Monday, June 23, 2008

Delightful children's book tells of the plight of the gopher tortoise

No one likes to be uprooted! Especially if you like where you are and your family has
lived there for generations. And doubly so if you happen to be an imperiled animal like the gopher tortoise with limited places to go!

In How Gimble Gopher Tortoise Found a New Home (fresh-out from Lobster Cove Publishing), author Kay Thorpe Bannon and illustrator Rebecca Eagan have teamed to produce a children’s book stressing the importance of “safe haven” to all living things---and how humans often unwittingly create havoc for native animals just trying to get by in the wild.

This delightful tale of Gimble’s search mirrors the real-life displacement story of gopher tortoises in the southeastern United States. Ousted from his burrow by construction sprawl, Gimble joins several other similarly desperate animals to seek refuge elsewhere.

This story is of a journey inspired by hope. With the exception of Cotton (an eastern cottontail), these travelers are state or federally classified as “threatened” or “species of special concern”: burrowing owl; gopher frog; Florida mouse; indigo snake---and Gimble Gopher Tortoise himself. In their exodus, the friends try to find “A place saved by kind people for animals like us.” Although Burr Owl is skeptical that humans would ever help them, the five vow to protect each other on their trek north.

Today the greatest threat to gopher tortoise survival is habitat destruction. Gophers
cannot live without undeveloped land with plenty of food and room to dig their burrows. The main informational goals of this story are to help young readers understand the need for habitat conservation and for our compassionate coexistence with wild creatures.

The illustrations are soft and whimsical and depict many real-life Florida plants and
backdrops. This author-illustrator collaboration is vaguely reminiscent of the Thornton Burgess/Harrison Cady wildlife “morality tales” of yore, couched in adventure and humor to lure young readers to identify with (and long to see rectified) their characters’ plight, but without being too heavy-handed with the message.

This is a great read for parents with their children, teachers in the classroom, or for a young bookworm tucked alone in his private sanctum. It also makes for a potential fundraising tool for non-profit conservation organizations. A Teacher’s Guide with interactive activities for students, preschool through middle school, is available.

The 38-page book is available for $12.95. To order a copy, contact Rebecca Eagan at reagan@cfl.rr.com.

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