Felina's New Home: A Florida Panther Story

School Library Journal - September 2010

This book walks a fine line between fiction and nonfiction as Felina introduces her Florida surrounds and laments to other animals about what she sees and hears, such as, “Don’t people know that their loud noises scare animals like me?” as kids on dirt bikes speed past her. With each human encroachment the panther encounters, she engages in conversation with other creatures about how particular human developments or behaviors have destroyed or reduced their livable space. This is not a bad message; it’s just that animals are chatting it up, much like we humans do across the fence to our neighbors. To be fair, the tracings on the book never claim it to be nonfiction, but it is a bit off-putting. The back matter includes factual material about the animals depicted, and a website, sponsored by the publisher, is mentioned as a way for teachers to acquire materials and activities to extend the book’s content. The illustrations are bold and clear, though it is puzzling for Felina to have a smilelike countenance on two of the pages where she is supposed to be fearful. The artist has done a solid job of representing the Florida landscape and seven of its threatened denizens.
Maggie Chase, Boise State University, ID

Macaroni Kid - April 2011

It is wonderful how it shows young children about the problems these animals face. You will follow Felina's journey to a new and safe home. My son and I really liked this story and think that it's a great book to read as we approach Earth Day!

Live, Learn, Love - February 2011

Loran Wlodarski wrote an informative book-showing concern for animals while informing readers how people impact the animals. I also liked the realistic illustrations of all the endangered or threatened animals by Lew Clayton.

Cougar News - February 2011

It (Felina's New Home) doesn't shy away from the problems our beloved feline faces, but does it in a way younger children can understand and appreciate.
- Carmel Severson

ALA-Social Responsibility Round Table - June 2010

I give a presentation for librarian and teacher association meetings ranging from local to national levels titled “E-Literacy Conquers Illiteracy: A Librarian-Educator Collaboration.” In this talk, I strive to show that stimulating students through creative collaboration, programs, and activities leads to a sustained interest in the environments (from home to communities) in which they live, go to school, and play. The inspiration for this presentation is Richard Louv's book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder, which describes the need to expose children to nature-related, experiential, outdoor activities as an essential component of physical and emotional development, which fosters life-long benefits.

The premise is basic: by creative expression through writing (nature journals play a significant, foundational role), telling stories, illustrating, and the performance arts (dancing, singing, and acting), a child becomes more ecologically or environmentally literate (“E-Literate”) while at the same time honing their literacy skills, not only for reading environmental or nature-themed books, but expressing what Rachel Carson called a child's inborn “sense of wonder.”

E-Literacy begins by reading a book whose ideas, themes, or purpose goes outside-literally and figuratively-to experience and record what they have read: in essence, they “Do the Book.” It is, therefore, fitting to review some useful children's environmental books for SRRT members, and especially TFOE members and other readers of the SRRT newsletter. I review here two such titles that improve literacy skills and E-Literacy skills. Both have special features to assist teachers and librarians in their instruction.

Similarly, science writer Loran Wlodarski (Grolier's Encyclopedia for Children, The Marine Mammal Encyclopedia) and illustrator and scientific consultant Lew Clayton (Ask Magazine, Random House Books, Animal Planet, Ripley's Believe It Or Not, and Who Wants to be a Millionaire) team up for the story of Felina, a Florida panther growing up in the dwindling forest habitat. Other animals of the forest are threatened by the construction of a new highway. Wlodarski uses his skills as a science writer to explain deforestation while Clayton's emotive colored pencil drawings add to the unfolding of a story about human encroachment and what children can learn and do about keeping wildlife safe and healthy.

