June 21 – World Giraffe Day & Interview with Author Monica Bond, Illustrator Kayla Harren, and Educator David Brown

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday, established by the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, celebrates the animal with the longest neck on the longest day or night of the year, depending on which hemisphere you live in. The purpose of World Giraffe Day is to honor these majestic animals while also promote awareness of the dangers and threats they face. Events supporting these gentle giants are held around the world at zoos and conservation organizations as well as by governments, institutions, and companies involved in education about and protection of the giraffe. To celebrate today, learn more about these animals, visit a zoo or wildlife refuge, or consider donating to the cause of giraffe conservation. To learn more visit the Giraffe Conservation Foundation website.

Juma the Giraffe

Written by Monica Bond | Illustrated by Kayla Harren

 

Juma, a baby giraffe, loved to play with his friends Upendo and Rafiki on the African safari while their mothers watched. “Upendo likes to explore new places” while “Rafiki jokes and makes everyone laugh with his silly faces. Juma is kind and generous.” With his long neck, he’s able to reach the sweet acacia leaves to share with the dik-diks. One day, though, while the giraffes were at the water hole, Juma caught a glimpse of his reflection.

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2016, text copyright Monica Bond, 2016. Courtesy of Kayla Harren and Wild Nature Institute.

Looking at himself alongside all the other giraffes, he realized that they all looked the same. “And because they all looked alike, he felt he wasn’t special.” His mama noticed Juma standing alone and sad and asked him what was wrong. He told her that he wished he “looked different from everyone else.”

Juma’s mama gazed at her child lovingly and told him how special giraffes are. “‘There is no other animal in the whole world like us,’” she said. Then she gently reminded him how his long legs and neck help him get food, how his thick tongue and lips protect him from the thorns of the acacia trees, and how his “‘swishy tail sweep away the pesky flies that like to bite us.’” Their brown spots camouflaged them from lions and hyenas.

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2016, text copyright Monica Bond, 2016. Courtesy of Kayla Harren and Wild Nature Institute.

Then Mama asked Juma to look closely at his spots and notice that “‘each spot is different from the others and every giraffe has a unique pattern of spots.’” Juma saw that Mama was right. He saw one spot “shaped like a star and another like a flower.” Mama’s spots were different too, and so were Upendo’s and Rafiki’s. Mama reassured Juma that each giraffe was unique outside and inside.

Juma was happy and continued to notice other ways that each giraffe was different, including their various personalities. Then Mama nuzzled her little one and told him that to her he was the “‘most special giraffe of all’” because he was her baby and she loved him.

Fascinating facts about the anatomy of giraffes, newborn giraffes, and where giraffes live follow the text.

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2016, text copyright Monica Bond, 2016. Courtesy of Kayla Harren and Wild Nature Institute.

Young readers who are at that stage where they wonder about how they are different from other kids and how they fit into their community will find loving reassurance in Monica Bond’s touching story even as they learn about a giraffe’s distinctive features. The sweet relationship between Juma and Mama, depicted through tender dialogue, will charm little ones. A welcome exchange comes when Mama points out Juma’s unique features and the little giraffe enthusiastically adds more observations of his own. Just as Juma does, young readers will see that they too are special in their own way.

As readers open the cover, Kayla Harren’s stunning panoramic view of the verdant African savanna places them close to zebras, an ostrich, a greater kudu, a grey crowned crane, a stalwart warthog, a family of mongoose, and a herd of elephants. Smiling out from the page is little Juma. As the story progresses, Mama spotlights each of Juma’s attributes, and readers see how he uses them. A shimmering two-page spread of the giraffes lined up at the watering hole and the close-up on the next page will awe kids and adults. Images of smaller animals hiding in rock crevices and big cats and monkeys resting on tree limbs will entice readers to learn more about these creatures. As Mama nuzzles Juma on the book’s final page, adults and little ones are sure to find time to cuddle too.

A sweet story that gives parents, teachers, and other caregivers a way to show the children in their life how special they are, Juma the Giraffe would be an often-asked for addition to home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Wild Nature Institute, 2016 | ISBN 978-0989818292

Learn more about Juma the Giraffe and find videos and teachers resources here.

You can connect with Kayla Harren on

Her website | Facebook | Instagram

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Helping Brother Rhinoceros

Written by Monica Bond | Illustrated by Kayla Harren

 

Brother Rhinoceros and his friend Father Oxpecker went to the waterhole to cool off on a blazing hot day. When they got there, they saw “that most of the water had dried up, leaving a big patch of gooey, sticky mud.” But Brother Rhinoceros lied down in the cool mud anyway and pronounced it “‘Perfect!’” Then Father Oxpecker nestled in behind Brother Rhinoceros’s ear, folded his wings, and the two drifted off to sleep.

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2018, text copyright Monica Bond, 2018. Courtesy of Kayla Harren and Wild Nature Institute.

Brother Rhinoceros woke up hungry, but when he tried to leave the waterhole, he discovered that he was stuck in the mud. Father Oxpecker flew off to find help. First he brought back Sister Vervet Monkey, who was good at tying. “She ran around the mud patch looking for something to tie together that might help Brother Rhinoceros. But there was nothing.”

