Two of our favorite winter and holiday season children’s books are Annie and the Wild Animals by Jan Brett and The Christmas Cat by Efner Tudor Holmes. Using the beautiful weather and our multiple readings over the last week as inspiration, the boys and I went out this weekend to create/decorate an “animal tree” to help the animals celebrate the holidays with some special treats. Little did I know it would become a rather “special treat” and a memorable story of outdoor adventure for all of us.
We sat on the ground and hung apple slices on string loops, made a rather unique “carrot chain”, and spent most of the afternoon slathered with peanut butter from the peanut butter birdfeeders we made. After my sons rolled some “peanut butter balls” under the car (“Rolling peanut butter balls under the car is a good choice if we were actually looking to adopt a small fuzzy animal as an in-vehicle mascot—but it is a bad choice when we are trying to sell the car”) and playing a long game of “keep the pinecone away from the dog”—we carried all of our completed treasures out to our chosen animal tree.
In Annie and the Wild Animals, Annie is looking for a new pet (her cat, Taffy, has disappeared)—and hopes that by leaving homemade corn cakes at the edge of the wood, an appropriately fuzzy pet will arrive and cure her loneliness. In The Christmas Cat, an abandoned cat is rescued by a nameless, highly compassionate man who arrives in the woods bearing gifts of food for all
of the woodland creatures.
As we decorated the animal tree, our conversation turned toward the similarities of the two books and we came up with these take-aways:
• Cats are THE pet to have (“Mom, please! We really NEED a cat!”)
• Woodland animals really like people food (“just like Sula!”-our dog)
• Animals like surprises, too
• Being lonely isn’t very fun
Yet, just like the cosmic irony that kept attracting every giant creature of the woods to Annie’s corn cakes, I discovered the very next morning that—no matter what the books say—when you get up and go outside, amazing things happen.
Early the next day, by the light of Orion’s belt and nothing else, my people-food-eating dog and I set out for a run—and this is where I realized some of our take-aways were slightly off:
• Dogs are THE pet to have…especially when there are giant animals in your yard
• Woodland animals really DO like people food—A LOT
• Animals DON’T really like surprises
• Being alone in the dark might actually be better than being alone in the dark with a lot of other really large wild creatures which are big enough to make your people-food-eating dog bark in a way that makes you think YOU are about to BE “people-food.”
So the animal tree was a success, AND I incorporated some wind-sprints into my early morning routine. After sharing my tale of crashing elk (or something) in our yard, my son said, “Wow! Now we need to get MORE animals to come! We need to get some salmon for the bears, some meat for the coyotes, more carrots for the rabbits, some
hay for the deer, more seeds for the mice, and ……”
….maybe another dog.
-Post by Ariella Rogge