But Rosalie has two big problems.
Problem #1: What to do with all that dirt? When your dog digs a hole, he sprays dirt everywhere. If Rosalie did that, she’d plug her tunnels behind her as fast as she dug them in front. And that wouldn’t be smart. In fact, it would be very, very unsmart.
Problem #2: If Rosalie digs tunnels just wide enough for her potato-shaped body, how does she turn around? Does she just keep digging in circles, leaving a spray of dirt behind her?
Of course not. Rosalie solves both problems with a gobsmackingly squishy superpower.
Remember when I said that moles were a lot squishier than potatoes and that mole squishiness was an important mole fact? Well, now you know why. If Rosalie were firm like a potato, she would never be able to turn around in her tunnels.
Super-squidgibility to the rescue!
With slender hips and a super-flexible spine, Rosalie can fold her body in half and do a somersault through her hind legs!
So that’s problem #2 solved. And because she can turn in tight tunnels, she also has problem #1 solved.
Here’s the second in a four-volume series of “The Superpower Field Guides”: this one is about moles, and your critter guide is Rosalie. The author established the format and writing style with her first book, Beavers. (www.cmreviews.ca/node/108) Readers who chuckled their way through that one and eagerly anticipated the next book won’t be disappointed. Like Elmer, the beaver, Rosalie, too, possesses 10 superpowers, each of which is explained with copious details, humor (including some entertaining invented vocabulary) and sketches. Two quizzes and a maze add a little extra fun and knowledge (Spoiler alert: the second quiz has only false statements cleverly chosen to be answered by additional facts worth knowing about moles). There’s a Glossary, and the lighthearted, kid-friendly style carries even into the list of Further Mole Reading (...if you’re feeling very, very courageous).
Since moles spend most of their lives underground, out of sight and mind (except to the scientists who study them), a great deal of the information presented here might be new to young readers. Unfamiliar, but rather fascinating. To help with understanding, the author compares Rosalie to something kids all know—an old potato—in shape and ‘squidginess’. Add paws and fur, and some amazing digging skills, and you have the essence of a mole. Turns out mole digging skills are due to the design and power of their paws, and unusual shape of their arm bones. You’ll find out about Rosalie’s fortress of tunnels, her food and eating habits, and how her blood’s high oxygen affinity helps her survive underground.
One of the neatest sections describes the snout with its ultra-sensitive surface organs that allow this animal to find subsurface worms, grubs and bugs easily. But Rosalie, a common mole, has only a single snout. Her cousin, the star-nosed mole found in the northeast US, has a nose made up of 22 fleshy fingers which, Rosalie jokes, resemble a baby octopus. You’ll learn that this mole holds “the Guinness World Record for the fastest-eating mammal”. Clearly, moles are far more interesting and extraordinary than I imagined, making them a perfect topic choice for this series.
The cartoon-style illustrations are limited in color, but that doesn’t detract from the appeal since the real meat in this book is the text anyway. Descriptions are so thorough, e.g. sharing how Rosalie stores worms alive but headless, that one’s imagination quickly conjures up the appropriate visual response: “Gross, right? But also pretty darn crafty.”
As in the first book, the author closes with the tempting title of the next one: Eno the Ostrich, Supersonic Survivor! It’s enough to get young readers guessing the 10 super powers that will be revealed for another, less well-known critter. This series is highly original, extremely well-researched with such a fresh, engaging style that it will continue to be a hit.
Gillian Richardson is a freelance writer living in British Columbia.