>Library column printed in The Mercury 10-16-11
Another inky evening’s here—
The air is cool and calm and clear.
We’ve feasted, fluttered, swooped and soared,
And yet…we’re still a little bored…
Then word spreads quickly from afar;
A window has been left ajar.
Can it be true? Oh, can it be?
Yes! Bat Night at the library!
Brian Lies’s introduction to his beautifully illustrated picture book, Bats at the Library, is just the invitation kids need to see a library visit from a new perspective. Bats swoop through shelves, looking for books and playing wingtip tag. They hang upside down from lamps and read Goodnight Sun instead of Goodnight Moon. If you enjoy the fantastic night scenes and creative bat antics, you will also need to check out Lies’s Bats at the Beach (with wingboat races and roasted bug-mallows) and Bats at the Ballgame (“buy me some beenuts and Cricket Jack”). At our next ZOOfari Tails program, Sunset Zoo staff will be reading Bats at the Library, as well as Daft Bat by Jeanne Willis.
For longer novels that feature bats, I highly recommend Silverwing by Kenneth Oppel. Young silverwing Shade gets separated from his bat colony as the others are migrating and is left alone and afraid in a storm. Things turn around when Shade befriends Marina, a bat who has been banned from her colony because she is “banded” by humans, which her colony believes is evil. Together, Shade and Marina travel the perilous journey in search of Shade’s family, narrowly escaping many dangers. Kids who enjoy animal fantasies like Brain Jacques’s Redwall or Erin Hunter’s Warriors series may enjoy following Shade’s adventures, which continue in Sunwing and Firewing, or they may want to try the prehistoric prequel, Darkwing.
Bats also play a significant role in the popular fantasy series beginning with Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins (author of The Hunger Games). When 11-year-old Gregor goes after his baby sister down a tunnel from a vent in the laundry room, he lands in an underground world with amazing creatures, including giant cockroaches, rats and bats to name a few, as well as a whole race of violet-eyed people called The Underlanders. To them, Gregor’s fall from above was no coincidence – he may be the prophesied overlander come to save them. But first Gregor must learn to fly on a bat and earn the trust of his new comrades.
If you want to learn more about bats, The Bat Scientists by Mary Kay Carson was recently reviewed by children’s librarian Jessica Long on our blog. Jessica recalls bat-watching with her family when she was young, and she found Bat Scientists to be “absolutely full of interesting tidbits about bats. For instance, only one half of one percent of bats contract rabies, and they very rarely bite humans. But did you know that bats have bellybuttons?” You might not want to get close enough to check that out, but Manhattan does have bats, most commonly the little brown and big brown bat species. Charlie Lee, wildlife specialist at K-State Research and Extension, says that during the summer, you can often find bats at evening ballgames. Just look up at the ball field lights where bats fly around eating insects. Children will be fascinated to learn that bats catch the bugs using echolocation instead of sight.
Other books in the children’s room with facts and incredible photos that capture bats’ night-flying abilities include Amazing Bats by award-winning science author Seymour Simon, and Bats: Hunters of the Night by Elaine Landua. Hello, Bumblebee Bat by Darrin Lunde is an informational picture book that can be shared with preschoolers. Do you think you have bats living in your house? It’s possible. Go to K-State Extension’s bat info page at www.wildlife.ksu.edu to find out what to do.
Join us at the library for bat stories at ZOOfari Tails on October 28 at 10:00. Other fun events coming up include READ with Dogs today from 2-4 and Wii Play Day on October 27 from 2-3:30, featuring Mario Kart and Smarty Pants Trivia. Kids can come dressed in costume to Halloween storytimes on October 31 at 10:00, 11:00 or 4:00, and trick-or-treat throughout the library after storytime. As evenings get darker, remember the library is open so you can flit in like a bat to “flutter off and lose yourselves, among the books lined up on shelves…Every evening, one and all will listen for that late-night call: Can it be true? Oh, can it be? Yes! Bat Night at the library!”
Column by Jennifer Adams