Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Hyena Scientist

The Hyena Scientist 
by Sy Montgomery
photos by Nic Bishop
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018
Grades 4 and up

The reviewer checked out a copy of the book from the public library.

Sibert Medal winners Sy Montgomery and Nic Bishop traveled to Kenya for their latest book in the Scientists in the Field series. This time the focus is a misunderstood mammal: the hyena.

Montgomery eloquently describes the behaviors, sounds, and habitat of  hyenas. The descriptive narrative text will pull in readers on the first page as the author dispels myths associated with hyenas.

"At the den, the fluffy spotted babies play like puppies, dashing and lunging, wrestling and spinning. Tiny infants, still coal black lacking their spots sit on opposite sides of a patient, older cub- each chewing gently on an ear of their tolerant sibling" (p. 1).

The book highlights the work of zoologist, Kay Holekamp and her team of researchers and assistants, as they track and observe hyenas in Masi Mara, Kenya. Bishop's stunning photographs capture hyenas in the wild and shows scientists as they weigh, measure and collect blood samples from hyenas. By embedding themselves with the research team, Bishop and Montgomery offer readers a first hand account of Holkamp's work and the important role hyenas play in the food chain. Readers will also learn how challenging it can be for scientists in remote locations to prepare food, shower and use the toilet. Despite the challenges, Holekamp and her team are enthusiastic about their mission to understand more about the complex mammal, the hyena.

Be sure to add The Hyena Scientist to your next book order. Read an excerpt from the first chapter on Sy Montgomery's site.


  1. LOVE Sy Montgomery!! She's one of my very favorite writers--will look forward to reading this one :)!

  2. I'm just starting to get into the Scientists in the Field series. Am finding it to be fascinating.