A fine selection of McNulty's long-esteemed nature writing, much of which has appeared in The New Yorker, including her account of efforts to save the whooping crane, earlier (1966) published as a book. ""Perhaps 'message' is the key word in describing the attraction of animals,"" she muses; ""any mouse might be a Rosetta Stone."" And McNulty crisply conveys the excitement of that attraction as she studies a rescued woodchuck ""homely as a burlap bag"" or briefly glimpses an ancient species of monkey in a Madagascar forest. Her background research deepens the encounter. In close contact with the face of a gorilla she notes the lack of nasal bones which makes our noses project, the extra skull bone to anchor strong jaw muscles, the big teeth to chew woody plants, and then the eyes. . . which ""gave me the confusing sensation of looking into the eyes of someone almost, but not quite like me."" Many of the pieces deal with the plight of animals becoming extinct: the amazing Death Valley pupfish, which survived in minute habitats unavailable to their contemporaries like the mastadons; the lemurs of Madagascar, prosimians belonging to a time when the offspring of our ""ancestral primate"" began to diverge from their forebears. There are lighter, more personal articles: journal notes on country living in Rhode Island; an irresistible report on a visit to an English Mouse Club Show--a wee competition tucked into an agricultural fair; and a gem about McNulty's effort to de-imprint a baby starling--which caused the ""damn bird"" to imprint the author into bird-motherhood. Luminous work, exemplary in this genre.