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Adventuring with Animals

By on July 3, 2017

The season of summer often supplies chances for travel and new adventures. Sometimes opportunities for trips are not always available. Books like these reviewed below can offer experiences of other cultures, other creatures and other encounters. Experiment by sharing these marvelous books with those you care about!

by Meribeth C. Shank 

Hawk Mother: The Story of a Red-Tailed Hawk Who Hatched Chickens

by Kara Hagedorn  

HawkMotherAlthough chickens are usually food for hawks, the injured hawk in this story, named Sunshine “because of her bright personality,” raises two roosters from eggs to chicks to crowing adults with the author’s assistance. Injured by a bullet, the hawk meets the author, who is also a zoologist, at the wildlife center where the rescued bird is being cared for and where the zoologist works.

The two develop a trusting relationship and become friends. Since the bird can no longer fly, human care is necessary and the author adopts the bird, and takes her home. When the hawk begins building a spring nest, it’s clear that Sunshine expects her human partner to act like a mate and help. This happens for several years, although the eggs never hatch. Yet, together the two care for the eggs. Each time the author eventually removes the eggs and tears up the nest, so the mother bird doesn’t sit all summer waiting.

One spring, however, the author gets fertilized chicken eggs from the neighbors’ farm, exchanging them for the hawk’s infertile eggs. The two continue to incubate the eggs together. As a zoologist, she is concerned that the hawk might eat the chickens as prey. But Sunshine treats them as her own young chicks even though chicken and hawk babies look and act very different.

The photos that accompany this heartfelt story include several from the author as well as others. Also featured is an x-ray of Sunshine’s injuries, as well as photos of nest building, incubating the eggs, caring for and feeding the chicks, and even the adult roosters. This thoughtfully told story is carefully written and engaging. Not only is it personal, its environmental message is clear without being excessive. Back matter includes a Glossary (words are bold in the text), More About Hawks, and background on Sunshine and Kara’s Story.

Web of Life Children’s Books, $16.95. Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 4 (This book may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)

Saving Yasha: The Incredible True Story of an Adopted Moon Bear

by Lia Kvatum, photos by Liya Pokrovskaya

Books-SavingHunters come to a den inside a hollow tree where Yasha was born. Yasha could not escape and his mother was gone. He is captured, but then two scientists rescue him, feed him a bottle of milk and lead him into the Russian forest to a little wooden house.

Two other orphaned cubs join Yasha and the two scientists, becoming a kind of family. The moon bears explore, climb, sniff out plants that are good to eat, play in the water nearby, and learn “to live in the woods.”

The scientists wear clothing to cover their smell, and do not talk to or play with the cubs. “They wanted to make sure the cubs would grow up to live as wild bears.”

During the winter, for six months, the cubs sleep in a den built by the scientists, and when the snow melts, the bears travel deeper into the Russian wilderness. When a tiger pursues, Yasha escapes by scrambling up a tree. This success convinces the scientists the bears are ready to roam free.

This heartwarming picture book captures the playfulness of the moon bears by a careful matching of adorable pictures with a well-written yet daunting rescue story. Information at the back includes a map of the area that shows Yasha’s forest and explains about Yasha and Moon Bears in general. Additionally, there is a Note from the Scientist, and a page with More About Bears.

National Geographic, $16.95 Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 4 (This book is available to borrow at the Miami Dade Library. Also, may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)

Leo the Snow Leopard: The True Story of an Amazing Rescue

by Juliana Hatkoff, Isabella Hatkoff, and Craig Hatkoff

Books-LeoThe Hatkoffs are known for several nonfiction books about specific animals from several continents. Partnered with engaging photos, these unique stories offer readers opportunities to understand the survival experiences of endangered creatures.

In this book, a brave goat herder rescues a baby snow leopard, alone in the snowy Karakoram Mountains of northern Pakistan. The orphaned baby is too young to survive on his own, and the family of the goat herder cares for him until he grows too large. As an endangered animal, the goat herder contacts the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), whose offices are located in Gilgit, to help decide where Leo should live.

Ultimately, the decision is for Leo to make his home at the Bronx Zoo in New York, which is part of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), “a leader in keeping and breeding snow leopards.” The decision for this location requires a team of three scientists to travel from the US to Pakistan to accompany Leo on his trip to the States.

Unfortunately, a landslide, requiring the scientists to climb over the rubble, blocked the road to the Khunjerab National Park where Leo is located. Once Leo is ready to travel, the US scientists must again carefully crawl over the fallen stones to return. This time, however, with Leo in a cage!

This remarkable tale, accompanied by wonderful photos of a baby Leo, a playful Leo, a regal Leo; tells of the many people and organizations whose joint efforts and international teamwork made it possible for Leo to thrive. End matter includes a small map of Pakistan, information about Snow Leopards, about the Wildlife Conservation Society, about Zoos and Captive Breeding, and about Endangered Species and International Laws.

Scholastic, $17.99; Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 5 (This book is available to borrow at the Miami Dade Library: Main Library. Also, may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)

Meribeth Shank works in the Media Center at Miami Country Day School, an independent school in Miami Shores, Florida, has taught classes on Writing Books for Children, and earned her MFA in Writing for children from Vermont College. You can also find her on the web:

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