Next, Father Oxpecker brought Grandfather Giraffe, who thought his height could help, but he didn’t know exactly how. So, the bird flew off again in search of someone else. This time he came back with Grandmother Spider, who “produced a delicate thread of beautiful silk from her abdomen. It fluttered in the breeze, of no help whatsoever to Brother Rhinoceros.”

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2018, text copyright Monica Bond, 2018. Courtesy of Kayla Harren and Wild Nature Institute.

Father Oxpecker left once again and returned with Mother Elephant. Although she was big and strong, she could only watch from the sidelines. Last, Father Oxpecker found Brother Weaverbird, who declared that he could “weave anything” if only there was something to weave. All of the animals sat nearby wondering what they could do. “They were all so proud of the things they could do, but none of them could help Brother Rhinoceros out of the mud.”

It was Grandmother Spider who suggested that they combine their talents and work as a team. She began by “spinning long streams of silk.” Brother Weaverbird braided “the silk into a long, strong rope.” Sister Vervet Monkey tied the rope around Brother Rhinoceros, using Grandfather Giraffe’s long neck as a bridge to reach him. Then it was Mother Elephant’s turn. She grabbed the rope, “took a deep breath and began to pull.”

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2018, text copyright Monica Bond, 2018. Courtesy of Kayla Harren and Wild Nature Institute.

Brother Rhinoceros helped push. “Finally, with a big squishy sound, Brother Rhinoceros lifted his body up out of the mud.” He was free! His friends cheered. Brother Rhinoceros thanked each one individually for their special skills that helped to save him. “They certainly made a great team and the best friends a muddy rhinoceros could ever have.”

Back matter reveals facts about Africa’s black and white rhinoceros. A map of Africa shows the historical range and the much smaller current range for each type of rhino.

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2018, text copyright Monica Bond, 2018. Courtesy of Kayla Harren and Wild Nature Institute.

With the lyricism of a fable, Monica Bond weaves a story about individuality and teamwork and how every person has the ability to help others. As Father Oxpecker flies off again and again searching for just the right animal to help, readers will enjoy the suspense and learning each animal’s special ability. When Grandmother Spider suggests they all work together, kids will see that by combining their talents with friends and classmates, they can move mountains. The format of the story makes it a multi-layered choice for teaching the elements of a story, prediction, and comprehension.

Kayla Harren’s sun-drenched pages are bathed not only in the heat of a hot African day but in the warmth of friendship these animals share. Harren’s beautifully textured and realistic depictions of the animals and the surrounding savanna will inspire awe and an enthusiastic desire in kids to learn more about the animals, insects, and birds in the story.

A perfect book for social studies, science, and reading classes and for kids who love nature and animals, Helping Brother Rhinoceros makes an excellent choice for home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 5 – 10

Wild Nature Institute, 2018 | ISBN 978-1732323414

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Our Elephant Neighbors

Written by Monica Bond | Illustrated by Kayla Harren

 

Robert and his little sister Mary live on their family’s small farm in Tanzania. There are cattle and goats, which Robert helps watch while Mary helps her mother wash clothes and cook. Sometimes they went to the waterhole to get water. “They splash each other with cool water on hot days.” One day, when it was very hot, they saw something amazing at the waterhole. A family of elephants was enjoying the cool water too. “Robert and Mary climbed up a nearby tree to watch and wait for the elephants to leave.”

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2017, text copyright Monica Bond, 2017. Courtesy of Kayla Harren and Wild Nature Institute.

Soon, two elephants came to stand in the shade of the tree, right under the branch where the two children sat. “The elephants looked up and saw Robert and Mary.” They had been taught to fear people. Nervous, they backed up a few steps. Robert and Mary had been taught to fear elephants, and Mary hid behind her brother. The bigger elephant, Tomas, introduced himself and his little sister, Teresa. Robert introduced himself and Mary.

“Robert looked thoughtfully at the elephants below. ‘You are an elephant, and elephants can hurt people,’ Robert pointed out.” Tomas replied, “‘Well, you are a human, and humans can hurt elephants too.’” Even though Mary knew she should be afraid, she liked the elephants. She reached down and touched Teresa’s upturned trunk. Mary said that she could pick things up with her fingers, and Teresa showed her how she could pick things up with her trunk.

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2017, text copyright Monica Bond, 2017. Courtesy of Kayla Harren and Wild Nature Institute.

The elephants and the children talked back and forth about all of their similarities. They were even the same ages. They talked about how all the aunties help out when a baby person and a baby elephant are born, how the mothers, grandmothers, and aunts in both human and elephant families teach the children important lessons and protect them, and how all the members of a both families feel sad when another member dies.

