Not the first at this level but undoubtedly the best introduction--even outclassing Dobrin's commendable guide--to this gentle, curious, clean, frisky Mongolian rodent first imported as a laboratory animal in 1954. From researcher Dr. Victor Schwentker's five females and four males have issued all of today's proliferating pets, as well as the wild gerbils ecologists are watching for effects on nature's balance. (Importing them is now against California law.) The Silversteins describe the species, its adaptation to desert life, and its relatives; they report on its behavior at home on the Gobi (evidence of territoriality has been observed), in the lab (gerbils flunk maze tests because they're more interested in investigating than in the rewards), and in the family room (an odd, temper-tantrum-like foot stamping has owners stumped); and they offer helpful advice on selecting a healthy specimen, arranging a marriage (or avoiding a population explosion, as you choose), and generally feeding, housing, amusing, training, and breeding these almost perfect pets. Anecdotes from the authors' experience add a personable immediacy, as do Breda's engaging photographs.