ittle Bilby, the moon is everything. When she emerges from her burrow one night and discovers that the moon is smaller than it was the night before, she is rattled by what she perceives to be a threat to her universe.

That threat grows each night until, finally, the moon seemingly disappears altogether. It is at that point the frightened Bilby (a nocturnal animal with rabbit-like ears) sets out on a journey of discovery. Her universe won't be whole again until she finds the missing moon.

During her quest for truth, Little Bilby encounters a series of Australian animals, all of which offer opinions and insight to help solve the mystery. "Perhaps it has fallen into an ant nest," the Echidna suggests. And Little Bilby's pal Hopping Mouse offers to help, "I will look in the spinifex grass." Author Margaret Spurling (this is her first children's book) and illustrator Danny Snell (Whose Tail Is That?) have created a highly original book by using animals indigenous to Australia's central desert region. Spurling and Snell, both Australians, seamlessly weave facts into a fictional tale, using animals familiar to them and unusual to us. Little Bilby's down-under pals included Spinifex Hopping Mouse, Marsupial Mole, Military Sand-dragon and Short-beaked Echidna. Like the Boobook Owl and Chirping Froglet, kids will have fun saying the names and will identify with the little creatures' warm, friendly faces except, perhaps, the Sand-dragon who has a rather "I'll get back with you later" attitude. With its bold and colorful illustrations animated against a wide-open, star-saturated sky and suspenseful story Bilby Moon shapes up to be an excellent adventure for kids. The inclusion of exotic animals from Australia makes it educational as well.

Naomi Branch is a former children's book editor who once worked as a social worker. She lives in rural Tennessee.

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