Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

From The First Breath

You may forget the exact time of day.  The details will fade from your memory.  The way you felt as you watched the puppies being born remains.  Over the course of hours, days and weeks, the relationship of the mother and her new children is fascinating to watch.  How she and they interact in the outside world is a montage of images, increasing the feeling of being witness to one of nature's marvels.

Naturalist, author and artist Lita Judge's new title, Born in the Wild: Baby Mammals and Their Parents (Roaring Brook Press, October 21, 2014) discusses many of the adaptations new babies face in our world.  We travel to varied habitats on six of our seven continents.  New and familiar, prevalent and endangered members of the mammal family are featured.

A baby is born.

This is the first of nine single sentence headings.  Following each, two pages highlight how different mammals, usually three, address each area of their newborns' lives.  Let's see how similar or unlike us they are.

I'll bet you will never look at a squirrel the same way again when you realize baby polar bears are the same size when they are born.  Rather than be food for large cat predators, at least two African newborns are ready to run in hours.  Now threatened grizzly bear cubs drink their mother's milk for two to three years.

I wonder how many of you have walked by a fawn hidden in the grass, staying still for protection for days after birth.  Even as an adult I like the idea of a herd of musk oxen surrounding me if danger is near.  Imagine how safe their calves must be.

Homes in woven grasses, tunnels underground or hollowed trees gave babies needed shelter.  The pouches and backs of marsupials are nature's baby strollers.  Extended families act as teachers and offer protection.

Elephant trunks, cougar tongues and chimpanzee hands offer cuddly comfort.  The fun of play leads to required acts for survival.  Learning by watching and doing can take mere minutes or as long as ten years depending on the skill and the animal.  At any time or any place on our planet, mammals are being born and seeking survival.

With the reading of each nonfiction title written by Lita Judge admiration grows at her skill in presenting knowledge about her subject, as if in conversation she reveals captivating details.  It's a gift to supply information by placing it in the proper perspective so readers can see the connections between nature and their world.  It's as if we have traveled with her to each of these animals' homes, observing them with their young.  Here is a sample paragraph.

A musk ox calf is strong enough to endure harsh Arctic
storms but she is defenseless against hungry wolves.  With
sharp horns, snorts, and stamps, the entire herd forms a tight,
protective circle around the little one, guarding against attacks.

On the dust jacket and book case elegant portrayals of a mother giraffe nudging her curious baby and a small orangutan with closed eyes on the back of their mother convey the essence of each relationship.  Plain opening and closing endpapers are the same color as Born and Wild on the front which in turn is a shade similar to the orangutans' fur.  An inviting design and layout has already captured readers' interest.

On the title page and each of the nine introductory pages a double page depiction of a mother or family with the newest members brings us close to the selected activity.  The pages in-between each of these frame smaller memorable images with white space.  Lita Judge's realistic drawings enhanced with watercolor are simply stunning as she brings you into the intimacy of the moment.

It's very hard to pick a favorite illustration but one of them is the interior visual of the older orangutan with the baby on its back.  They are together among bunches of branches.  The parent with out-stretched arms is showing how to take the leaves forming them into a nest.

Born in the Wild: Baby Mammals and Their Parents written and illustrated by Lita Judge is nonfiction at its best.  Each illustration elevates the text which informs every single reader.  Judge has supported her work with meticulous research as evidenced by the list of written and online sources at the book's end. She has included a glossary of eight terms in which younger readers might not be acquainted.  Four pages are dedicated to supplying more information about the twenty-six mammals showcased in this title.  You might like to use this with Robin Page's and Steve Jenkins' book, My First Day.

Please visit Lita Judge's website to learn more about her other wonderful titles by following the link embedded in her name.  Eight images from the book are shown at the publisher's website.  On author Cynthia Leitich Smith's blog, Cynsations, Lita Judge visits for an interview about this title.

Please stop by Alyson Beecher's blog Kid Lit Frenzy to read about the other nonfiction titles chosen by bloggers participating in the 2014 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.


  1. Ohhhh!!! I gasped when I saw the cover - I LOVE giraffes!!! What an adorable baby. :-) Thanks for sharing this - I'm putting it on my TBR list right now!! Thanks for the video, too.

    1. All the illustrations are going to make you gasp Holly. Lita Judge takes such care in making her pictures authentic but also connect with the reader. I hope you enjoy it.

  2. I loved this book - read it this week! I really liked the organization of it. I think it would be a good mentor text to show that feature!

    1. Isn't Lita Judge the best? I like the organization of it too. She does not vary her presentation but ties the beginning and end together nicely. I'm glad you got to read it.

  3. I LOVE Lita Judge and have this book on my to buy list. I know my class will love it.

    1. I know your class will love it too Carrie. I really enjoyed reading and watching how Lita studies her animals before she draws and paints them.

  4. I've always admired Lita Judge and love her picturebooks. I didn't know about this one though so thanks for sharing! :)

    1. I greatly admire the work of Lita Judge too Myra. Both her fiction and nonfiction charms and informs. I hope you are able to find this book soon.