When they talked about the food they liked, Robert said that his “‘father gets angry when elephants eat” the vegetables in their garden.’ Then Tomas told Robert and Mary a secret.” He said that “all elephants hate chili pepper powder” and if they hung chili pepper powder on their fences, it would keep the elephants away. One reason elephants were eating from people’s gardens, Tomas said, was because their habitat was getting smaller as people planted more and more farms. Also “more and more of their family members are being hurt by people, because the elephants have fewer places to go.”

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2017, text copyright Monica Bond, 2017. Courtesy of Kayla Harren and Wild Nature Institute.

Robert promised Tomas that when he grew up and had a farm of his own, he would build it where it would not disturb the elephants. He also promised to report anyone who tried to hurt the elephants. Soon it was time for Robert and Mary to get back home with the water, and Tomas and Teresa heard their mother calling for them. “They shook hands and trunks” and hoped they would see each other again. They knew “they would never forget their new friends from the waterhole.”

Interesting facts about African elephants follows the text.

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Image copyright Kayla Harren, 2017, text copyright Monica Bond, 2017. Courtesy of Kayla Harren and Wild Nature Institute.

Through Monica Bond’s charming story of a sister-brother pair and their elephant counterparts, young readers learn surprising ways in which they and elephants are alike. With similar abilities, family units, and even feelings, people and elephants should be friends, but too often they come into conflict, and the result has been a decrease in the elephant population and at times danger for humans as well. As the adorable Robert and Mary talk with Tomas and Teresa, Bond’s enchanting storytelling and realistic dialogue, draw in children, giving them even more reasons to love these popular animals. A major take-away is how people can protect and care for these gentle and intelligent animals and their habitats now and in the future.

Against gorgeous backdrops of Tanzania and its savanna, forests, and mountains, Kayla Harren depicts one family’s simple farm and a family of elephants enjoying a day at the nearby waterhole. At nine and five years old, Robert and Mary will steal readers’ hearts with their infectious smiles, sweet sibling relationship, and enthusiastic interactions with elephants Tomas and Teresa. Harren juxtaposes illustrations of the elephants’ family with those of Robert and Mary’s family in similar situations, showing readers how alike we really are. The pages are washed in soft-blue skies and glowing peach-hued sunsets, as realistic portrayals of the elephants, birds, and other animals create detailed and awe-inspiring panoramas.

Our Elephant Neighbors is an excellent addition to home, classroom, and public libraries to further understanding of elephants, conservation, and nature.

Ages 4 – 8

Wild Nature Institute, 2017 | ISBN 978-1732323407

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Nature’s Giants Magazine

In this new magazine from the Wild Nature Institute, an enthusiastic dung beetle named Doug invites kids to learn about animal and plant giants of the African savanna through articles, games, crafts, and other activities that will keep them busy having fun and learning for a long time. Let’s get rolling and see what’s inside! Kids love finding stuff and right on the first pages they’re prompted to spot five differences on two identical (?) giraffes and search the pages for five beetles to see which one will would win a beetle race.

Along the way kids will enjoy:

Comics:

  • Doug engages kids in funny and interesting banter about the dung beetle’s ecological importance, including facts on their very, very long family history, three different dung beetle lifestyles, how dung beetles roll their dung balls in a straight line, and various job sites where dung beetles do their work.

Articles:

  • Ele-Fence!: About new ways farmers are protecting their crops from elephant raiders without engaging in Human-Elephant Conflict
  • Lions vs. Giraffes: About ways scientists use scars found on giraffes to study predation
  • Black Mambas: about the women rangers who patrol the Balule Nature Preserve to stop poaching of black and white rhinoceros and who teach environmental education programs in local schools. Since the group was formed “poaching of all species has decreased by 79%.”
  • Barking up the Right Tree: about the beautiful, sprawling baobab trees.
  • Infographic: on elephants, giraffes, termites and a surprising fact about biomass

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Activities:

  • Ideas for backyard or neighborhood science exploration
  • A savanna word search puzzle
  • An illustrated search-and-find animal puzzle
  • Craft instructions for making an Insect Hotel and an African Savana Scene
  • Jokes
  • A maze
  • How to draw an elephant, a giraffe, and a rhinoceros
  • A Giant Birds coloring page

Meet the Team Behind the Books and Magazine

I’m excited to have an opportunity to talk with Kayla Harren, Monica Bond, and David Brown about the work of the Wild Nature Institute, their lovely books that combine nature science with enchanting writing, and their new magazine for children.

Meet Monica Bond

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Hi, Monica! It’s nice to be chatting with you today! The love you have for Tanzania comes through in your stories so clearly and touchingly. Can you talk a little about your work and what brought you to this area?

My partner Dr. Derek Lee—quantitative ecologist and population biologist—and I chose to live and work in Tanzania because this country has some of the best wildlife experiences on Earth. As wildlife scientists, the lure of the African savanna is very strong; it is truly a wildlife paradise. In Tanzania there is incredible biological diversity combined with an extremely high density of mammals and birds, and we still have the full suite of predators and scavengers which means that the food web is intact. Tanzania also holds some of the best habitat for the last remnants of our planet’s pleistocene megafauna — elephant, rhino, and giraffe.

