Quest for the Tree Kangaroo: An Expedition to the Cloud Forest of New Guinea by Sy Montgomery

Montgomery, Sy. 2006. Quest for the Tree Kangaroo: An Expedition to the Cloud Forest of New Guinea. Il. Nic Bishop. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN 0618496416

Imagine a place where a botanist has to give up counting plants.  Imagine a place where birds can be poisonous.  This place is the Cloud Forest of New Guinea and this is where Montgomery and Bishop take the reader in search of an elusive marsupial.

Quest for the Tree Kangaroo reads a lot like a fiction novel.  Its sections could easily be considered chapters, and it is written in a linear fashion.  However, this is not a fiction novel.  Despite the fact that some of Bishop’s photographs seem like something out of Middle Earth, Montgomery paints a clearly scientific, though humorous, account of a group of scientists tracking and observing Matschie’s tree kangaroo.

Montgomery tells of Lisa Dabek, who started out by observing ants in a paper cup, who fell in love with tree kangaroos in Seattle.  The book tells not only of the expedition Montgomery went on, but also Lisa’s conservation project.  Montgomery tells of the less than glamorous task of trying to dry socks, or only having a cold waterfall for a shower.

Montgomery doesn’t end the book when the scientists return after successfully collaring four kangaroos.  Instead she writes about Jirrah, a tree kangaroo in a zoo, and people’s responses to her.  Also included is advice from Lisa to kids about following their passion for animals, a list of zoos with tree kangaroos, a brief one page glossary of Tok Pisin, and an acknowledgement page as well as an index.

Where could this book be used?  It could be used for a geography project.  It could be used in a “strange but true” style series about animals.  It could be used to discuss scientists who are tracking animals.  Perhaps, most importantly, it could simply be used to fuel someone’s passion for animals.

Considering the numerous animals mentioned in the book, it would be plausible to assign children different animals from the Cloud Forest to research.

Awards-

John Burroughs Young Reader Award

Orbis Pictus Award for nonfiction from the National Council of Teachers of English!

A Booklist Editor’s Choice for 2006

A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year 2006

A Junior Library Guild Selection

Booklist- “Montgomery gives a chronological, sometimes moment-by-moment account of the challenging climb into the remote cloud forest, the conditions in camp (rice-and-fern dinners; icy waterfall showers) and the awe-inspiring encounters with barely studied animals.”

The Horn Book- “Montgomery’s friendliness and curiosity set the tone: she enthusiastically engages with the people, plants, and animals she encounters on the trip.”

Booklist. Posted at http://symontgomery.com/?page_id=420.

The Horn Book. Posted at http://symontgomery.com/?page_id=420.

Also, symontgomery.com has suggested classroom activities to go with Quest for the Tree Kangaroo.

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