What we enjoy most about living in the woods is seeing our wild animal friends. You may remember my mentioning that we regularly feed the foxes, gently move land tortoises away from car danger, and always keep binoculars handy to help us identify new birds.
Any deer sighting is cause for celebration; when there are fawns we melt into puddles of adoration over the spots and white tails. Watching a juvenile sharp-shinned hawk zig and zag while learning to fly is both educational and amusing, and we love the haunting, ethereal hoots of owls late at night.
In The Home Builders by Varsha Bajaj and Simona Mulazzani (Nancy Paulsen/Penguin YRG, 2019) we see how a variety of woodland creatures find shelter and build homes for their soon-to-arrive offspring. Many of the featured animals live in our back yard and woods, so we are familiar with the seasonal hubbub of activity described in this charming picture book.
Varsha frames her spare poetic text with a series of questions, first asking the reader, “Do you see the home builders?”
Two delightful double page spreads reveal a great horned owl dozing in a tree, beavers chilling at a pond, land tortoises ambling along a path, a fox peeking out through the grass, a mole busy tunneling underground, honeybees buzzing in a field, deer resting beneath a hill, and an eagle soaring overhead.
Do you see the home builders?
Deep on the trail,
Beneath the mound,
Down by the water,
Safe off the ground.
Under the earth,
Below the bridge,
In the tall grass,
High on the ridge.
Once we’ve spotted the animals, we’re ready to watch them work, as they “Burrow and hide,/Tunnel and creep,/Nibble and gnaw,/Explore and keep.” Whether they’re busy above or below ground, they’re all intent on preparing a safe and secure haven for their little ones, be it den, hive, bed, burrow, lodge or nest.
And then it’s time!
Do you see the babies?
Hatchlings go forth,
Fox cubs nuzzle,
Beaver kits swim,
Mole pups slumber,
Bees swarm the air,
Timid fawns bond,
Wee eaglets stare.
Fuzzy, frisky, playful, perky. Such joy, and they’re absolutely adorable!
The book closes with a last look at the newly formed families all snug and cozy for the night, with a lovely reminder that “Home is our earth,/Shared by us all.”
Varsha and Simona have created an appealing gem for budding naturalists and animal lovers. Simona’s lush and enchanting mixed media illustrations (acrylic, colored pencil, collage), rendered primarily in a blue/green/brown palette, beautifully complement Varsha’s lyrical rhyming verse.
Young readers will enjoy following the featured animals from page to page, comparing the different homes and identifying additional creatures (butterflies, earthworms, snails, dragonflies, ants, fish). They can also take note of the different trees, grasses, and wildflowers in the pictures. I especially like the spread of the mole tunneling under a vegetable garden, since we’re able to see root veggies growing above and below the surface.
The Home Builders is a lovely invitation for everyone to be more observant and appreciative of the natural world. Lots of fascinating things occur during nesting season if we only take the time to pay attention. Learning about wild animals at an early age is a wonderful way to instill a sense of stewardship. As the book says, we all share the earth, both humans and animals. Fostering respect for all living things is the key to peaceful coexistence.
This spring I look forward to the return of migrating robins and having Carolina Wrens greet me at my office window. There will definitely be a flycatcher nest on our front porch and I’ll be on the lookout for land tortoises Boxcar, Boxwood and Box Lunch crossing our long driveway.
Fuzzy the Fox will retreat to her warm weather den to have her kits, and hopefully she’ll bring them to dinner this summer. You already know how partial we are to fawns, but I must admit baby raccoons are pretty cute too — they seem to think we won’t recognize them with their masks on. 😀
While I’m waiting I can reread The Home Builders, and continue to marvel at our industrious wildlife friends who live just outside the door. Soon it’ll be time to walk down to the pond to see the beavers. What kind of wildlife do you see where you live?
THE HOME BUILDERS
written by Varsha Bajaj
illustrated by Simona Mulazzani
published by Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin YRG, February 2019
Picture Book for ages 3-6, 32 pp.
*On shelves February 12, 2019
♥️ Check out this short Q&A with author Varsha Bajaj at the Blue Willow Bookshop website to read about what inspired her to write this book.
🦉 SPECIAL BOOK GIVEAWAY! 🐝
The publisher has generously offered a brand new copy of The Home Builders for one lucky Alphabet Soup reader. For a chance to win, please leave a comment at this post telling us what your favorite woodland animal is no later than midnight EST, Wednesday, February 13, 2019. You may also enter by sending an email with HOME BUILDERS in the subject line to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan.com. Giveaway open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only, please. Good Luck!
The lovely and talented Laura Purdie Salas is hosting the roundup at Writing the World for Kids. Scamper over to check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up in the blogosphere this week. Have a nice weekend!!
*Interior spreads posted by permission, text copyright © 2019 Varsha Bajaj, illustrations © 2019 Simona Mulazzani, published by Nancy Paulsen/Penguin. All rights reserved.
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*** Copyright © 2019 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.