Derek and I are studying giraffes in Tanzania using a computer program that matches each individual’s unique spot patterns from photographs. We are monitoring thousands of giraffes in northern Tanzania, and learning where they spend their time, which other giraffes they hang out with, and how they move around the ecosystem. Our goal is to understand the things that hurt or help giraffes so we can help to preserve these magnificent animals for the future.

What is it like to live so closely to these majestic animals?

Every time I go to the bush and interact with these creatures, I am awed anew. They are so very special. Every day I feel that I am living the dream and I cannot get enough of watching them in their beautiful savanna habitat. Although we work in the bush, we often go back out to the bush on our days off!

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How did the Wild Nature Institute get its start? Can you talk a bit about the organization?

Formed in 2010, Wild Nature Institute conducts scientific research on endangered wildlife and inspires the public to protect wild nature. Next year we will celebrate a decade of work! The Institute was started as a platform for two dedicated wildlife scientists to realize our dream of doing interesting and bold science that protects the earth’s remaining bits of wild nature. The Wild Nature Institute is me and Derek at the core, but with lots of other partners and cooperators in our network (like David Brown and Kayla Harren) who are all critical to accomplishing our important work.

The giraffe is the national animal of Tanzania. As we celebrate World Giraffe Day today, could you talk about the giraffe—it’s importance to its ecosystem, the threats and pressures the animal faces from human and environmental factors, and how people can help protect them?

The gentle, iconic giraffe is popular around the world, but scientists know surprisingly little about them in the wild. We chose to work with giraffes because they are amazingly beautiful and peaceful animals, but they are vulnerable to extinction because people have taken so much of their wild natural habitat for human uses like farming and houses. Poaching is also a serious problem for giraffes. They need our help.

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Tanzania in East Africa is a stronghold for giraffes, supporting more than any other country. Although the Masai giraffe is the national animal of Tanzania, populations have declined here since the 1980s—yet few people are aware of the plight of the beloved giraffe in the wild. It is our job as scientists to bring this problem to light.

How are can families and organizations around the world help in the mission?

What can you do to help save giraffes and wild nature? (1) You can donate money or time to conservation groups like Wild Nature Institute and others. People can use their skills by providing advice, services, or goods in their personal area of expertise that can help the cause. (2) You can raise awareness about the silent extinction of giraffes. Speak up within your social circles and encourage others to donate money or time to saving giraffes. You can raise awareness in your home communities by writing, speaking, and contributing to the global conversation about our planet’s climate and biodiversity crises. (3) You can plant native trees.

Giraffes, elephants, and many other species need native trees, but deforestation continues worldwide. Planting native trees helps fight the global climate crisis and helps biodiversity too! (4) You can support legal protections for wildlife. Laws like the Endangered Species Act and other environmental laws make the world safer for wildlife and people. Call and write to your congressperson, senator, governor, and president telling them you support strong law enforcement to protect wildlife. (5) You can commit to not buying body parts, and if you live in Africa you can commit to not eating bushmeat.

The programs that the Institute sponsors and supports—from education in schools and communities to environmental conservation of animals and land to publishing materials for children—is extensive. How has your work been received? What successes have been achieved and what benefits do you hope to see in the future?

To save wild nature, we must know it and love it, so Wild Nature Institute and our partners developed environmental educational materials for children and teachers. The materials teach biology, geography, science, math, and language skills using focal animals and fun, beautifully illustrated stories. Our first book, The Amazing Migration of Lucky the Wildebeest, was a tri-lingual children’s book about wildebeest migration, and the ecological and economic benefits of conservation. The book was so successful that we created our “Celebrating Africa’s Giants” program to use environmental education to build community support for conservation efforts that will ensure the long-term survival of Africa’s giants giraffes, elephants, and rhinos.

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We now produce and distribute our four multi-lingual storybooks, two Swahili activity books, and seven posters, as well as learning activities to accompany the books and posters, to tens of thousands of children throughout Tanzania. These materials teach ecological and social lessons, build national pride in Tanzanian wildlife, and motivate children to read and learn about their natural world. The learning activities help Tanzanian teachers meet environmental education curricula requirements, and also meet Next Generation Science Standards for American schools.

To ensure the materials are used to their best advantage, we host workshops for teachers, led by our education consultant Lise Levy, a retired high school biology teacher with 32 years of experience in education. At the workshops, teachers have a wonderful time learning the stories and practicing the hands-on activities that they will use in the classroom to accompany the books and posters.

Can you talk a little about the impact that these books and the new Nature’s Giants Magazine have on the children and families in Tanzania?

Every year since we introduced our education program, we have expanded its reach and impact through word-of-mouth. Our books and posters are now recognized and requested by Tanzanian educators throughout Tanzania, from Ruaha and Ruvuma in the south to Serengeti in the west to Dar es Salaam in the east. We hired a Tanzanian education coordinator who regularly visits classrooms, orphanages, and community centers and brings “Giraffe in a Box,” “Elephant in a Box,” and “Rhino in a Box” with all of the materials needed to implement the activities. We made our storybooks into videobooks which are playing on Tanzanian television. We organize “fun days” at the schools to celebrate Africa’s giants where we do tree-planting, sports, drama and arts, and creative learning. 

