Time for some more animal adventures.
Raccoon on His Own by Jim Arnosky.
The multitude of shades of green in these double pages spreads evokes the humid swamp background to this tale. Sentences are short. Text is simple. Effect is lyrical. Arnosky opens with:
“In the dark swamp, a new day dawned like a sleepy eye, opening slowly.”
Hah, knew it, you’re suckered in aren’t you? With cranes and dragonflies and snakes as company a family or raccoons sets off to search food. Baby raccoon, less interested in food than in exploration, finds himself cast afloat, alone in a canoe headed downstream.
This first journey alone is fraught with danger, fear, discovery and adventure. To reassure very young readers, Arnosky has kept raccoon’s family melted into the background of each illustration as they accompany him from the river bank. The boat eventually collides with the bank and he is reunited with his mother and siblings.
Young readers will be on the edge of the seats following this trajectory and solution.
Little Beaver and the Echo by Amy MacDonald, illustrated by Sarah Fox-Davies
This is another charming, watery tale, that will appeal to narrator and audience alike.
Little beaver lives all alone by the edge of a pond. He is sad and lonely and he begins to cry, getting louder until he realizes he can hear someone else crying on the other side of the pond. So what do you do? Of course, you find yourself a boat and set out to find this lonely creature, juts like you. Now I will let you imagine who he meets on this journey, but his final encounter, with a wise old beaver, helps him understand Echo better. For you see, when you are sad, so is Echo, and when you are happy, Echo is happy too.
Beavers, ducks and otters are very realistically illustrated in this book, but with just enough facial expression, to give each a unique character. Children will cheer a little beavers new friends and maybe understand more about echoes in the process.
I am honestly not sure if this one counts as fiction or non-fiction, or the new term I have come across recently, literary non-fiction. Feel free to give me your opinion. As Felina grows, her forest home around her shrinks. The trees under which she sleeps and in which her friends the red-cockaded woodpeckers hang out, start to disappear. Concrete roads now block her dirt paths, hindering her passage and those of her her friends, the gopher and tortoise. She sets out for a safer place to live but she cuts her paw on the edge of a sharp soda can, learning that people’s trash can harm her. She finally finds some deer to hunt, but as her friend the Florida manatee says, this is bad news, as they are also fed by the humans. Can Felina find a safe home and what of her friends?
Clearly this is a book aimed more at the schools and library market, with authentic illustrations of these seven threatened animals and the effects of our deforestation. The story leaves the reader also with a strong message of preservation programs.
There are four detailed pages of facts and ideas about the animals at the end of the story, plus follow up activities for kids. Other cross-curricular teaching activities, interactive quizzes, and more are available online here.
I know most of you will have already signed up for the Picture Book Idea Month, if not here’s the link.
# 96-98 in the There’s a Book Read to Me Picture Book Challenge.