Ken Robbins. S & S/Atheneum, $16 (32p) ISBN 0-689-83025-4

Robbins (Trucks) briefly traces the history of the American buffalo from 1875, when "there were perhaps fifty million of them," to the present, in which laws protect the surviving 200,000. "This is the story of a great shaggy creature, a very American beast, one found here and nowhere else," he begins. From the days when its distant ancestors crossed a long-vanished land bridge from Asia to Alaska, through its heyday on the Western plains and on to near-extinction by the early 1900s with the arrival of the white man, Robbins concisely and clearly charts the animal's evolution. He contrasts the attitudes of the newly arrived Europeans (who shot buffalo for their tongues and hides alone, or shot them from aboard trains "for fun") with Native Americans, who used every part of the buffalo for food, clothing, shelter and vital implements. Robbins supplements the text with a herd of dramatic images including a colorized archival photo of a man standing atop a veritable mountain of buffalo skulls, a painting of a brave hunting a buffalo with bow and arrow as well as his own photographs of a buffalo-head nickel and present-day buffalo grazing in Oklahoma. Ages 7-10. (Feb.)