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We are constantly dreaming up new and fun ways to spread the word about the fascinating animals of the African savanna. Our ultimate goal is to inspire the next generation to love and care for their wildlife and conserve the environment.

On your website you talk about the importance of zoos in supporting the environmental work in Tanzania. How do/can zoos help?

Zoos have an important role to play both in providing financial support for field conservation as well as promoting the conservation of giraffes, elephants, and rhinoceros through environmental education directed at visitors. Many zoos are using our Celebrating Africa’s Giants education program. Zoos also conduct their own scientific research. We couldn’t do our work without our zoo partnerships and we are really grateful for their support.

To learn more about Monica Bond and the work of the Wild Nature Institute, visit their website.

Meet Kayla Harren

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Welcome back, Kayla! I’m thrilled to be talking with you about these three beautiful books and Nature’s Giants Magazine.

How did you get involved with the Wild Nature Institute and this project? What does it mean to you to be part of it?

In 2015 my husband, Peter, who is also an artist, was asked to illustrate a picture book about a baby giraffe that was written by a friend of a friend. He wanted to pursue a different path in his illustration career, so he passed the job to me. I fell immediately in love with the story of Juma. My passions have always been art and animals. Being able to combine those two loves feels incredible.

I feel so lucky to be involved with the Wild Nature Institute because I get to help wildlife in my own way even though I am not a scientist. I am grateful for this opportunity to contribute to wildlife education and hopefully spark a love for nature in other people. It feels like fate the way the first book found me through a friend of a friend of a friend and now it has turned into an amazing partnership.

Your artwork in Juma the Giraffe, Our Elephant Neighbors, and Helping Brother Rhinoceros is stunning and full of such wonderful detail and personality. What kind of research did you do to bring the characters to life? Do Juma—or any of the animals—depict real giraffes, elephants, or rhinos in the area?

Thank you! Monica was incredibly helpful with providing plenty of photographs that she and the other scientists had taken of the scenery and wildlife in Tanzania. It made my job so much easier to know that people who actually lived in Tanzania and knew the area were checking all the details of my work to make sure it was accurate. For each book I was able to look through images provided by Wild Nature Institute of people, landscapes, giraffes, elephants, rhinos, and plenty of birds and animals to add in the background of each illustration. I did study the spot patterns of many giraffes, but Juma is a made-up combination of many giraffes I studied.

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Readers of your many books know what realism and sensitivity you bring to your illustrations of animals. Do you have a special affinity for animals and nature? Where did that come from?

Absolutely! Animals are my favorite. It started with my love of stuffed animals when I was very young. I had a huge collection, and I would spread them all out on my bed so none were hidden and they all got equal attention from me. I was introduced to many animal species through my toys. I remember fondly a stuffed white Bengal tiger that was bigger than me and a plump little panda bear. I loved the zoo, nature shows, and all the pet cats and dogs my family had. I feel most comfortable and relaxed in nature. I love going for walks with my dog because she stops every few steps to sniff something and that makes me pause and look around at all the beautiful shapes and textures and colors of the plants surrounding me. Nature is infinitely inspiring.

Have you ever visited Tanzania?

Not yet. Visiting Tanzania is very high on my list of things I need to do. Seeing a giraffe in the wild would be an absolute dream come true.

I’m going to let David Brown answer the next few questions about “Nature’s Giants Magazine.” David is a biologist, wildlife conservationist, and environmental educator—and he’s the co-creator and major writer of “Nature’s Giants.”

Welcome, David! As a nature lover, puzzle doer, and crafter myself, I love “Nature’s Giant’s Magazine!” There’s so much for kids to fall in love with!

“Nature’s Giants” magazine is full of fascinating articles (I learned a lot!), fun crafts, science prompts, challenging puzzles, and even a funny dung beetle named Doug. Can you talk about how the magazine came to be, what your role in the magazine is. and about how it can be used in the classroom? 

A group of conservationists and educators were meeting about how we could make Celebrating Africa’s Giants accessible and interesting to kids who love giraffes, elephants, and rhinos. We discussed how magazines like “Ranger Rick” and “National Geographic Kids” helped spark and sustain our love of nature when we were young, and we realized that there wasn’t really anything like that for even the most popular animals like giraffes and elephants. We decided to start our own nature magazine to fill that gap. We decided that our host of the magazine should be a dung beetle named Doug Beetle.  Doug Beetle helps show that there are many ways to be a giant in nature beyond physical size.

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My role is to help coordinate the creation of the magazine, develop story and activity ideas, and write the articles that bring those ideas to life. I also write the Doug Beetle comics. Megan Strauss, a wildlife biologist and illustrator, creates activities, crafts, and provides content for the magazine with her scientific expertise.  Kayla creates illustrations to accompany the articles and designs the layout of each page.

Accessible and interesting are perfect adjectives for Nature’s Giants! The magazine really promotes exploration and hands-on activities to engage kids in science learning. Can you describe some of the elements parents, teachers, and kids will find inside?

