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Little Lost Bat

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By: Sandra Markle / Illustrated by: Alan Marks

A surprising story of adoption in the animal kingdom.

Clinging to the ceiling of a large, noisy cave, a newborn Mexican free-tailed bat is in constant danger from predators. His mother, roosting nearby, guards and protects her baby. But she too faces dangers.

What might happen to a baby bat whose mother doesn't return from her daily hunting trip?

Sandra Markle and Alan Marks create a tender story of sorrow and hope for one little lost bat.

Look Inside the Book:

Author & Illustrator Bios:

Sandra Markle, author

Sandra Markle is the author of more than 200 nonfiction books on science topics for children and her books have won over 30 awards, including the NSTA and CBC's list of Outstanding Science Trade Books for Children, the International Reading Association's Young Adults Choice Award, the Society of School Librarians International Book Award for Language Arts K-6, the Parent's Guide to Children's Media Nonfiction Award, The Bank Street College of Education's Best Children's Books of the Year Award, and Nick Jr. magazine's Best Books of the Year Award. Markle has been named Georgia Author of the Year five times and was honored as one of 1999's Women of the Year by Women in Technology International for her contributions to science and technology.

Read more about Sandra.

Alan Marks, illustrator

Alan Marks began his career illustrating for magazines and newspapers in England. His first children's book Storm, written by Kevin Crossley Holland, won the Carnegie Medal. Alan now illustrates a wide variety of subjects, from nursery rhymes to war poetry.

Read more about Alan.

Awards & Honors:

  • A Junior Library Guild Selection
  • IRA/CBC Children's Choices
  • Bank Street College of Education's Best Children's Books of the Year
  • John Burroughs List of Nature Books for Young Readers
  • Independent Publishers Book Awards - Children's Picture Books, Bronze

Editorial Reviews:

Kirkus Reviews, starred review

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.

Booklist, 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).

School Library Journal

A little bat is born in a cave with millions of other female bats and their young. The fight for survival is apparent from his first moments of life--predators threaten the powerless infant from all sides. Drama ensues over a week later when his mother dies at the claws of a barn owl, and the baby goes hungry for several days. However, he is ultimately saved by a mother bat who has lost her baby and is searching for a new mouth to feed. Markle incorporates many facts about the Mexican free-tailed bats in a natural manner. These facts enhance the story, but don't get in the way of the compelling plot. Listeners will learn quite a bit about bats and thier first days. Marks's illustrations bring out the rich colors of the night and give a sense of the immensity of the world as compared to the tiny baby bat. A compelling way to learn about these fascinating creatures.

The Horn Book

It's a warm June day in central Texas. And high on the domed roof of Bracken cave—so far from the cave mouth that it's almost too dark for shadows..." With an engaging voice, and with facts cleanly woven into the narrative, Markle leads us into one of the world's largest bat colonies. We witness the first few weeks in the life of a baby Mexican free-tail and learn of its mother's struggle to keep it fed and safe. And struggle it is: peril is never far, whether it be the "waiting, hungry beetles on the cave floor," the larger night predators on wing, or a snake looking for a bat-sized snack. Illustrator Marks renders the bats with accuracy—beautiful in their strange and intricate adaptations. The darkness itself is lush and complex, with blues, pinks and purples, reminding us that, indeed, bats see and sense a different sort of night than we do. Near the end, mother meets up with a deadly barn owl, but neither Marks nor Markle anthropomorphize—this is a balanced ecosystem, and nature plays no favorites. Yet even for a tiny chiropteran, hope exists, and it is offered through a new motherly connection. In Little Lost Bat we catch a fascinating glimpse of a truly exquisite creature of the night.

Publishers Weekly

Markle (the Outside and Inside series) turns her attention to the Mexican free-tailed bat set in central Texas's Bracken Cave, a nursery cave home only to female bats and their babies. "Even though the rock cave is as huge/ as a cathedral, it's steamy hot/ from the body heat of/ millions of females bats." The descriptive narrative immerses readers in this intimate setting, as it describes one bat's birth and early days. Markle sugar-coats nothing, least of all the predator-prey relationship. A lurking snake "snags a baby bat for dinner." The mother of the title bat traps and eats a mth, only to become a barn owl's supper a week later. Readers might be surprised at this turn of events, given previous snuggly nursing scenes. ("For three days and nights, he searches/ and cries for her to find him.") Marks, who collaborated with Markle on A Mother's Journey, provides realistic, elegant watercolor-and-ink paintings; their dusky blues and purples mirror some of the nocturnal subject's mystery. Many scenes glow with an almost translucent effect from the moon. Audiences will be somewhat comforted when a mother that has lost her own baby adopts the orphaned bat. Author notes, resources, and additional bat facts wrap up this informative, moving nature exploration.

Science Books & Films

Forty years ago, when studying the bats of Bracken cave, Texas, biologists were baffled by how a mother bat in this immense nursery colony could find her own baby among the millions of other infants. Now, after some excellent research, the answers are presented in a fine book for children. It is a rare treat to find a book that relates solid science at an elementary level. This story sets the scene: a mass of seething carnivorous beetles waiting inside the great cave for a bat to fall, hungry owls and other raptors waiting outside the cave entrance. This picture is contrasted with the tenderness of birth and mother-infant interactions and the safety afforded by the great numbers of bats. Echolocation and flight maneuvers performed by bats in the aerial pursuit of prey are accurately described. When one mother bat is captured by an owl, the author presents a detailed scenario for adoption by a foster mother, based on scientific evidence. The book is beautifully produced with full-color watercolors, often spreading over two pages. A useful section on further elementary readings also gives the address of Web sites whose topic is bats. The depiction of the life of a bat rings true, sticking close to the facts, without anthropomorphism. This can be a read-aloud or read-along book that could be used through elementary school for solid discussion of animal behavior and ecology, such as the costs and benefits of living in large groups.

Book Links

Marks' tender nighttime watercolors distinguish this tale of a little bat who loses his mother but still manages to survive. Filled with factual tidbits, Markle's spare descriptions tell of the little bat's birth and early existence clinging to a cave roof in central Texas, where death is part of life, whether due to the "waiting, hungry beetles on the cave floor," or the snake "lurking at the entrance." One day little bat's mother, is snatched by a barn owl while out on a hunt. Back at the cave, little bat exhausts himself as he searches for her, until finally he is adopted by a mother who's lost her own little bat. Steeped in science, this tender picture book is marked by a satisfying against-the-odds ending.


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ISBN: 978-1-57091-657-1

E-book PDF
ISBN: 978-1-60734-042-3
For information about purchasing E-books, click here.

Ages: 5-8
Page count: 32
8 1/2 x 11

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