When We Stayed Home

A Pandemic Picture Book for Kids, Teachers, and Homeschoolers

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?

On an English playground,
sheep took spins on a merry-go-round.
Wild boars in Israel snorted through a city.

Raccoons boldly strolled in the sun
through New York’s City’s Central Park.
In Virginia, a black bear lazed in a swimming pool.

In Japan, deer wandered
down steps into subway stations.
No trains to catch.
River otters slipstreamed along
an empty canal in Singapore.

In Thailand, monkeys hung out
and fought in temples. What happened
to tourists with their treats?

Mountain goats in Wales skipped
and scampered through town.
They clipped hedges with their teeth.
Shaggy kids just out to munch lunch.

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!

In Mumbai, peacocks shrieked and
leapt onto parked cars. Proudly,
they strutted their stuff.
Turquoise and green tails fanning.

Rush hours of penguins waddled
along South African city streets.
Kangaroos jumped, boing-boing
along Australian sidewalks.

Image for post
Image for post

An alligator crawled through a mall
in South Carolina.

Lions snoozed
on golf courses in South Africa.

On American highways, mountain lions
and moose roamed free. Without so
many cars, less roadkill.

A coyote explored the beach
near the Golden Gate Bridge.
Another coyote raced across
the National Mall.

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: drowningworld@gmail.com

drawing by Hailey, age seven

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: zargonebons@gmail.com

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

Author’s Note

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:

“Central Park, the calm amid New York’s coronavirus storm,” Egypt Independent, 4.29.2020.

Video, “Endangered Sea Turtles Hatch on Empty Brazilian Beaches amid Coronavirus Lockdown,” Washington Post, April, 2020.

Washington Post, “As Humans Stay Indoors, wild animals take back what was once theirs,” 4.15.2020.

“Wildlife comes out to play while humans stay locked away in cities amid coronavirus pandemic,” South China News, You Tube, 4.7.2020

“Wildlife take to the streets as people stay indoors,” CBC 4.5.2020.

Hindustanitimes, “Wild animals wander around lockdown cities across the world,” 3.28.2020

ABC news, “Wildlife roams as the planet’s human population isolates,” 4.22.2020

The Guardian, “Emboldened Wild Animals Venture into Cities Worldwide,3.22.2020

“The Urban Wild: animals take to the streets amid lockdown — in pictures,” The Guardian, 4.22.2020

“Lockdowns Could Be the ‘Biggest Conservation Action’ in a Century, “Ben Goldfarb, 7.6.2020, The Atlantic magazine.

“Wildlife takes to the streets as people stay indoors,” CBC News, 4.22.2020.

The Atlantic, “The Pandemic is Turning the Natural World Upside Down,” 4.2.2020

The New York Times, “Animals Are Rewilding Our Cities At Least on You Tube,” Helen McDonald, 4.15.2020

Links embedded in text:

“Whales Get a Break as Pandemic Creates Quieter Oceans, NPR, 7.20.20

“Goats take over Welsh village,” The Guardian, You Tube: 3.31.20

“Coyote Spotted on the National Mall,” Channel 4 ABC, Washington.

Wild Puma, CBC news, Wildlife Reclaims the Outdoors as Humans Stay Inside during Pandemic, CBC News You Tube.

Wild deer in Japan train station, SORA news

“Hungry monkeys brawl over food as coronavirus hits tourism in Thailand,” The Guardian, You Tube, 3.1.2020.

Sea Lions in Argentina: RT 4.15.2020, You Tube.

“Elk Frolic on Oregon Coast Beach,” Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, 2.5.2020.

Red Fox mother and pups take over lawn, Global News, 5.5.2020, You Tube.

Sheep on a Merry-go-round in England, SWNS, 4.6.2020, You Tube.

Israel: Wild Boars take over city gardens in Haifa amid coronavirus lockdown,” 4.18.2020, You Tube.

“Peacocks dance on empty Mumbai streets amid coronavirus lockdown,” The Pigeon Express, 4.2.2020.

Penguins Stroll Along Empty Streets During Pandemic”, FOX news video, 4.21.2020.

“Huge black bear spotted relaxing in a pool is one big summer mood,” CNN, 7.25.2020.

“Think you’re hearing more birdsong during the coronavirus crisis? Yes, you probably are,” UAE News, 4.16.2020.

Kangaroo Spotted Bounding Through the Streets of Adelaide,” You Tube On Demand News, 4.21.2020

“Alligator strolls through empty Myrtle Beach shopping center,” New York Post, You Tube, 4.3.2020.

“Coronavirus: wild animals relax in South Africa golf club during lockdown,” The Guardian You Tube, 4.17.2020.

“Otters cruise down a canal in Singapore during Covid-19 lockdown,” You Tube, 5.13.2020.

National Geographic, “Roadkill rates fall dramatically as lockdown keeps drivers at home.”

Amazing Photo shows coyote on Marin beach gazing at Golden Gate,” SFGate, 4.16.2020.

Brenda Peterson is the author of over 20 books, including Duck and Cover, a New York Times “Notable Book of the Year,” and the memoir I Want to Be Left Behind.

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