Saturday, October 27, 2012

An Ark of Endangered Animal Books

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Edward Lear’s The Scroobious Pip
Completed by Ogden Nash
Illustrated by Nancy Ekholm Burkert
Harper & Row, Publishers
Ages 4+

Edward Lear is famous for his nonsense verse. The creator of the Scroobious Pip has several other accomplishments to his credit - his exceptionally fine illustrations of natural history, the oils and thousands of watercolours he painted as a topographical landscape painter, and the seven travel books he wrote and illustrated.

‘The Scroobious Pip’ is a poem left unfinished by Edward Lear and completed by Ogden Nash.

Illustrator Nancy Burkett says in her foreword, “… like the stories of the Creation and Noah’s Ark, [it] stirs visions of all the creatures in the world assembled. Cast among them, however, is the unique and mysterious Pip.”

All the beasts, birds, fish and insects gather in turn around the mysterious Pip, reminiscent of Tulika’s ‘Who will Rule?’

At first it is the mammals, then, it is the turn of the birds.  Next come the fish, and finally the insects, all wanting to know if the Pip was fish or insect, beast or bird!

In a fitting tribute to Lear, Burkett creates poetry with pictures. One can spend hours trying to identify each species from among those in the illustrations.

During Burkett’s research for this book, she was “astounded once again by the incredible number and variety of forms in nature... What sadness, when one thinks of the extinct animals, when one learns that even in the one hundred years since The Scroobious Pip was written at least one hundred species of animals have become extinct. Many more are in danger now. In the future we shall still find certain kinds of whales in our ocean, but the largest creature that ever lived, that gentle mammal the Blue Whale, may soon be gone forever.

It would be in the spirit of Edward Lear to acknowledge and respect all the unique forms of nature. We alone are able to assume responsibility for preserving them.”

It would be impossible for me to pick what I liked best about the book – the exquisite line drawings and full-colour illustrations, the powerful foreword by Nancy Burkett, Edward Lear’s engaging poem or... the Scroobious Pip himself clad in a suit with his fish-like tail, insect wings, hooked beak, feathered white beard, antler and deer legs!

Having seen Edward Lear create an ark of sorts, we went on to read ‘Arnosky’s Ark’, by nature lover and author-illustrator of numerous picture books about natural history, Jim Arnosky. The text was a bit tedious, but we were inspired to come up with our own ark!

The five year-old breezed through another book by Jim Arnosky, which he liked.

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A Manatee Morning
Jim Arnosky
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Ages 3-5

Manatees are underwater mammals that surface to breathe. The illustrations depicting the gentle giants are soft and beautiful; the rhyming verses are lulling. We are taken on a journey with a manatee mother and baby, and introduced to other life in the Crystal River in Florida – schools of fish, a sleeping alligator, a pelican gulping down a bass, even a motorboat speeding by.

Manatees were the first addition to “Arundhati’s ark”.

We went on to add okapi, narwhals and mandrills to our ark, from ‘Curious Creatures in Peculiar Places’ reviewed here.

Our next stop was India, where we found this series from the resourceful folks at Tulika. We had to have Olive Ridley turtles in our ark. ‘The Riddle of the Ridley’ has been reviewed earlier on ST.

From India, we travelled all the way to Antarctica, adding on two new-arkers, emperor penguins and the magnificent mammals of the sea - we read about them in the Read and Wonder series by Candlewick Press.

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The Emperor’s Egg
Martin Jenkins
Illustrated by Jane Chapman
Candlewick Press
Ages 3-6

Some years ago, I was fortunate enough to see Fairy penguins in their natural habitat on the southern coast of Australia. Hundreds of us watched quietly in the dark as the tiniest penguins on earth returned home for the day. Every penguin has its own unique call, and as families found each other, it was heart-warming to see the affection with which they greeted each other. I fell in love with the smallest penguins then. Reading this book, I fell in love with the biggest penguins – the Emperor penguins.

Breeding in Antarctica in midwinter is no mean feat – even for the biggest penguins in the world. How do Emperor penguins do it?

We learnt how by following the life cycle of an emperor penguin through this book, which traces the life of a penguin family in Antarctica. The female lays a single egg and waddles off to spend the winter in the sea eating as much as she can. It is the male Emperor penguin who takes care of the egg, resting it on his feet for two months.

When the penguin chick pops out, the father feeds it and keeps it warm for two weeks. Then mum gets back and it is her turn to take care of the chick, while dad goes away for a well-deserved meal. It will be a while before the family reunites.

Chris Butterworth, who has authored the book on Barbour’s sea horses in the series by Candlewick Press says, “A sea horse looks as magical as a mermaid but while mermaids are made up, sea horses really exist. We need to know as much about them as we can, so we can protect them better. Otherwise, one day sea horses might join the mermaids and exist only in stories.”

These books enlighten and inspire the next generation to create their arks and coexist with all creatures big and small. Harmony between nature and man is not a distant dream. We might still have wonderful creatures on land, in the sea, and up in the sky - not just in stories.


Choxbox said...

Delightful Arundhati!

Will look out for The Scroobious Pip - the title itself sounds delicious!

Lovely picks all. Keep such posts coming please.

Arundhati said...

Thanks Chox! :)

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