The magazine can be enjoyed casually for its art, stories, and activities. We also designed it for use in classrooms, zoo education programs, and other learning environments. In the first issue, we have a story about how scientific information can be visualized with infographics and how that helps us see the world in different ways.

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We also have a story about how a scientist makes an observation, asks questions about what she observed, and then solves a scientific mystery. Readers will learn how scientists study animals in the field, and hopefully get inspired to take part in citizen science themselves. 

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Environmental issues around the world are important to all of us. In what ways can children help from home or in their own communities?

The young people of the early 21st century are going to be the deciders of whether big animals like giraffes, elephants, and rhinos and their habitat survive this century and beyond. These animals are beloved around the world. They are the biological equivalent of the great works of art, architecture, and popular culture that are the common heritage of people around the world.

The young people in countries like Tanzania and Kenya, where these species and their habitats live, are the primary decision makers, but these animals need a global constituency of conservationists. They need people to help pay attention to them and keep their conservation needs visible in the world. Just as we pay constant attention to our favorite sports teams, celebrities, and technology products, we need to find ways to keep attention on giraffes, elephants, rhinos, and other animals.

If you love a species, then helping your local social network of family and friends be aware of the animal is a meaningful conservation action. Our goal for “Nature’s Giants” is to help connect young people with these animals and their conservation challenges and find ways to keep that connection growing.

What are the future plans for the magazine? How can teachers or other organizations order copies?

The first issue of “Nature’s Giants” is themed about African animals and plants. If the magazine finds an audience and there is an appetite for future issues, we would love to do a theme issue for each continent. We have also thought about doing an issue about the oceans. There are endless possibilities for issue themes. We would love to explore the future adventures of Doug Beetle.

To order copies of the magazine and all three storybooks, you can contact Monica Bond: monica@wildnatureinstitute.org

If you are interested in ordering Juma the Giraffe, Helping Brother Rhinoceros, and/or Our Elephant Neighbors for your classroom, organization, or yourself, contact Monica Bond monica@wildnatureinstitute.org. Individual copies of the books cost $12.00. Substantial discounts are offered when ordering multiple copies. All prices include shipping and handling.

Individuals, schools, and other organizations can also order single and/or multiple copies of “Nature’s Giants Magazine” for $4.25 each, plus shipping and handling.

You can also download printable posters with illustrations and information about giraffes, rhinos, and elephants from the Africa’s Giants website: www.africasgiants.org

To find the books with major online booksellers, see the information and links below.

Nature’s Giants Books & Magazine Giveaway

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I’m thrilled to be partnering with Wild Nature Institute in a giant giveaway! You could win this prize package that includes

  • One (1) copy of Juma the Giraffe signed by Kayla Harren
  • One (1) copy of Helping Brother Rhinoceros signed by Kayla Harren
  • One (1) copy of Our Elephant Neighbors signed by Kayla Harren
  • One (1) copy of “Nature’s Giants Magazine”

To be entered to win Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet one of my giveaway tweets.

Bonus: Reply with your favorite African animal for an extra entry. Each reply gives you one more entry.

The giveaway will be held from June 21 to June 27.

A winner will be chosen on June 28

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts 

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You can find Helping Brother Rhinoceros at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-our-elephant-neighbors-cover

You can find Our Elephant Neighbors at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-juma-the-giraffe-cover

You can find Juma the Giraffe at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

September 10 – Grandparents Day

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate the grandparents in a child’s life. A close relationship between children and grandparents can benefit kids in so many ways. When children spend time with grandparents they can discover family history, learn new hobbies, and always feel the unconditional love a grandparent has to give. Children also learn compassion and a long view of the world that inspires empathy and kindness for others – as the girl in today’s book shows. 

Lotus & Feather

Written by Ji-li Jiang | Illustrated by Julie Downing

 

Lotus was lonely since her winter illness had left her without a voice. The children at school “treated her like a strange creature,” and she was left without playmates or someone to keep her company on the walk home. She lived with her grandfather who made reed baskets and found solace when he took her to ride in his boat on the nearby lake. As he poled the boat through the still water, Lotus’ grandfather sadly pointed out how the lake had changed. No longer did the lotus flowers, fish, birds, or animals thrive. Instead, the landscape had “‘been ruined by greedy fishermen and hunters, and by ignorant people who took over the land where animals once lived.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lotus-and-feather-lotus-meets-feathers

Image copyright Julie Downing, courtesy of Disney Hyperion

One morning while Lotus was out collecting reeds for her grandfather she spied a rare crane. It’s wide white “wings were edged with black feathers, like lace on a dress”…and “its head was crowned with a red top like a dazzling ruby.” As she watched a gunshot rang out. Unable to alert the hunter by shouting, Lotus banged on her bucket, frightening him away. Lotus rushed toward the wounded bird, picked it up and carefully brought it home to Grandpa.

