Tracks Count: A Guide to Counting Animal Prints
Steve Engel (author) and Alexander Petersen (illustrator)
Craigmore Creations, 2014
When I spent this past weekend at Rose City Comic Con, I wasn’t expecting to find a publisher dedicated to natural history! But there they were, friendly folks from Craigmore Creations, showing off their wares in the artist’s alley amid well-known comic book artists and local crafters. I don’t have kids myself, but I appreciate those who are working to keep children connected to and curious about nature, and so I bought a copy of Tracks Count, their newest title which is due out for an October 3 release.
Okay, so it’s meant for wee little kiddos who are just learning to count and explore the outside world. But I really did enjoy this book! Author Steve Engel did a nice job of finding the right critters to show off their toes, from one to ten. Once you get past five, of course, you have to double up on animals. Rather than just giving us pairs of every critter, though, he shows some interaction among different animal species–seven is illustrated by a five-toed wolverine following the trail of a two-toed caribou. Obviously, some of the situations might not be commonly found in nature–I’ve yet to see a photo or film of a tapir carrying a coatimundi across a river. But little kids’ books are full of animals doing improbable things, so why not a tapir taxi? (Wait, didn’t I see that in a Richard Scarry book once?)
The sepia-toned illustrations by Alexander Petersen are true to the animals they portray, while also having a fun, inviting air to them–look at the adorable otters waving at you from the cover! When you aren’t reading this book to your (or someone else’s) kids, take time to really appreciate the artistry of the pages. The tracks are reproduced with detail and accuracy, which helps make this a great way to get kids interested in tracking animals outdoors and learning more about them.
The introduction lays out the basics of track identification, so even the most novice adult has something to start with if the kids ask questions. And just in case you run into an animal you haven’t encountered before, the back of the book has brief bits of information about each of the species found in the story.
Whether you have your own children, or teach others in a school or similar setting, or want to give a niece, nephew, grandkid, etc. a fun, educational book, Tracks Count is a great choice, especially with the holiday season fast approaching. You’ll be supporting an indy press with a great mission–and helping them to get the newest generation interested in the beautiful, wild world around us.
More information about the book, as well as ordering information, may be found on the publisher’s website.