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John Simons

Reaktion Books, £9.99

Kangaroo made the longlist of the Society's 2013 popular biology book award and is one of the latest offerings in Reaktion Books' widely acclaimed 'Animal' series. John Simons, an expat Brit in the Australian university system and a multi-disciplinary animal academic, has crafted a lively, engaging and reflective socio-cultural and environmental history of the kangaroo, from the southern supercontinent Gondwana to Skippy.

This is a big history that links the kangaroo to its continent and the humans that have invaded Australia over thousands of years. Richly illustrated throughout, the book interacts with key questions and contradictions of both kangaroo identity and Australian identity. It examines long relationships with aboriginal Australia, including first contact and "the burden of strangeness"; eating kangaroos and culling them as pests as well as cuddling toy kangas at bedtime and appropriating them in the name of Aussie sport and nationhood.

It is, as the publicity states, "a pouch-sized look" at an Australian icon. A wonderful book for those who love, research or teach Australia.

Dr Robert Lambert

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