Grandpa tended to the crane’s injury and fed him rice soup while Lotus stroked the soft head. For two days, Lotus hardly slept as she took care of the crane. On the third day she fell asleep next to the crane, waking when he stirred and nestled her cheek. “Lotus’s heart pounded, and tears sprang to her eyes.” Lotus named the crane Feather. As it grew stronger she gathered food for it, and on the day Feather took his first steps, “Lotus jumped and swirled and hugged Grandpa blissfully.”

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Image copyright Julie Downing, courtesy of Disney Hyperion

Soon Feather was following Lotus everywhere—even to school. After class Lotus would blow her whistle and Feather would come running and dance as Lotus played. The other children joined in, dancing and playing along every day. One night Lotus heard Feather crowing and woke to find that the village was flooded. Poling his boat through the streets, Grandpa shouted, Lotus banged her pail, and Feather crowed to alert the neighbors. “Over three hundred villagers were saved. Feather was the hero.” He became famous, and people wanted to hear his story again and again.

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Image copyright Julie Downing, courtesy of Disney Hyperion

When Spring arrived Feather was still too weak to fly but he looked longingly at the birds migrating north. Lotus was frightened that her friend might want to leave them, but she “knew she would never separate him from his home and family.” One day Feather spread his wings and leaped into the air. Lotus realized that he had healed and knew it was time for him to leave. Grandpa and Lotus took Feather to the lake. Grandpa tossed Feather into the air, but he returned again and again. Grandpa gave Feather to Lotus. Lotus hugged Feather one more time and threw him into the sky.  

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Image copyright Julie Downing, courtesy of Disney Hyperion

Holding back tears, Lotus watched as “Feather flapped his big wings and soared north, disappearing into the horizon.” Lotus and the other children missed Feather. They gathered together listening to Lotus play her whistle, imagining that Feather could hear them. One autumn morning, Lotus heard a familiar crow and rushed outside. There stood Feather with his family. Then Lotus gasped. The sky was filled with hundreds of cranes coming to the lake. Lotus blew her whistle, and the notes, “accompanied by the birds’ singing, echoed far, far away in the golden sky.”

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Image copyright Julie Downing, courtesy of Disney Hyperion

Ji-li-Jiang’s tender story resonates on every page with love and friendship. The relationship revealed in Jiang’s tale exists not only between Lotus and Feather, but between readers and their environment. Beautifully interwoven throughout the plot, the idea of responsibility between friends, to the earth, and to ourselves makes Lotus & Feather a compelling book to read and discuss. Through lyrical passages and detailed storytelling, Jiang develops a deep, emotional bond between Lotus and Feather that readers will respond to. The heartwarming connection between Lotus and her grandfather brings comforting and another level of family commitment to the story.

Julie Downing’s stunning illustrations allow readers to walk, sit, worry, and cheer with Lotus as she finds and cares for Feather. Her sadness is palpable as she walks home from school past a group of classmates playing ball; in the corner of the dark lake, children will find bottles, cans, and other debris floating among the reeds; and Feather makes his debut with a graceful ballet. Readers will love watching the progression of Feather’s healing and Lotus’ reintegration into her circle of friends and will applaud when Feather and his family and friends return to the lake.

Lotus & Feather is a multi-layered story that will captivate readers. It is a must for public and school libraries and would make a beautiful addition to home libraries as well.

Ages 5 – 9

Disney Hyperion, 2016 | ISBN 978-1423127543

Discover more about Ji-li Jiang and her books on her website!

View a portfolio of artwork as well as other books by Julie Downing on her website!

Grandparents Day Activity

 

I Love Grandma and Grandpa!

 

Grandparents are the best! On this special day, tell your grandparents what you love most about them and why with this printable I Love Grandma and I Love Grandpa Pages!

Picture Book Review

April 7 – International Beaver Day

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About the Holiday

Two species of today’s honored animal are found across America, Canada, and Eurasia. Known primarily for building dams in rivers and streams, the beaver is a fascinating animal in many ways. Perhaps one of the greatest natural conservationists, beavers use all parts of the trees they fell. The buds, bark, and leaves are consumed as food, and the rest is gnawed into smaller bits to be used as building materials. The dams, themselves, are helpful in preventing droughts and floods, restoring wetlands, and keeping the water clean. The beaver population has seen a decline for several decades, and today’s holiday aims to promote awareness of this beneficial animal in order to protect it.

The Skydiving Beavers: A True Tale

Written by Susan Wood | Illustrated by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen

 

The time was post-World War II and families were eager to build homes and enjoy life again. In McCall, Idaho this meant that people moved to the shore of the beautiful lake, where they could fish, sail, waterski, and have fun. So roads were constructed, docks built, and land cleared. “Trouble was, that lakeside land had already been claimed. For decades—centuries, even—beavers had been the only ones doing the building there.”

Now, though, there was a turf war, of sorts. “Where the beavers once gathered wood for dams and food, now there were houses and people. And where the people tried to drive their cars, now water flooded the roads because of the dams.” Trees were also being “toppled left and right” by those busy beavers. Something needed to be done.

