September 16, 2013
Violet Mackerel’s Natural Habitat by Anna Branford, illustrated by Elanna Allen
Violet Mackerel’s Natural Habitat
by Anna Branford,
illustrated by Elanna Allen
Violet Mackerel is at the mall with her mother (boring) when she notices a sparrow trapped indoors. She wonders how it can build it’s nest and what it finds to eat, before pulling a loose string from her own clothing so that it can craft a nest. The bird hops over and takes the string and Violet thinks she has hit on her special talent — helping wildlife.
Later, Violet visits the family garden and the lady bugs that live among the fennel. Her favorite is Small Gloria, a bug that is just a bit smaller than all the others.
Violet decides to help Gloria out by building her a special habitat — a jar with fennel and other fantastic things. Violet even goes outside in the rain and finds Small Gloria hidden among the pebbles at the base of the fennel plant. She puts Small Gloria in the jar and takes her inside where she will be safe and sound.
Unfortunately, a jar is not a lady bug’s natural habitat and things end predictably, if not well, for Small Gloria.
The good news is that Violet has a bit sister and her sister needs a science fair project. She decides, with Violet’s help, to create a ladybug life cycle out of beautiful beads. In the process, the two girls spend the afternoon together and they both lean quite a bit about lady bugs. Violet also learns that you can’t help an animal before you know something about it.
This is a chapter book — designed for those who are fairly new to reading but are reading independently with only a bit of help every now and again. There are some illustrations, black and white drawings, but not so many that they will help decipher the text. But, since this is a chapter book, the text is age appropriate for readers 6-10 (advanced 6 year-olds and reluctant 10 year-olds). Fortunately, with the concerns of both Violet and her older sister, Nicola, played out in the story, it meets the interests of both these younger and older readers.
Interestingly, this book was first published in Australia and is clearly set in the Land of Oz (what Australians sometimes call Australia). It has just a bit of something different which helps it feel extra special.
This book is sure to spark some discussions on which animals should remain wild, how we can help even wild animals, and how to deal with animals, like the sparrow, who end up in places they don’t belong. There are some sad moments but this isn’t a blue book.