If you want to get the attention of preschool and elementary school children, carry around a copy of American Alligator: Ancient Predator in the Modern World by Kelby Ouchley. They'll want to see what you have. Then, when they tell you about the shark books that they borrowed from the library, you can say, "The jaws of an American alligator are much stronger than the jaws of a shark." Watch as their eyes grow big.
Being a publication from the University Press of Florida, however, American Alligator is not aimed at the younger reader. Instead, it is a serious assessment of the state of alligator conservation and the role of the alligator in modern America. The surprisingly good news is that American alligators have recovered from threatened extinction to thrive, thanks to the spread of wildlife preserves, limited hunting seasons, and the rise of alligator ranches to provide most of the hides for the leather goods and meat markets. The troubling news is that alligators have now adapted to urban environments and become pest animals in cities across the South. According to Ouchley, it is not the alligator's fault. People have dumped their overgrown pet alligators into canals, and most human injuries can be attributed to reckless behavior of humans. Normally an alligator wants to stay away from humans.
With numerous personal touches and good story telling, Ouchley has succeeded in writing an academic press book suitable for general readers. It will appeal to viewers of nature documentaries and students doing animal reports.
Ouchley, Kelby. American Alligator: Ancient Predator in the Modern World. University Press of Florida, 2013. 160p. ISBN 9780813049137.