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Image copyright Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen, text copyright Susan Wood. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press

Elmo Heter had an idea. Elmo had experience with beavers from his job with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. He knew that beavers needed open areas with lots of trees, rivers, and creeks—and no people. There was a place just like this many miles away. The Chamberlain Basin would be perfect for the beavers, but there was a problem—how could he move all those beavers “to a place with no roads, no railway, no airport, and no bus station?”

Elmo thought about loading them into boxes carried by horses or mules, but the rough trip would be too hard on both the beavers and the pack animals. Then Elmo remembered that there were piles of parachutes left over from the war going unused. “What if he dropped the beavers from a plane? Skydiving beavers? Well, why not?” Elmo decided.

Elmo went to work to design a crate that could hold the beavers safely. His first idea was to build a box of woven willow branches. Once the boxes hit the ground, the beavers could gnaw their way out. But then Elmo feared that those champion chewers might escape before the box touched down. Next, he came up with the idea for a box that opened automatically when it hit the ground. After he created his box, Elmo found a beaver to test it.

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Image copyright Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen, text copyright Susan Wood. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press

He found his daredevil and named him Geronimo. Geronimo, cozy in his box, was loaded onto a plane, and as the plane flew low over the test field the box was dropped. “The chute bloomed like a buttercup, then caught the breeze….The box fell as gently as a mountain snowflake, landing softly on the grass.” Just as it was designed to do, the box opened and Geronimo scrambled out.

Elmo wanted to make sure his invention would work every time, so he tested it again and again.  All this flying and skydiving seemed to agree with Geronimo. He soon began to treat it like a game, shuffling out of the box when the door opened and then crawling “right back in for another go.” Now that Elmo knew the plan would work, he gathered the beavers from McCall, put them in their special traveling crates, and headed for the Chamberlain Basin.

When they found the perfect spot, Elmo and his team prepared the chutes and let the beavers go. One by one the parachutes opened, and the beavers “wafted like falling leaves on the autumn wind to their new woodsy patch of paradise.” And who was the first pioneer? Why Geronimo, of course!

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Image copyright Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen, text copyright Susan Wood. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press

An Author’s Note following the text reveals more about this true story. It also discusses what scientists have since learned about the benefits of beavers to the environment and how communities now work with and around them. A list of interesting facts about beavers is also included.

Susan Wood’s story of a little-known event is a thought-provoking glimpse into early conservation efforts. Her conversational tone and lyrical phrasing enhance the tale, lending it suspense and personality that will draw readers in. Wood’s detailed descriptions allow children to understand the problems for the community as well as the concern for the animals that led to this historical event. 

Gorgeous paintings by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen uncover the beauty of Idaho’s backcountry with its sparkling lakes and tree-covered mountains. Glorious sunsets fill the two-page spreads, turning the rolling hills pink and gold as beavers scurry near the shore building their dams. Readers will be intrigued by the clear and close-up views of Elmo Heter as he works on his plans to relocate the beavers. A table strewn with publications and photographs from World War II, set children in the time period, and his schematics of the box he designs as well as his workshop are plainly displayed. Kids can ride along with Geronimo as he climbs into his crate, travels by plane over wide-open vistas, and floats into the Chamberlain Basin at the end of a parachute.

The Skydiving Beavers would be a fresh addition to classroom environmental units to spur discussions on past, present, and future conservation science and will delight young readers interested in the natural sciences.

Ages 6 – 9

Sleeping Bear Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1585369942

Learn more about Susan Wood and her books on her website!

View a portfolio of artwork by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen on his website!

International Beaver Day Activity

CPB - Beaver craft picture (2)

Make a Spool Beaver

 

Do you have a gnawing need to have a beaver of your own? Make one with this Spool Beaver craft!

Supplies

  • Printable Ears and Nose Template
  • 2-inch wooden spool, available at craft stores
  • 1 6-inch long x ¾ inch wide craft stick
  • Small piece of foam board
  • Brown “chunky” yarn
  • Brown felt, small piece for ears and tail
  • Black felt, small piece for nose
  • Acorn top for hat (optional)
  • Brown craft paint
  • Black craft paint
  • Black marker
  • Strong glue
  • Paint brush
  • Scissors

CPB - Beaver craft picture with tail

Directions

  1. Print the Ears and Nose template
  2. Paint the spool with the brown paint, let dry
  3. Cut the ears from the brown felt
  4. Cut the nose from the black felt
  5. Cut a piece from the end of the craft stick
  6. Paint the craft stick brown or black, let dry
  7. Cut two small pieces from the foam board, ½-inch long x 3/8 inch wide
  8. When the spool is dry, glue the ears to the spool, leaving the ears sticking up over the rim of the spool
  9. Glue one end of the yarn to the spool
  10. Holding the spool horizontally, wind the rest of the yarn around the spool back and forth from front to back. Glue the end to the body of yarn. This will be the bottom of the beaver.
  11. Glue the nose over the hole in the spool
  12. Glue the teeth below the nose
  13. Glue the flat edge of the craft stick to the back of the spool to make the tail

Picture Book Review