With the passing of the summer solstice, trees are filled with leaves and fields are brimming with tall grasses and wildflowers. Abundant rainfall has given Mother Nature a palette of variegated greens everywhere you look. For their benefit, it's not as easy to spot the residences of local wildlife, unless they happen to be living underneath your back porch. Based on the symphony of birdsong in the early hours of the day, you hope to see a nesting place, but they remain hidden. Only the most careful observers will notice large areas of flattened grass in the morning; evidence of sleeping whitetail deer the previous night.
If we had the eyes to see the sanctuaries of the wildlife in our surrounding area, where would they be? In other parts of the world, what is a safe space for animals' abodes? Homes in the Wild: Where Baby Animals and Their Parents Live (Roaring Brook Press, June 18, 2019) written and illustrated by Lita Judge presents answers to readers, further increasing our admiration of all living things sharing this planet with us.
Every animal needs a home.
For some a tree is the perfect home supplying food and safety. High among tree branches animals can sleep without fear of enemies, they can find special food or easily camouflage themselves. For others multiple entrances and exits to an underground city of connected burrows and pathways represents the best place to live. Did you know some warrens of the European rabbit have more than two thousand entrances and exits?
Some homes are tucked away out of sight. A den nestled among roots, a rocky nook, or a hollow log keep babies safe when parents need to be away. Baby animals can be more easily protected when they are nestled below ground level. For nine-banded armadillos it keeps them cool, too.
For other animals a large area is home. Their territories are marked by scent from urine, scat and their bodies. Some leave scratch marks on trees and the ground, saying this space is taken. Carefully crafted nests can present a secure place. Some are among tree branches, in old tree trunk hollows, or under a fallen tree. A bushy-tailed woodrat might build a nest
nine feet wide!
Homes are cleverly designed by marvelous builders. Mountain gorillas and orangutans build new beds every day, fashioning together branches and leaves. Beavers construct lodges from felled trees and a dam to protect the lodge. An underwater entrance ensures the well-being of the young.
Homes can house thousands of inhabitants. Mothers return to the place where they were raised. Mothers can find their child among others by sound and smell. The advantage to living in over-crowded conditions is assurance of survival. Can you name an animal who does not hesitate to make a home in another's home?
Every animal needs a home.
The research, commitment and passion Lita Judge has for the animal community is evident in every word she writes. In this book a single sentence introduces a type of or place for a home followed by three conversational, fact-filled paragraphs highlighting three animals. With this approach she creates expectations, interest and a welcoming rhythm. She enriches our understanding. Here is a sample paragraph.
A home can
A bonded pair of dik-dik antelopes works
constantly to mark the boundaries of their home
range. Together, they deposit urine and dung
piles and rub their scent on twigs and blades
of grass. Their fawn will stay safely
hidden until she is old enough to roam
with her parents. The family establishes
a maze of trails, called runways,
through the thick brush that they use
to escape predators.
Although the spine separates the front and the back of the open and matching dust jacket and book case, readers can easily imagine the tree supporting the sleeping koala adult and child, and (to the lefty, on the back) the hollow housing three eager eastern gray squirrel babies as one and the same tree. These two paintings appearing as one image demonstrate profoundly and beautifully how not only every animal needs a home, but how they work to make this happen. This dust jacket and book case are an invitation to look through a wondrous window into a world Lita Judge comprehends and appreciates.
A golden orange hue covers the opening and closing endpapers. Two young raccoons clinging to a branch are featured on the initial title page. A lovely illustration of an orangutan and child spans from the left and across the gutter on the formal title page. Leaves in green hues frame the duo.
Two-page pictures introduce each of the nine sections. They are highly detailed and animated in their vivid portraits of the animals. These same animals appear again in a different setting on one of the next two pages. These three illustrations frame the text naturally. Each group of animals is depicted in their habitats engaged in their everyday activities. It's as if we've become invisible and are able to step right into their lives and observe them freely.
One of my many, many favorite illustrations is the two-page picture for
A home can be borrowed.
Page edge to page edge is the siding of an old barn. A crevice in the siding in the center (nearly half of the page) begins on the left and narrows to barely a crack on the right. Peeking through that opening are four baby raccoons. We see less and less of their faces moving from left to right. Lita Judge has completely captured their essence. Three pairs of eyes look at readers. The raccoon on the far left is looking at its siblings.
This book, Homes in the Wild: Where Baby Animals and Their Parents Live written and illustrated by Lita Judge, is a title to be read anytime, anywhere. You'll want to use it for an animal theme, for a habitat unit, how animal parents care for their children and for the sheer joy of learning about those who need our protection. At the close of the book, Lita Judge includes thumbnail paintings of all the animals and more information about each one on five pages. She has a glossary, sources and good websites for more information on animal homes. You might want to pair this book with Lita Judge's previous title, Born in the Wild or A Place To Start A Family: Poems About Creatures That Build or A Nest Is Noisy.
To learn more about Lita Judge and her other work, please visit her website by following the link attached to her name. Lita Judge has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. At the publisher's website you can view several interior images. I know you'll enjoy both videos.
Please take a few moments to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to view the titles selected this week by others participating in the 2019 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.