I don’t consider myself a hardcore environmentalist, but I have read a book or two that has caused me great sadness about the state of our Earth. Specifically, I’m saddened by the cost humanity has brought to animals. A couple of years ago, Smithsonian Magazine published an article on the now extinct Passenger Pigeon. It was eye-opening for me. 

Then I found an amazing book at the public library.

Kolbert’s Pulitzer Prize Winning book, The Sixth Extinction expanded on the passenger pigeon story as well as discussing the loss of megafauna due (possibly) to hunting and climate change. The number of species that have gone extinct within human memory is staggering. One of the saddest stories is that of the great auk, which looked similar to a penguin but was completely unrelated.

I recently got in The Tragic Tale of the Great Auk by Jan Thornhill. It’s full of gorgeous pictures showing the beauty of this extinct bird.

In language that most middle grade students can understand, Thornhill relates the auk’s story. As with many very specialized animals, the auk was left defenseless when humans began to hunt them. The author makes a point to explain the senseless of people who paid extra for specimens and eggs from a species that was known to be dwindling.

An interesting point made in the book is that the way the auk was handled ultimately opened up habitat for other species like puffins. I like that kids are shown the Tragic side effects of over predation as well as the beneficial side effects of natural processes like extinctions.

I hope conservation efforts can save our world’s animals, but this book has reminded me that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

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