As we enter into Halloween month, decorations of bats begin to haunt stores, schools, and homes. Kids and adults often have skewed ideas about bats.
Chiroptophobia, fear of bats, is based on stereotypes of blood sucking vampire bats. For the record, vampire bats only live in Latin America and don’t usually bite humans.1)http://www.animalplanet.com/tv-shows/my-extreme-animal-phobia/phobias/fear-of-bats-chiroptophobia/
If you have a child that fears bats or you simply want to educate them more about these amazing creatures, I suggest you read The Black Rock Desert Trilogy.
This three-part book series written by Rachel Freeman Long is based on stories she would tell her son. She is a UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Cooperative Extension farm advisor. An expert in bats, Long creates works of fiction that educate and excite readers.
The first book in the series is called Gold Fever. Jack is a nine-year-old boy who falls into a cave while gold mining with his family in the Black Rock Range. Badly injured during the fall, he meets his companions. They are a bat named Pinta and a coyote named Sonny. These characters are caring and compassion as they help Jack on his journey to recover his memory and be reunited with his family. Intertwined in the narrative is information about bats and coyotes. For example when Pinta is first leading Sonny into the cave to help Jack:
“Right behind you! barked Sonny, racing after her. But when the light faded and the tunnel closed in, he slowed to a walk, sniffing the musty air. Where is she? “Pinta, I can’t see! he whined.
“Listen for my echolocation calls,” she said as she flew by him. Sonny stopped and perked up his ears. When he heard her high-pitched squeaks he yipped in delight.
“Pinta, how do you see in the dark?” he asked as he followed her calls.
“The sounds I make bounce off the walls and come back to form pictures in my mind of where I am going.”
Sonny yipped wildly, trying to imitate her, but was disappointed when nothing changed. He still couldn’t see in the dark.
The second book in the trilogy is Valley of Fire. After a year, Jack returns to his family’s cabin in the Black Rock Mountains and his friends Pinta, the bat, and Sonny, the coyote. This time Jack’s Uncle Ray goes missing. In the search, the for his uncle, they encounter an international poaching ring. Jack meets other animal characters like Midas the raven and discover Native American etchings in a secret tunnel through the mountains. Just like in the first book, woven through the text is informative bits about the natural world. While in the cave:
A mile later, the tunnel mysteriously opened up. “Wow!” exclaimed Jack, stopping to shine his light around an area that seemed as big as his cabin. Ornate, limestone pillars climbed off the floor and others dropped down from the ceiling. Some were grotesque, like a Medusa head, but others were beautiful, like chandeliers. Colorful minerals, reflecting all the colors of the rainbow, glistened off some of the rocks.
“Stalagmites moving up from the floor and stalactites holding tight to the ceiling,” murmured Jack, recalling a tour of a cave he went on with his parents where he learned about these rock formations. “They’re formed when minerals seep through the ground in water and get deposited here,” he explained to his friends.
The third and final book in the series is called River of No Return.
“You’re criminals,” burst out Jack. “You’re killing all the animals on our mountain!” Jack’s world falls apart when poachers hunt animals in the Black Rock Desert for money. These men once served their country in the US Air Force, but now they’re outlaws, dangerous criminals who will stop at nothing to get what they want. Jack teams up with his friends, Sonny the coyote and Pinta the little pallid bat, to try to stop them. In a race against time, they dodge bullets, wolves, and trees exploding into flames in pursuit of their enemies, to get them behind bars. As their world spins out of control, Jack must rely on his wits and the instincts of his friends to survive and make their mountain range safe again. Will their luck hold with rewards of gold and long-lasting friendships? Find out in this explosive third and final book in the Black Rock Desert Trilogy. “The hidden lives of bats and their importance in the natural world continues to unfold in this thrilling third book in the Black Rock Desert Trilogy. Jack, Pinta, and Sonny have another adventure in the wilderness and tell us something about the role of pollinators.” –Jim Robbins Science Journalist, The New York Times
These books are well written. I especially enjoy the informative descriptions and how the story is interwoven into the landscape. From the cow trails to Native American cave etchings, these fiction works have enough of the real world to make them exciting and educational.
Whether your child fears bats or is obsessed with Batman or the playa (aka Burning Man), they will learn a lot about bats and their habitat by reading the Black Rock Desert Trilogy. One of my favorite books for early childhood about bats is Stellaluna. For older children, the Black Rock Desert Trilogy is exciting and informative.
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