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01 Apr, Saturday
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Montreal Families

Saving the planet's animals

The idea of an extinct animal used to conjure up images of the dodo bird, the woolly mammoth or a dinosaur — exotic creatures who, we were told, had once roamed the earth. Unfortunately, changes to the planet’s climate and our lack of care for the environment means that today more and more animals, even some familiar ones like polar bears, are facing the threat of extinction. We should be asking ourselves how we have allowed this to happen and what we can do to change the situation. One way is to create awareness in our kids about these endangered species. By nature, children have an affinity for animals and hopefully they will be inspired to find solutions. Here are some books for young readers ages 4 to 9 that provide the kind of knowledge that may ultimately transform our planet into one that we share equally with all creatures.

Animals at the EdgeAnimals at the Edge (Maple Tree Press, $9.95) by Jonathan and Marilyn Baillie.

In this book, children can learn about some of the most threatened animals on the planet including the Pygmy Hippopotamus in West Africa, the Bumblebee Bat from Thailand and the Golden-Rumped Elephant-Shrew from Kenya. Readers follow along as scientists track 11 different animals from around the world while providing interesting facts and descriptions about the creatures. The scientist-guides are full of passion and enthusiasm, giving young readers a reason to care about the animals by explaining their unique and special qualities and showing why they need to be saved. The book is full of colourful pictures, has a helpful map to show where all the animals come from and a glossary of terms to make your child an environmental expert.

Polar WorldsPolar Worlds (Scholastic, $19.99) by Robert Bateman.

Most countries now consider the polar bear a threatened species, with some scientists estimating these animals could be extinct by 2050 thanks to global warming and the melting away of its Arctic environment. Canada, however, has yet to list the polar bear as threatened, instead labelling it as a “special concern.” If you want to raise a child’s awareness of polar bears and their environment, this book serves as a great tool. Canadian artist Robert Bateman draws haunting and evocative portraits of Arctic animals facing extinction if global warming is not curbed. Each portrait is accompanied by a description of the species and a fact box.
The book also discusses the geography of the two poles and their main features. Bateman’s beautiful illustrations will hopefully inspire readers to want to preserve these frigid lands for the sake of their resilient and majestic inhabitants.

The Snow Leopard (photo above – Raincoast Books, $23.50) by Jackie Morris.

The snow leopard is a most mysterious animal. From its white spotted coat to its rugged home in the Himalayas that hover in the clouds, this shy and stealthy feline represents all those creatures whose beauty is unfortunately coveted and stands close to extinction due to hunting. As a tribute to these creatures, Jackie Morris has written a lyrical story about the snow leopard’s special relationship with the people who share the land with him. The villagers and the snow leopard co-exist peacefully and respectfully amongst the harsh landscape of the Himalayas. When the villagers are threatened by soldiers, however, the snow leopard comes to their aid, saving a little girl who in turn will go to live with him to learn more about their shared snowy world. This mythical story coveys to readers that humans must respect animals since the planet is not only our own. It also honours the magic of animals and how throughout time they have fascinated humans and inspired them.

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