Hidden in the Midden

Written by Martha S. Campbell

Illustrated by Chad Wallace

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When I was in high school, a friend gave me a sticker that said, “Neat people never make the exciting kinds of discoveries I do.”She knew me well. In the book, Hidden in the Midden, author Martha S. Campbell helps readers get to know the real live pack rats of the animal world, too.

In addition to the seeds, twigs and bones one might expect to find in a rodents’ home, scientists have found other things such as eyeglasses, watches and even a hubcap in pack rat middens. Campbell also introduces young readers to the work of paleoecologists. These scientists use objects they find in pack rat middens—such as mammoth teeth and 75-million year old sharks’ teeth—to determine how the climate and landscape in a particular place have changed over the years. To children in fourth grade, busy scratching out treasures from between the roots of a tree, the realization that they could basically do what they do all day and call it work could be very exciting.

Hidden in the Midden does not address why pack rats collect all these objects in the first place (to be fair, if someone asked me why I gather heart-shaped rocks and bits of copper wire, I probably wouldn’t have a good answer for them either), but the book does provide a nice starting point for those gathering information about pack rats. The illustrations are realistic and take the reader eye-to-eye with these curious little creatures.

Although some of the words in this book might be unfamiliar to some young readers, the images will help with reading comprehension. Children with collections of their own might appreciate this book—how can parents make them clean their room when these piles might be valuable someday? Librarians and teachers, even those who are not pack rats, might enjoy having this small book on hand as well.

General information about pack rat middens:

Illustrator’s website:

  • Title: Hidden in the Midden
  • Author: Martha C. Campbell
  • Illustrator: Chad Wallace
  • Publisher: Richard C. Owen Publishers, Inc.
  • Reviewer: Lisa Kahn Schnell
  • Paperback: 12 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-57274-831-6
  • Genre: Nonfiction, nature, science
  • Lexile: 1110

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