Friday, July 1, 2011

Happy Birthday Jean Craighead George - July 2

Happy Birthday Jean Craighead George - July 2

Spending time alone in nature can be a mind-clearing, healthy, and refreshing experience.  I watched a video on Jean Craighead George's website and she shared, "I like to go to the environment I am writing about and live with the countryside." (Sights and Sounds, jeancraigheadgeorge.com).  I took the opportunity this morning after I dropped my daughter off at the Crown Point Ecology Center in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park for science and farm camp to hike a lengthy three mile trail with lots of hills. While I hiked I enjoyed hearing the birds sing their different songs, the chipmunks rustle in the leaves, and my feet crunch along the path.  I thought of Sam Gribley, the young boy who escapes to the Catskill Mountains to live on his own in the Newbery Honor Book, My Side of the Mountain.  I found myself wishing I had enough knowledge to live on my own for sometime in the wilderness, but conceded to the fact that I probably would not last more than a few days. At the end of the hike, my mind was ready write this post.

Jean Craighead George was born into family of naturalists.  "On weekends along the Potomac River near Washington D.C., where I was born and grew up, my father and I boiled water in leaves and made rabbit traps. Together we made tables and chairs out of saplings bound with braided inner back of the basswood tree," she described in the author's preface of My Side of the Mountain.  The knowledge she learned from her family helped shape a writing career that has inspired young people to become conservationists, scientists, and naturalists.

"My brothers were two of first falconers in the United States.  They gave me a falcon when I was 13 and I trained it. I knew what it could do. I would go out with my brothers when they were hunting their larger falcons." (JeanCraigheadGeorge.com).  Her experience with falconry sparked the idea for  Frightful, a peregrine falcon, that helps Sam Gribley hunt for food.  Peregrine falcons have recently been removed from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife endangered species list. The population has recovered with success of a number of projects around the United States including the monitoring of nesting pairs in Ohio's large metropolitan areas. (Ohio Division of Wildlife).  This week I was excited to find the picture books, Frightful's Daughter and Frightful's Daughter Meets the Baron Weasel at my local library so my younger children could enjoy the stories about Frightful as well.  I can still remember reading My Side of the Mountain for the first time when I was student teaching in a fourth grade classroom. I knew these books would be a great way for my children to be introduced to the world of My Side of the Mountain.

We read Frightful's Daughter around a campfire in the backyard while eating S'Mores.
The book was not only a wonderful story, but allowed us to learn many things about peregrine falcons  including that they like to live near open waterways and broad valleys and that they hunt other birds like waterfowl and pigeons.
  In the story, Sam Gribley had been monitoring Frightful's nesting area. Thankfully, because Oksi, Frightful's Daughter, did things her own way, which gets her into a few interesting situations. However, with Sam's help Oksi survives the winter.
I wanted to find out more about peregrine falcons after reading the Frightful picture books. I was able to view FalconCams on the computer and studied various fact sheets.  Then, to my excitement, my wife was able to arrange a visit to see a peregrine falcon up close.

At the Cleveland MetroParks Zoo, a peregrine falcon named Seneca participates in the Professor Wylde's Animal Show.  My sons and I were very thankful to be able to meet this wonderful bird after a show this week.

She is 15 year olds and came to the Cleveland MetroParks Zoo in 2005 after 10 years of experience in falconry and as a breeding female.
She now spends her happy golden years amazing crowds of zoo patrons by flying above the amphitheater to the stage.
My son was excited to see the Seneca's talons and the glove necessary for handling her -- just like Sam Gribley in Frightful's Daughter
Thank you so much to Stephanie from the Cleveland MetroParks Zoo for giving us experience we will never forget!
There were so many things to be thankful for this week.  I received this email from Jean Craighead George recalling her favorite birthday memory:

My favorite birthday memory happened in the Wind Rivers Mountains in Wyoming.  I was with my son, Craig, and we had stopped for lunch by a waterfall.  After the tuna fish sandwiches, tea and gorp, Craig reached in his back pack and took out a cupcake. He shoved a candle in it, lit it, and sang "Happy Birthday." The spray from the waterfall hid my happy tears.

Thank you Jean for sharing your birthday memory.  We hope you have wonderful 92nd birthday!

Links:
1. Jean Craighead George's Website + Videos and Audio
2. Biography - Educational Book and Media Assoc.Scholastic, Houghton Mifflin
3. Text Interviews - KidsReads, CCBC, HarperCollins
4. Julie's Wolf Pack Reading Guide - HarperTeen
5. Julie of the Wolves Reading Guide - Scholastic
6. Peregrine Falcon Information from Ohio.Gov - Facts, FalconCam, Blog, FAQ
7. More on Falconry - YouTube
8. My Side of the Mountain Reading Guide - Scholastic
9. Jean Craighead George E-Sheet - Science Net Links
10. Cleveland, OH Peregrine FalconCam - Cleveland Museum of Natural History
11. Jean Craighead George Dies at 92  - NY Times

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