Finally, some good news for elephants: Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus announced last week it will be retiring all elephants from their acts by 2018. Although this is just one small step, and three years is a very long time to wait, I am grateful Ringling Bros. has finally caved into the pressures from the public and the animal welfare world. Let’s hope this is just the beginning, and that someday in the future all animals will be removed from senseless circus acts and other entertainment venues!
Speaking of elephants, a few years ago I had the amazing opportunity to meet Carol Buckley, one of my personal heroes and founder of Elephant Aid International, a nonprofit that creates elephant management systems to help caregivers ensure the best care for rescued elephants. Carol is the grandmother of elephant rights. She was forging a new, progressive way forward for elephant care even when it wasn’t cool, and even when people called her positive, non-coercive methods “crazy.” Guess what, now people all over the world are asking Carol to come and teach them! Carol is also very holistic in her approach; I was honored to teach her Reiki 1 in 2002. You can follow Carol’s inspiring work here.
If you love these gentle giants as much as I do, this YouTube channel is a great destination for news on elephants, their behaviors, rescue organizations and more. This is just one of their countless videos; it features amazing elephant movements in slow motion!
I am so grateful for all of the elephant sanctuaries around the world, and the volunteers who dedicate their lives to helping them. One example is Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary in Thailand (named in memory of a baby elephant who used the world’s first elephant wheelchair), which does wonderful work creating safe and natural habitats for elephants, as does the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.
On a parting note, here are some amazing pics of a baby elephant learning to walk for the first time! These pictures will warm your heart.
Have you worked with elephants at sanctuaries in the past? I would love to hear about it; please share your stories here!
“A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” —C.S. Lewis
Kathleen and I were discussing our favorite picture books the other day. You know, the ones that appeal to grownups just as much as kids. The favorites from your childhood; the books you secretly hope your little one asks you to read over and over again.
With so many books out there for young readers, it’s nearly impossible to narrow down to just five. But because it’s Picture Book Month, here are five with animal themes that really stand out to us (and that our children have loved):
1. A Garden of Whales by Maggie Davis: In this heartful story about endangered whales, a little boy in his bathtub imagines he lives in the ocean and dreams up a way to save all of the world’s whale families. Beautiful illustrations accompany lyrical text in this picture book that will have your child loving whales—and believing that someday he or she, too, might be able to make a difference.
2. Tarra & Bella: The Elephant and Dog Who Became Best Friends by Carol Buckley: When Tarra retires from the circus, she finds a new home at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. But she’s lonely and doesn’t connect with any of the other resident animals—until Bella, a stray dog, arrives. Their unbreakable bond is tested when Bella gets injured, but Tarra stands by her side. This true story set to lovely photos documents what it means to be forever friends.
3. Anatole by Eve Titus: This is a sweet tale of keeping one’s honor set in one of the world’s most popular cities: Paris. When Anatole the mouse discovers humans consider rummaging mice to be dirty and disgusting, he is shocked! But instead of accepting this as a fact like everyone else, he’s determined to change their view of him. Though he may be just one tiny, insignificant mouse, he hatches a clever plan to help the humans and, along the way, regain his honor.
4. The Three Questions by Jon J. Muth: Based on a story by Leo Tolstoy, this lovely picture book with beautiful watercolor illustrations tells the tale of a young boy who seeks answers to some of life’s most important questions. He asks his best friends—a heron, a monkey and a dog—but, unsatisfied with their answers, sets out to ask a wise turtle. But the answers to questions such as these can’t just be told, they have to be experienced—which the boy ultimately does, following a series of choices he makes rooted in kindness and compassion.
5. Owl Babies by Martin Waddell: Three baby owls wake up in their tree and wonder, where’s Mommy? As they wait in the night, each baby has different ideas about where she might be, but they all share a deep love for her. What a timeless message this book imparts to young readers: that Mommy (or Daddy) always comes back.
Honorable mentions: Miss Spider’s Tea Party by David Kirk (sadly, this book is out of print, but used copies are available on Amazon); Time for Bed by Mem Fox; and Owen & Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship by Isabella Hatkoff, Craig Hatkoff and Paula Kahumbu.
What are we missing? What are your favorite picture books?