About the Holiday
Founded in 2005 by animal behaviorist and philanthropist Colleen Paige, National Wildlife Day was traditionally held on September 4. Today’s date was added to the calendar recently in honor and memory of wildlife activist Steve Irwin’s birthday. The holiday was established to celebrate the diversity of nature and promote the awareness of endangered species worldwide. The day also acknowledges the work of zoos, outstanding animal sanctuaries, and other global organizations in helping to preserve this planet’s animals and educate the public about conservation – especially the children, who are our future conservationists and animal’s caretakers. To celebrate visit an animal sanctuary, zoo, or aquarium—or think about donating your time to a worthy animal cause.
Red Sky at Night
By Elly MacKay
The weather is a powerful force of nature, affecting animals, vegetation, and people in beneficial and detrimental ways. Watching and reacting to weather patterns is a specialty of animals as they prepare for long, cold winters, protect themselves from storms, and take advantage of food grown during fair, sunny days. People, too, have paid attention to the weather since earliest times, devising instruments that continue to improve as technology advances to measure rainfall, air pressure, and wind. Long before mechanical instruments took over the forecasting duties, however, sailors, farmers, and others “learned from experience by watching the shapes of clouds or noticing the behavior of animals.”
They looked to the sky, the ground, and other elements of nature and came up with catchy phrases that reflected cause and effect weather changes. “This wisdom was passed down through sayings like the ones in this book,” which Elly MacKay pairs with her resplendent mixed media illustrations. Perhaps the most well-known saying is “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight,” and as two children and their grandpa look out their window at the glorious setting sun, readers will be happy to see—along with the little boy who is eagerly holding his fishing pole—that they won’t need the umbrellas in the stand next to the shelf that contains a book on the weather.
Out in their sailboat, Cloud Nine, the grandpa reveals another truism that promises a nice day for fishing on the lake: “When the mist creeps up the hill, fishers, it’s time to try your skill.” As they steer their little boat away from the shore, they can be sure that the sun will smile on them as they see the tiny red insects flying behind them that confirm: “When ladybugs swarm, expect a day that’s warm.”
But if “ring around the moon, rain will come soon” is true, their calm overnight camping trip, may end in a shower. As the children play leapfrog on a grassy hill early in the morning, the sky dawns pink and red—a sure warning! And if the sky isn’t warning enough, the fish leaping to capture a moth for breakfast shows just how true “trout jump high when rain is nigh” is.
The little boat begins to make its way back home, but the wind whips up, and as “seabirds fly to land, / there truly is a storm at hand.” Just as the winds begin to roar, Grandpa and the kids dash for home carrying a net full of the fish they caught. Safe and cozy inside, they sit down to a steaming dinner and smile at each other, happy to be home because they know “the more rain, the more rest. / Fair weather’s not always best.”
Following the story, Elly MacKay offers a fascinating explanation of each of the twenty-three sayings in the book. There is also a short discussion on how MacKay creates her distinctive illustrations created through intricate photographed dioramas.
Readers will love following this family as they go about a fishing trip in tranquil weather and come back home just in time to enjoy a hearty meal as the rain pelts down outside. The Mama cat and her five little kittens are also adorable as they pop up here and there throughout the pages and play a part in one particularly interesting saying. Various perspectives and charming details (look for the nod to the picture book This Is Sadie, the pelican motif, and mystical cloud shapes) makes Red Sky at Night a book to dip into whatever the weather at home and in the classroom.
Ages 3 – 7
Tundra Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1101917831
To learn more about Elly MacKay, her books, and her art, visit her website.
National Wildlife Day Activity
Wonderful Wildlife Board Game
Fascinating animals are found in every part of the world. Play this fun printable Wonderful Wildlife Board Game to match each animal to the area where it lives.
- Printable World Map, one map for each player
- Printable Wildlife Tokens, one set for each player
- Printable 8-sided Die
- Colored pencils, crayons, or markers (optional)
- Print a World Map for each player
- Print one set of 16 Wildlife Tokens for each player
- Print two copies of the 8-sided die, fold, and tape together
- If you would like, color the map and tokens
- Choose a player to go first
- Each player rolls both dice and places an animal on their map according to these corresponding sums of the dice below
- The first player to fill their map is the winner!
- 1 = Flamingo – South America
- 2 = Emperor Penguin – Antarctica (Southern Ocean)
- 3 = Giraffe – Africa
- 4 = Bald Eagle – North America
- 5 = Ibex – Europe
- 6 = Kangaroo – Australia
- 7 = Panda – Asia
- 8 = Orca – Antarctica (Southern Ocean)
- 9 = Toucan – South America
- 10 = Buffalo – North America
- 11 = Koala – Australia
- 12 = Lion – Africa
- 13 = Etruscan Shrew – Europe
- 14 = Manta Ray – Pacific Ocean
- 15 = Sea Turtle – Atlantic Ocean
- 16 = Tiger – Asia
You can find Red Sky at Night at these booksellers
Picture Book Review