Lynn: “In the heart of many cities there is a jungle.” So begins renowned biologist Caitlin O’Connell’s call-to-arms for the next generation of naturalists. Jungles and zoos have never been more important to conservation and species preservation.
For nature lovers, the outlook on the environment is often depressing. While O’Connell acknowledges this reality, she is not hopeless: she clearly believes that change is possible, and that each of us can make a difference. This perspective helps make Bridge to the Wild: Behind the Scenes at the Zoo (Aug. 2016) a very special book. O’Connell and husband Tim, her co-photographer, spent 4 days behind the scenes at the Atlanta Zoo, meeting the curators, veterinarians, scientists and the animals they care for and work to preserve.
The animals they encountered—pandas, gorillas, lions, komodo dragons, kor bustards, black mambas—will certainly be the main draw for young readers. The zookeepers share fascinating inside information about the animals and their care, with a healthy dose of humor, giving the book a terrific firsthand feel. O’Connell is a scientist, of course, so she also provides instructions on how to observe animal behavior and record the data.
I read this book in an early galley form and eagerly await the finished copy with the color photographs and completed back matter. Don’t miss this extraordinary trip to the zoo!
Cindy: Worms for Breakfast: How to Feed a Zoo (2016) by Helaine Becker is one cookbook that you won’t want to cook from—but boy is it entertaining, informative, and slightly gross! It’s also the perfect companion to Bridge to the Wild. The cover looks like a cereal box, one I hope never to find on my breakfast table. The page facing the table of contents provides the recipe, with precise measurements, for the Platypus Party Mix seen on the cover. You’ll need crayfish, earthworms, mealworms, and fly pupae (all live, thank you very much). Did you know platypuses store extra food in their cheek pouches while underwater and snack when they get to the surface? Now you do.
Mixed in with these fascinating recipes are informative and cheeky passages about life as a zoo nutritionist, the role of zoos in animal conservation, how to feed babies that can’t be cared for by their own mothers, and the special nutritional needs of many species. (When you eat a lot, you poop a lot a lot. Did you know elephant dung (100 lbs. a day per adult!) is used to produce recycled paper or sold as compost to gardeners?
Be sure to read Sarah Hunter’s fun review for more examples of the tasty treats you’ll find on the menu. I can’t wait to order this and booktalk it in the fall to my animal fans. Kathy Boake’s playful illustrations and photo collages will also attract readers who see this on display. As I type this, I have 7-year-old Nevi paging through it at breakfast , but 3-year-old Nia is too busy eating jam and blueberries to look at the book right now! We’re glad to be eating homemade strawberry jam and English muffins instead of mealworms.