About the Holiday
International Raccoon Appreciation Day was begun by a young girl in California to celebrate raccoons and all animals that are considered to be pests or “nuisance animals,” but who are actually an important part of their ecosystem. Raccoons help out by eating carrion, keeping the numbers of some other animals in check, and spreading seeds while foraging and eating berries and nuts. Raccoons live in diverse climates, and in rural, urban, and suburban areas. Despite habitat loss, their population has continued to increase in North America. One remarkable aspect of raccoons is their hand-like paws, which are almost as nimble as ours and from which they derive their name. “Raccoon” comes from the Powhatan word aroughcun, which means “animal that scratches with its hands.” The Aztecs named them mapachitli, which means “one who takes everything in its hands.” Today’s book stars a raccoon who makes good use of her hands while having a grand adventure.
Raccoon and the Hot Air Balloon
Written by Jill Atkins | Illustrated by Kristen Humphrey
Even though Raccoon was happy living in the forest, she longed for adventure, so when she heard a screech, she went to investigate. What she found was a baby eagle that had fallen from her nest and become stuck between two branches. Raccoon easily climbed up the tree, rescued the chick, and returned it to its nest. Just then the chick’s mother swooped down, and Raccoon felt a pang of fear. But the eagle just wanted to thank her for helping her baby.
Raccoon went back to her tree, wishing that she could fly. As she napped, she dreamed “of faraway places where she would go if she could fly.” She was suddenly awakened by a loud roar. Looking up, she saw a hot air balloon soar by and land in the nearby field. Raccoon was astonished and decided that she would ride in it too. “‘It would be such a fantastic adventure!’” she told herself.
As the riders left their balloon, Raccoon hopped in and nibbled through the rope tethering it to the ground. “Up shot the hot air balloon! ‘Whee! I’m flying! It’s the beginning of my great adventure!’” Raccoon exclaimed. Seeing their balloon take to the air, the riders chased after it. The balloon continued to rise and rise. It soared over the eagle’s nest, rivers, forests, and fields.
In a little while, Raccoon decided it was time for lunch. But how could she get the hot air balloon to go down? There was a red button in the basket, but pushing it did nothing. Raccoon tried pulling on the rope that hung from the balloon, but this just made the balloon go higher. “‘Help! I can’t get down!’ she shouted” as the ground appeared smaller and smaller. “At that moment, she heard a swoosh of wings. The mother eagle landed on the basket.” With the promise to help, the eagle flew away. Soon she was back grasping a big rock in her talons. “She dropped it in the basket” and took off again.
Suddenly, the sky filled with birds all carrying stones. One by one they dropped them in the hot air balloon’s basket. Slowly, the hot air balloon began to descend—right in her very own tree. Raccoon called out a relieved “‘thank you!’” to the eagle. She’d had a wonderful adventure, but she was happy to be home—until she saw the motor boat zooming by and decided “‘I think it’s time for another adventure!’”
Jill Atkins’ clever and accessible story about how good deeds are often repaid in kind offers young readers humor, excitement, and adventure along the way. Her engaging storytelling clearly shows kids the reciprocal friendship that grows between Raccoon and Eagle after Raccoon rescues her chick. Atkins also helps readers see that exploring new things leads to opportunities to meet new people, learn new skills, and discover parts of their neighborhood, state, or even the world that they’ve never seen before. Eagle’s rescue of Raccoon is an ingenious solution to his predicament and will also shows kids that many helping hands—including theirs—can make a big difference.
Kristen Humphrey’s bright illustrations of Raccoon’s forest, populated with deer, bears, owls, and other birds, mirrors Atkins’ evocative storytelling and will please kids. When Raccoon makes his dream to fly come true, readers can watch step-by-step as he takes his wild ride. Humphrey’s images provide excellent prompts for readers to predict what will happen to the hot air balloon and Raccoon. As Raccoon quickly recovers from his harrowing experience and decides to have another adventure, readers will knowingly laugh to see him at the wheel of a motorboat.
Raccoon and the Hot Air Balloon is a humorous and impactful title to share ideas of following ones dreams and the importance of helping our friends and neighbors near and far for all kids.
Ages 4 – 9
Maverick Arts Publishing, 2021 | ISBN 978-1848867772
Discover more about Jill Atkins and her books on her website.
You can connect with Kristen Humphrey on Instagram.
National Raccoon Appreciation Day Activity
Raccoon Coloring Pages
If you like mischievous raccoons, you’ll enjoy these two printable coloring pages!
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Picture Book Review