About the Holiday
No matter how old (or young) you are there’s no getting around the fact that sometimes things are tough or don’t work out the way you planned. For kids, learning how to accept and even make the best of setbacks or disappointments is part of living a happier life. And that’s what Positive Attitude Month is all about. The holiday was established to encourage people to see the bright side of things since being upbeat can improve your health, lower chances of depression, make you more motivated, and lead to better relationships with family and friends. One way for kids to learn this skill is through reading, and today’s book—the true story about a little guy overcoming a few rocky patches of his own—is an adorable and joyful place to start.
Raising Don: The True Story of a Spunky Baby Tapir
By Georgeanne Irvine
Get ready to open Raising Don and fall in love with this little Baird’s tapir, an absolute cutie with the sweetest of personalities to match. From the first pages—which show the wildlife care team at the San Diego Zoo eagerly anticipating Don’s birth, describe the moment of lucky serendipity when one member of the team witnessed this exciting event, and then reveal that Don’s mother, Luna, as a hesitant “first-time mom” rejected her calf—readers will find themselves invested in the future of “this endangered Baird’s tapir born at the zoo in more than 30 years.”
As the wildlife care team takes over bottle-feeding Don, children learn about the extraordinary steps they took to provide Don with some of Luna’s milk while ensuring that each animal was treated with affection. Discovering that Luna enjoying being scratched with a soft scrub brush while being milked and Don being fed after first having “his back scratched and his face rubbed before he would take his bottle” and getting a belly rub afterwards will make readers with pets of their own smile at this universal favorite.
Tapirs, kids learn, have noses that are “similar to an elephant’s trunk, only shorter.” Don used his little trunk “for smelling as well as picking up things like branches and bits of lettuce.” But Don was also as playful as any toddler and after eating “often grabbed the bottle with his tiny trunk and tried to run off with it!” Next, when Don was only a week old, the specialists introduced him to a shallow pool. Tapirs are good swimmers, but they need to be taught—just like kids.
In no time, Don was “running, jumping, and belly flopping into the pool.” He even liked to blow bubbles in the water with his trunk. Children then see photographs and read about how Don was gradually introduced to a deeper pond in the habitat where he would eventually live with guanacos, capybaras, and a llama—and, of course, rewarded with “extra back scratches and belly rubs for being such a good swimmer.”
Soon Don would be old enough to be moved to his habitat, so now it was time for him to make a friend. The wildlife care specialists picked out a sweet-tempered capybara, Bristle, with whom he “took naps in a cave, shared ficus leaf snacks, and soaked in the pond together.” Don also met an elderly tapir who, over time, taught him good manners and other particulars about being a tapir.
But Don learned some other lessons about life too. Even when Don was a baby and the guanacos and the llama saw him through a fence, they didn’t like him. And when, later, Don approached them in the habitat, they bullied him in the way llamas do—by spitting and kicking at him. Don simply took to avoiding them and sticking with his good friend Bristle.
In these first months of life, Don discovered his favorite foods and learned to accept regular examinations from the care specialists that would keep him healthy. “Tapirs have sensitive feet and need them looked at every day to make sure there aren’t any cuts, scrapes, or bruises.” As he grew older, Don became more independent and confident. He celebrated his first birthday with his favorite foods and a swim. Soon he’d be moving to the Nashville Zoo in Tennessee. “There, he would meet a female tapir and hopefully become a father someday.”
And what about Luna? She has given birth to and is taking care of Don’s sister, named Taiyari (which “means ‘our heart’ in the language of Mexico’s Huichol people”). Now, Don and his new best friend Juju, a female tapir, live in a spacious habitat with shade trees and a pond. Don, as you might imagine, has “won the hearts of his new caregivers,” and someday soon he and Juju will “become parents of their own precious calf, helping to bring more of these endangered animals into the world.”
Back matter includes fun facts about tapirs, a map showing where they live, the dangers to wild tapirs, and a list of ten ways readers can do to help wildlife.
Full of joy, humor, and personality, Georgeanne Irvine’s story about one plucky tapir born at the San Diego Zoo will capture readers’ hearts. The fervent love felt by Irving and the wildlife care specialists for Don and all the animals at the zoo radiates from the pages. With lively language and detailed, yet easy-to-understand descriptions, Irving reveals the day-to-day attention Don enjoys as well as the ways the specialists became his surrogate mothers.
Children also learn about the thoughtful methods zoo caregivers use to introduce animals to their particular habitats, behaviors, diet, and other animals. Children will respond to the parallels between Don’s experiences while learning skills and making friends and their own, examples that provide wonderful teachable moments and opportunities to fully appreciate the natural world as well as their place and responsibilities in it.
Endearing photographs of Don from babyhood and throughout his first year allow readers to follow his progress and see first hand his adorable, spunky personality as well as how he learns to swim, discover favorite foods, make friends, gets health examinations, and finally moves to Nashville and meets a new best friend.
Nature nonfiction at its finest, Raising Don: The True Story of a Spunky Baby Tapir is sure to be a favorite choice for all animal lovers as a read aloud or for independent reading. The book offers a wide range of learning and discussion opportunities for teachers, educators, and homeschoolers and is a must-addition to home, classroom, school, and public library collections.
Ages 7 – 10 (Younger children will also enjoy this book as a read aloud taken in parts)
San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Press, 2022 | ISBN 978-1943198146
About the Author
Georgeanne “George” Irvine has devoted her career to raising awareness about animals and wildlife conservation. She is director of publishing for the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, where she has worked for more than four decades, as well as the author of over two dozen children’s books about animals, including the award-winning Hope and Inspiration collection. Photographing and learning about animals in their native habitats are passions for George. Her worldwide adventures have taken her to many of the wildest places on Earth—from the jungles of Borneo and South America to the mountains of China and the forests of India to the Outback of Australia and the savannas of Africa.
About the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Press
San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Press is the book publishing division of San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, a nonprofit international conservation leader, committed to inspiring a passion for nature and working toward a world where all life thrives. Through its publishing efforts, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Press seeks to motivate and inspire multiple generations to care about wildlife, the natural world and conservation.
Positive Attitude Month Activity
Tapir Mom and Baby Coloring Page
If you love Don, you’ll love this adorable coloring page created by Honduran graphic designer Jen Chibi! Just download and print—and don’t forget to give the baby stripes and spots like Don!
You can find Raising Don: The True Story of a Spunky Baby Tapir at these booksellers
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