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November 4, 2010: Animal Tales
One of my favorite authors recently wrote a collection of short stories about animals. Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk is not meant for children, and probably not some adults, but it uses baboons, ducks, cats, and squirrels to tell stories of moral and ethical choices. It takes inspiration from Aesop's Fables, the classic collection of animal stories.

When I was learning about writing and illustrating children's books, one of the things we discussed was how to write stories that included important moral lessons for children. The key to writing about these situations was to make the characters animals instead of people. It creates a certain amount of distance to make the characters feel more universal; human characters can remind us of friends, parents, or people we've just met. I think that this not only applies to children, but to adults as well. Animals have an ability to take us outside ourselves and reinvent the world. All of us here at the Zoo love spending time with our animal friends and it is a rewarding experience to witness our Zoo visitors connect to the animals in that special way and grow love.

There is some great fiction that explores this wonderful connection between animals and people, all while helping readers discover important life lessons.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Please visit your local library to check these or other great books out today!

If you have any recommendations, please email me at [email protected]. I'd love to hear your thoughts!

October 29, 2010: Last Minute Halloween Costume Ideas!
Hello Zoo Friends!

Our 20th Annual Boo at the Zoo is in its final weekend and we've seen so many great costumes! Pirates, princesses, dinosaurs, skeletons, and more! Do you have your costume ready?

True to my...um...leisurely nature (my last post was July 2009), I am just putting the finishing touches on my Halloween costume. It's a secret, but I'll give you a hint: it lives in the ocean and has lots of teeth! If you are anything like me and are looking for last minute ideas, here are some unique costumes inspired from our Treetop Toys Gift Shop:

July 17, 2009
Growing up in Santa Ana, I was lucky enough to see tropical parrots just by sitting in my backyard. Despite their brilliant plumage, I was always a bit more fascinated with the regular rock pigeons, the "rats with wings" as they are so affectionately called. Maybe it has something to do with their iridescent necks, or maybe because they are friendly and unafraid to approach you - even if they are just trying to take a bit of your lunch.

Our weather has been so bright and sunny lately, there is nothing better than getting a cold drink and leisurely walking through the Zoo. On a recent walk through the Amazon Aviary, I saw a ground squirrel darting around the scarlet ibises and red ear slider turtles. Because of all the foliage and flowers, the squirrel seemed like an exotic bushy tail creature. A few more steps out of the Aviary, I was greeted by a couple of Anna's Hummingbirds, chirping and circling the shady orchid trees.

It was when I approached the swamp wallaby and looked up in the trees that I got my biggest surprise: a dozen pigeons perched on the branches! Now, like most Santa Ana natives, I have seen those gorgeous emerald parrots in trees, I have seen hawks and the occasional parakeet in trees. Sometimes, I've even seen geese and magnificent black roosters roaming the streets. But I had never seen a pigeon in a tree until that day! I was so used to seeing them on telephone wires, near picnic tables, and hovering near outdoor restaurants. To see them in a tree, acting like the birds they are, reminded me of how lucky I am to live in a city where monkeys, margays, and dozens of fluttering monarch butterflies are neighbors.

I've met people who have never even seen a hummingbird in the wild, much less have a family of parrots take over their backyard...I have yet to meet someone who has not seen a pigeon. Every day, we are fortunate enough to be surrounded by a fascinating mix of creatures and cultures. It is a truly lovely experience to just sit back and enjoy what makes our Zoo, and our community, so unique.

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