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The Picture Book Buzz

Border Crossings - The Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

Ocelots are one of my favorite cats. So it was tough to read this book and realize that the wall is not going to be the solution the government touted, but instead the means to facilitate or increase the race to extinction for these precious cats. As well as other border cats, mammals, insect , birds, and plants. This is a very gorgeous, poignant, and important look at the ecological threat posed by the border wall. One I hope is read and shared widely.

Border Crossings


Author: Sneed B. Collard III


Illustrator: Howard Gray


Publisher: Charlesbridge (2023)


Ages: 6-9


Nonfiction


Themes:

Ecology, environment, animal migration, plant and animal biodiversity, and extinctions.


Synopsis:

Follow two endangered ocelots as they attempt to cross the border in this powerful picture book about the environmental impact of the Wall.


Explore the beauty and biodiversity of our spectacular border area and see how the Wall impacts plants and animals. As two endangered ocelots attempt to cross the border, they face obstacles that drive home the catastrophic effects of the Wall--and the many benefits of keeping the border barrier-free. Powerful storytelling introduces young readers to the wildlife that thrives along the border and urges budding nature buffs to value and protect our environment.


Opening Lines:

On a moonless night, padded paws silently step across

pebbled ground. They make their way past thorn trees,

through brush, and around a muddy marsh. They halt,

alert and tense. Then they continue walking.


What I LOVED about this book:

Talk about an impressive, powerful, and stunning opening! Lyrical text that is fun to read aloud combined with the visual point of view of an ocelot's paws. Wow!

Text © Sneed B. Collard III, 2023. Image © Howard Gray, 2023.


Remaining in a third person point-of-view, the book introduces, and follows, a gorgeous young male ocelot as he wanders through thick brush, heading for Mexico to find a mate and a territory of his own. The illustrations are amazingly realistic - almost photo-like. Unfortunately for this rare cat, he discovers that "where protective plants once stood, an ugly scar now stretches." Too high to jump over, too slick to climb, and too narrow to squeeze through, this huge fence thwarts his mission. When the noisy bright lights of a patrol car and construction vehicles startle him back into the brush, it appears "He will not find a mate or territory this year. Maybe not any year."


This is such a great way to introduce the border wall and its devastating environmental effect on the plants and animals which rely on cross-border movement to ensure the survival of their species, by preventing isolation and inbreeding. It literally puts the reader into the ocelot's paws.


Sneed B Collard III continues with his lyrical, yet brutally honest text as he pulls back and looks at the wall, accompanied by equally powerful and stunning digital illustrations. In addition to juxtaposing the two environments, the heartfelt graffiti on the fence reminds the reader it's not just plants and animals separated by this wall, but families and friends, too.

Text © Sneed B. Collard III, 2023. Image © Howard Gray, 2023.


For the ocelot and other animals, however, these

aren’t separate lands. They are connected by some

of the richest habitats in North America.


When the book was written, the wall had not entirely closed off the border and Collard and Gray follow a female ocelot as she successfully crosses the border. Allowing the reader a brief respite to revel in both the layered and remarkable illustrations and the wonderfully sensory text. Before shifting suddenly to stark black outlined panels. The text and illustrations change from the softer sentiments and full bleed spreads to viscerally and poignantly show how our "made up line" and our actions are threatening the extinction of a large number of unique and amazing plants and animals who "have inhabited and passed through this region for thousands of years."

Text © Sneed B. Collard III, 2023. Image © Howard Gray, 2023.

The final couple of spreads revert back to lyrical text and soft, full bleed illustrations, leaving the reader with a sense of hope, the most adorable wordless spread, and a single word ending. An author's note with more information on the border wall, a call to action, glossary, and additional resources encourage readers to learn more and step up to help save this fragile border area. It's a powerful and important book on the border wall's threat to the ecosystem and the survival of rare animals, insects, plants, and birds.


Resources:

- pick one of the six ecosystems along the border (such as the Sonoran Desert, a Freshwater or Salt water wetland, or forest woodlands) and make a diorama. What would it look like if you added a border fence through it?


- how would you solve the border wall problem? Anything goes. Draw a picture or write a description of your invention that would allow (encourage) animals to cross the border.


- check out the many activities and information about ocelots & other border cats in the Defenders of Wildlife's bilingual activity booklet.


- you can find more information on ocelots, pronghorns, and the ferruginous pygmy-owl at these sites and at your library.


If you missed the interview with Sneed B. Collard III on Monday, find it (here).


This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions and resources see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

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Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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