Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Learning Science from an Enthusiastic Scientist: Caitlin O’Connell’s Newest Book

            I love learning from nonfiction authors who are knowledgeable and enthusiastic—so enthusiastic that they want to share their knowledge with me. They also care about what they are learning. These authors take the role of “guide on the side” because they show us the excitement and joy of learning something new and why it is important. Even though they are in their books, the focus is less on themselves and more on what they are learning.
            Recently, I read a book by a great guide, Caitlin O’Connell, a well-known scientist and author. You may be familiar with the book she wrote with Donna M. Jackson, The Elephant Scientist, a book that describes O’Connell’s discovery of how elephants communicate. Or, you may know her book A Baby Elephant in the Wild, a book for younger readers. Both books have fascinating photographs of elephants taken by O’Connell and her husband Timothy Rodwell.
            Now we are fortunate to have a new book written by Caitlin O’Connell, with photographs by O’Connell and Rodwell. In Bridge to the Wild we accompany O’Connell as she takes us behind the scenes at Zoo Atlanta where we learn about animals and their caregivers and see fabulous close-up photographs of them. Our guide is both knowledgeable and enthusiastic, and she knows she is writing for a young audience. With chapters with such friendly titles as “Showtime at the Panda House” and “Meerkat Madness,” O’Donnell’s enthusiasm is contagious.
            Her approach is also personal. In the book’s introduction O’Connell shares her childhood experiences of visiting the Bronx Zoo, her memorable encounters with animals, and her hopes of convincing the next generation of the importance of conservation. She writes, ”I wanted to create a bridge to the wild, to inspire guests with enough information to ask more questions to see for themselves just how special wild animals are....”Evidently, this is a woman who cares deeply about animals.
            Here’s a book that is full of information about animals and the people who care for them, told firsthand by a skilled scientist, animal lover, and concerned citizen who has a message for us all. As I said before, she’s a great guide—knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and caring.

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