog's Town: A Perfect Hideaway
written by Miriam Aronin
(Bearport Publishing) 2010
Source: Orange County Public Library
Check out Nonfiction Monday at Practically Paradise
The Prairie Dog's Town starts with an account of biologist Vernon Bailey finding a Texas prairie dog town that covered 16 million acres, which is bigger than the state of West Virginia. Right off the bat, we get a "wow" fact which is essential to a good nonfiction book. Another feature you will find are plentiful context clues. Words in bold print like coteries can be understood by reading the words nearby and they are also included in the back matter glossary. A great graphic is always helpful in a nonfiction text, and on page 9 there is an illustration of a prairie dog burrow complete with a restroom chamber. Who knew prairie dogs built their own outhouses? I was particularly interested in reading about prairie dog communication. There are several sounds and body language actions to signify predator warnings and when the coast is clear.
The reading level and short length of the section passages should allow students to focus on researching and not have to worry too much about decoding. Excellent photographs and back matter features (bulleted lists and tables) will allow for use of graphic organizers as well. Students learning how to use Venn diagrams or double bubble maps could use the More Animal Towns section in the back to compare prairie dogs and muskrats or beavers.
Click on this link for a 2007 Dragonfly TV episode devoted to prairie dog barks. It lasts about 5 minutes.