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Bat Count: A Citizen Science Story Review by Tawnee Hinton

Anna Forrester
Otis the Owl
Mary Holland
Arbordale Publishing

If you have an animal lover in your family, look no further than Arbordale Publishing’s great books: Bat Count: A Citizen Science Story by Anna Forrester and Otis the Owl by Mary Holland.

These high-quality, beautifully colorful books are not just a light read to learn about owls and bats, but a thorough companion guide to study the owl and the bat.

Bat County: A Citizen Science Story is a wonderful tale of a family that loves to watch the bats during summer evenings come to roost and ultimately give birth in their family barn. Jojo, the young animal enthusiast, and her family enjoy counting the bats as they come in and how many babies fly out at the end of the birthing season. However, after they realize that the number of bats that return to roost is dwindling, a bat scientist asks the family to help track the number of bats. Jojo and her family love being a part of this important scientific study of bats—they are citizen scientists!

The family, acting as citizen scientists, count the bats and fill out forms so that the scientists that are studying the bats can monitor how they are doing from year to year. Jojo’s family learns a lot about bats in this beautifully illustrated book. Animals lovers of all ages will love Bat Count: A Citizen Science Story. There are so many great facts about bats mingled with this great story. The book also provides some great resources for how the reader can be a citizen scientist too.

We used Bat Count as a read aloud before bed for my 7-year-old. Since the intended age group for this book is 4-8, he fit right in. He LOVES animals and found this book really fun. He loved learning about bats. We asked questions as we went through and really learned a lot. The vocabulary is explained, though, being the animal lover that he is, he knew most of the vocabulary already. He asked right away if we could start a bat count of our own by our home. Since we have a woods behind us and there are bats, we are looking into a bat box. Thanks to Bat Count: A Citizen Science Story, we are learning more about bats. This book definitely inspired further learning on the subject of bats.

Otis the Owl by Mary Holland is a very informational and beautifully illustrated book about owls. These beautiful animals, like the barred owl, are discussed in this fun book about Otis. The book is interactive in nature, which makes it really fun. We read it as a read-aloud for my 3-year-old and 7-year-old and, yes, my 12-year-old listened in. She still loves to listen to the read-aloud. All 3 kids loved the book about Otis and learning more about bats. I think it’s definitely a read-aloud for most younger kids as the vocabulary is there and explained but could be complicated to read independently for a beginning reader.

The story is about Otis who explains how he was hatched after 4 weeks in an egg. He explains about using his talons to climb to the tree hole’s entrance. The funny part of the story is when Otis explains that he doesn’t get along with his sister. The book is interactive in that it asks the reader things like “What do you think Otis will do?” and “Do you always gets along with your siblings?” (My son’s answer was no, by the way.)

The story continues by introducing more about prey and preening and learning how Otis’s parents provide him and his sister with prey in the beginning so they can eat but how he learns that he must get ready to venture out of his tree hole and eventually learn to fly and catch his own meals.

The final 4 pages of Otis the Owl are educational tools for learning activities for those wanting to learn more about owls. It talks about owl pellets and shows pictures for those children that have never seen an owl pellet (we have dissected owl pellets for our science, so my kids enjoyed reminiscing about that). There is a suggestion for a game about what creatures eat, and illustrations showing different types of owls and owl anatomy.

The close-up photos of owls make the student really see what owls are like, and all the kids really enjoyed the book and learning more about owls. Otis the Owl is an excellent resource for any student to learn more about this intriguing animal.

Both Bat Count: A Citizen Science Story and Otis the Owl are excellent resources for your homeschool science study. Whether you are studying animals as a whole or your state and the animals that live in it, you may find that these beautiful books from Arbordale Press will be an excellent addition to your homeschool science resources. These books would make an excellent start for a unit study of your own on animals or just owls and/or bats. My kids loved them, and I agree that they are an excellent resource for any homeschool.

-Product review by Tawnee Hinton, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, July 2017