Wednesday, June 8, 2011

In the Dark Cave

Did I mention that my little friend has turned four in May? Unlike me, he is so excited about growing old, on his fourth birthday, exuberantly shouting, “I am going to be five!” (Well, he has to wait quite a bit of time to be five…). I wonder what he perceives of that ever-growing number. Stronger, bigger, freer? Or a better understanding of the world he lives in, including different species that reside on earth with him?

For the last year, his interest in animals has exploded. Of course he has always loved animals and animal stories—even more so, when animals do silly things. But it was more like immediate, unconscious fascination with other creatures rather than human. Now, on top of that, animal ecology, animal habitat, and animal behavior become a great interest for him. He frequently uses the word “species.” He is particularly excited at animals that camouflage, animals that migrate, animals that employ tools, and animals that hibernate. He enthusiastically explains to me the visual and behavioral differences between meat-eating dinosaurs and plant-eating ones. While walking home from school, we encounter earthworms, caterpillars, robins, sparrows, and squirrels. He observes, he analyzes, he makes associations from one species to another. Yes, he is so into “zoology,” as are many kids around his age.

No wonder why In the Dark Cave –a story of a cricket, a rat, and a bat that live happily in a dark cave—caught his attention. In the depths of the cave, it is always night. Wait, how do they see in a dark cave; how do they find food, a place to sleep, and avoid bumping into walls? How do they navigate without any light? There, the story begins.

The cricket has super long feelers, the bat sings and navigates through the echoes of his songs, and the rat is the master of smelling things. Each one has a unique way of navigating without light. But one day, Alexander the explorer, who has a lamp on his helmet, enters the cave, leading the dark cave’s dwellers into amusing encounters with “light.”

A venerate, yet unconventional philosopher, writer, and a cave explorer himself (he is co-author of The Longest Cave) Richard Watson wrote a delicious and informative story about cave dwellers, with jolly rhyming. Renowned cartoonist Dean Norman’s black and white illustrations are simple, yet full of humor. They effectively convey the darkness of the deep cave, and its curious residents.

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