|Book Review and |
Christmas Gift Ideas …
With a Wildlife Ring
Book Ideas for Kids this Christmas
The Cat That Changed America
By Maria Fotopoulos
Some of my best childhood memories are of visiting a cozy bookstore off of Grand Avenue in Ponca City, Okla., heading to the bookcase where all the Nancy Drew books were housed on the bottom shelf and then taking a seat on the floor excited to learn if there were a new book in the series and what Nancy was up to now. Books were transformative, exposing whole new worlds. Even in today’s techno-centric, digitized and dystopian world, I hope books still hold the keys to unlock the imaginations and dreams for millions of kids and to learn the wonders of the natural world. And what better time for kids to curl up with some books than the Christmas-New Year break! A recommended read to help kids appreciate the world of big cats is “The Cat That Changed America” by Tony Lee Moral. In this fictionalized account of the real and famous California cougar, P22, Moral chronicles the cougar’s adventures starting with his birth, and that of his brother, and time with Mom in the Santa Monica Mountains, meeting neighbors, including the raccoon, woodpecker, mockingbird, skunk (Mom advises P22 to “stay away”) and opossum, from whom he learns the hard truth. One day he’s going to be forced out of his mountain home!
There’s more foreshadowing! Mom and her cubs one day meet Prime. There’s a secret the reader comes to learn about Prime, “the dominant mountain lion in the woods,” according to Mom who also tells the cubs that “there isn’t enough room in the mountains for all of us, especially if you’re a male mountain lion.”
Tragedy befalls the family and eventually P22 is forced to leave his home. He is confronted with many challenges, dangers and, still, Prime, as well as cars, coyotes and rodenticides! But ultimately, after a harrowing journey of 60 miles, P22 finds a new home in Griffith Park in Los Angeles.
Moral does a great job of interspersing lots of facts about cats and the problems facing wildlife into the narrative, so “The Cat That Changed America” is both a good read and an educational one.
The real P22 continues to live in L.A.’s Griffith Park and is now 13 years old. His now legendary crossings of both the 101 and 405 freeways – two of the busiest roadways in the country – after leaving the Santa Monica Mountains have served as the inspiration for the campaign to raise funds to build a wildlife crossing over the 101 Freeway at Liberty Canyon, just north of L.A. Work on the crossing is scheduled to start in Jan. 2022. ***
Even better than one book for Christmas, package a trio! More book ideas are here. And other products and ways to teach kids about wildlife and support the work with big cats are at Save LA Cougars, The Cougar Fund, Panthera, Shambala Roar Foundation, Mountain Lion Foundation, World Wildlife Fund, Center for Biological Diversity, The Wild Animal Sanctuary and The National Wildlife Foundation.
Maria Fotopoulos writes about the connection between overpopulation and biodiversity loss. Contact her on Facebook at Be the Change for Animals.
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