Tag: wildlife

The Skydiving Beavers by Susan Wood

The Skydiving Beavers by Susan Wood

The Skydiving Beavers: A True Tale by Susan Wood, illustrated by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen (9781585369942, Amazon)

When people start to move into McCall, Idaho in the 1940’s, they encroach on the beavers who were already living there. Soon the new human homes and roads are flooded as the beavers build their dams. In this sort of struggle, it is always the humans who win. But a unique conservation effort is undertaken by the Idaho Fish and Game Department to move the beavers to a safer and more sheltered habitat. The problem is how to get the beavers into the pristine wilderness where there are no airports and no roads. Perhaps the solution can come from World War II parachutes and one brave beaver named Geronimo.

Wood takes care with the amount of prose she has on each page, offering just the right amount of detail and action for young readers. Her prose is also playful, as she describes both the beauty of Idaho and the damage that the beavers can do. The tone serves the book well with the whimsical use of parachutes and boxes that can open when they hit the ground. The story is a fascinating one and the book makes sure to explain that this sort of solution would not be done today where it is expected that humans and nature find a way to co-exist.

The illustrations are a mix of workshop images and desks where plans are made and then the Idaho landscape and horizons. The images settle the book deeply into the wilderness and the setting in which the book takes place. There is a sense of isolation and beauty in the images where the beavers land in their new habitat.

Fascinating and fun, this nonfiction picture book tells the story of a unique solution to a wildlife issue. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Sleeping Bear Press.

On Duck Pond by Jane Yolen

On Duck Pond by Jane Yolen

On Duck Pond by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Bob Marstall (9781943645220, Amazon)

This is the second book in the children’s picture book series by the award-winning duo of Yolen and Marstall that is done in conjunction with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. A boy and his dog take a walk in a new setting. This time it is near a pond where everything is very quiet but soon the ducks arrive and break the silence with their splashing and quacking. The other creatures at the pond are startled and move away, including frogs, turtles, a heron and the tadpoles. Soon the pond goes back to being still and quiet and the other animals come out of hiding.

Yolen’s poetry is particularly effective. She pays such attention to small details not only in the animals as they react to the ducks but to the reflections in the water as they go from mirror-like to shattered to reflective once again. The water itself reacts similarly to the animals and the sounds, it’s a lovely connection that is clearly done and yet poetically presented allowing a sense of discovery for the reader.

Marstall’s illustrations are detailed and wonderfully natural. They embrace the greens of the surrounding land and also the colors of the animals themselves and the water. He uses plenty of detail on the animals themselves, showing them up close to the reader so that one can almost smell the pond water on the pages.

A grand look at a small pond and its vibrations throughout a boy’s day and life. Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Review: A Boy and a Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz

boy and a jaguar

A Boy and a Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz, illustrated by CaTia Chien

This is a stellar autobiographical picture book written by and about a wildlife conservationist.  Alan was a boy who could not speak clearly.  He battled stuttering all of the time except when he talked with animals.  When he visited the great cat house at the Bronx Zoo, he could whisper fluently into the ears of the cats.  He also spent a lot of time with his pets at home, speaking to them and telling them that if he ever found his own voice, he would serve as their voice since they had none and would keep them from harm.  Alan became the first person to study jaguars.  In Belize he felt at home in the jungle.  He worked to protect the jaguars and eventually had to speak for them in front of the President of Belize, hoping to save their habitat from destruction.  But can he speak clearly in the short 15 minutes he’s been given?

This book is made all the more compelling by the fact that it is true.  It gives readers a glimpse into the world of a child struggling with a disability, one that mars every verbal interaction he has.  And thanks to his ability with animals, readers quickly see beyond the stutter to the boy himself and to the gifts that he has to offer.  Even better, once Alan becomes an adult, readers get to see a man who is taking advantage of his uniqueness to make a difference in the world and for the animals he cares for so much.

Chien’s art is rich and varied.  She moves from backgrounds of wine red to brilliant yellow to the deep greens of the Belize jungles.  She shows an isolated boy, alone that contrasts beautifully with the man working happily alone in the jungle – so similar and yet so very different.

An extraordinary autobiography, this book shows readers not to judge anyone by how they speak but rather by what they do.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Snow School by Sandra Markle

snow school

Snow School by Sandra Markle, illustrated by Alan Marks

High in the mountains of Pakistan, two week-old snow leopard cubs snooze in a den waiting for their mother to return.  It’s May and the pair are only a week old.  When the male cub goes outside, he is attacked by a golden eagle and only saved by his mother rescuing him.  As the cubs grow, the practice pouncing one another and then start to eat directly from the game their mother kills.  Their mother teaches them skills they must have to survive in the harsh climate.  They learn to mark their territory, to silently hunt, to be quick, to guard their food, to find shelter when snow comes, and when to retreat.  It is a story of how small cubs grow into strong hunters and how these great and beautiful cats manage to survive in their mountainous and cold habitat.

Markle is the author of over 200 books for children.  In this one she takes on one of the most elusive creatures on earth and shows the strong family bonds and the huge amount of learning these young cats must accomplish to live.  She writes her nonfiction in verse, making it more easily read.  Nicely, as the mother is teaching her cubs, Markle makes sure readers understand the lesson by repeating it neatly at the end of the stanza. 

Marks’ illustrations capture the snow leopards and their beauty and grace.  There are moments of such daring leaps and heart pounding danger that Marks captures with flawless accuracy.  His use of soft watercolors adds to the mystique of these cats and also captures the speed and motion as they hunt. 

Beautiful illustrations and strong text result in a book that will teach children much about the snow leopards and their lives.  Appropriate for ages 7-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Charlesbridge.