When We Stayed Home
Text by Brenda Peterson and Illustrated by Brittany Nicole Smith
Dedicated to the new generation: Liam, Hailey, Analise, Barrett, Lily, Daniel, Baker, Noelle, and Rebecca
(Click on interactive links for video and articles)
When we stayed home,
wild animals returned.
Curious. No crowds.
What happened to all the people?
The world’s oceans were so quiet,
whales could hear each other.
Orca and humpback songs echoing
over many more miles.
In Brazil, hundreds of baby sea turtles hatched on empty beaches. Nothing to stop them scooting safely to the sea.
A giant, slimy sea lion in Argentina claimed a slippery sidewalk for a nap.
On windy Oregon beaches
elk herds strolled and galloped
across the sand. Elk convention.
In Canada, a red fox mother
and her frisky pups romped
along a lake’s boardwalk.
When we stayed home,
bird choirs whistled, trilled,
warbled and chirped.
Red finches, doves, parakeets.
Baby booms of birds!
When we stayed home,
we saved our own lives.
We watched with wonder, while
the whole world belonged again
to the animals.
Stay tuned for more illustrations and kids’ drawings to come.
Calling all kid artists. Send us a photo of your own illustrations of wild animals while you learn at home. We’ll add to this picture book a few of our favorites. Send to: email@example.com
Bios Brenda Peterson is a National Geographic author of over 20 books for adults and children including Build Me an Ark: A Life with Animals and Wolf Nation, chosen by Forbes as a “Ten Best Environment, Climate, Science, and Conservation Book” of the year. Her kids’ books are LOBOS: A Wolf Family Returns to the Wild, Catastrophe by the Sea and Wild Orca, selected by National Teacher’s Association as a “Best Science Book K-12” a Junior Library Guild Gold Award. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor, Tikkun, Oprah, and on NPR. www.BrendaPetersonBooks.com
Illustrator Brittany Nicole Smith has a BFA in Painting. She is a military veteran, freelance artist, and nature enthusiast who lives in Northern Virginia. All illustrations copyright: Brittany Nicole Smith. For permission to reprint, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Designer Alison Kan Grevstad is an Asian-American artist and writer. She recently designed the children’s book, Catastrophe by the Sea, written by Brenda Peterson and Caldecott-award-winner, Ed Young. You can find her at www.akgrevstad.com
When We Stayed Home is the true story of what happened when our world sheltered in place during a global pandemic and wild animals reclaimed our deserted cities, towns, and waterways. How do we see our natural world differently when our thoroughfares and neighborhoods are more populated with animals than people?
Social media was atwitter with videos of these shy and usually hidden fellow creatures coming out to play and explore. When I posted a global video of wild animals returning on my Facebook page, it had thousands of views.
The New York Times and National Geographic were quick to point out that some of the wild-animals-returning posts were inaccurate, like the “Venetian” dolphins in canals that were actually filmed in Sardinia. Or “drunken” elephants in a Chinese village’s tea field. As a nature writer and environmental journalist, I based the wild animal stories in this picture book on news reports from reputable sources.
What is wonderfully new — and true — is that our natural world was more visible when we were invisible. Wild animals never really left us; living undercover, they were finally free to reveal themselves. Without our busy American highways, there was 58 percent less roadkill. Bird migrations during the pandemic’s spring, were less interrupted by airplanes; oceans suffered so much less noise pollution and boat traffic collisions with whales; researchers could hear and record cetacean symphonies as never before.
Because many viruses spread from wildlife markets to humans, the illegal wildlife trade was tamped down during the pandemic. China banned selling of wild animals and dogs. The UN biodiversity chief has called for a worldwide ban. The World Health Organization has asked nations to end the global wildlife trade.
How will this time at home change our lives and our bond with other animals? These images, says Helen McDonald, in the New York Times, “open up a space for us to imagine the new world that will come when this crisis is over, a space that might allow us not only to rethink how we relate to the natural world, but to one another.”
Links to videos, articles for further research and science projects:
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