Again, teachers and parents will find the educational section “For Creative Minds” a very useful and welcome aid providing fun facts about the Florida panther and its life cycle, additional facts about endangered species, and a Match the Animal experience. Arbordale Publishing's Web site has additional links about Big Cypress National Preserve, compiled by wildlife biologist Deborah Jansen and education specialist Lisa Andrews. While this story is specific about the Florida panther, its message is much more universal; as with What's the Difference?, public and school libraries would find this a useful title for their collection, as would nature centers, museums, or the book lists of environmental, nature or outdoor educators.
- Frederick W. Stoss, Associate Librarian, University at Buffalo-SUNY

Katie's Literature Lounge-June 2010

Growing up in a shrinking forest feels inimidating to young Felina, a Florida Panther. All that she has known and has been taught is suddenly changing as man takes over her forest to industrialize and expand. Throughout the story, children are taken on an adventure alongside Felina, as she introduces readers to the many changes that are taking place in her forest and how those changes affect not only Felina, but all of the different inhabitants of the forest.

This is a wonderful story for young children about how the wants/needs of humans impacts nature and wildlife. Loran Wlodarski, an environmental science writer, handles the topic perfectly for this age group, as while he addresses a very serious subject that could potentially worry children, he finds a way to make the story end on a positive note, by showing how some humans choose to help these animals that are being endangered by deforestion. This is definitely a book to include in your science library!

Learning/Reading Activities:
Arbordale has put out a packet of teaching activities to collaborate with Felina's New Home. In the back of the book, Arbordale has also provided a section called "For Creative Minds," which provides related reading activities. My favorite activity to use in collaboration with the book would be the "Endangered or Threatened Animals" activity, which asks children to identify if the pictures/descriptions either help or hurt animals.
- Katie Harvey

Children's and Teens' Book Connection - June 2010

Felina the Florida panther’s beautiful forest home began to shrink, as humans take over more and more of her space.  Loran Wlodarski tells the story of this scared and confused animal as trees are disappearing and roads are being built in her habitat.   Felina finds many other animals are suffering as well.  Will the animals adapt?  Can children help to make the animals safe and happy? 

Lew Clayton’s illustrations help bring this important story to life.  Whether we see garbage in the water supply or sharp cans that cause injury to the animals, Ms. Clayton’s colorful illustrations transport you to the Florida forest. 

“Fun Fact: If panther’s catch a large meal, they may eat it over several days.  If so, they will frequently cover it with leaves and sticks to keep it fresh and hidden from other scavengers. “

The fun facts and life cycle information in the back of the book will help parents and teachers to continue the learning process.  The activities encourage children to think about endangered animals and how they can help. As a teacher I recommend this book for everyone’s library.
- Kathy Stemke

Friends of Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve

When Marya asked me to review the children’s book Felina’s New Home, A Florida Panther Story, written by Loran Wlodarski and illustrated by Lew Clayton, I said,
“sure.” I mean, who could say no to her, but I really didn’t feel qualified. I was thinking that a
youngster would be a much better book reviewer than me. Be that as it may, I did read Felina’s New Home and these are my thoughts: I liked Felina and I was bummed out that human beings
were wrecking her old home. I also liked that Felina was very sociable, having amiable, if not depressing conversations with red-cockaded woodpeckers, gopher tortoises and manatees but
when she was talking to the American crocodile, I wanted to say “No! Felina, No!” As if it weren’t bad enough for Felina and her neighbors, dealing with pollution, roads, cars and
unruly ATV riders, one day a man (that looked suspiciously like to Roy McBride), popped up and shot her with a tranquilizer dart and Felina’s world faded to black. The underlying theme of the book is familiar; the human beings are out of control and the other species of the planet are suffering because of them. However, the book also reflects that some of the human beings care and are trying to do something about it. Those are the human beings that I want to
know. I want to be friends with them and help them help Felina and her friends. I hope the budding biologists of tomorrow who read Felina’s New Home will feel the same
way. The back of the book contains fun facts for creative minds and a lot of other good information. The book was beautifully illustrated and the drawings of the other rare and
endangered species that share Felina’s home with her were very well done. Although it’s been a while since I’ve read a book like this and don’t currently have a seven-year-old to read it to,
Felina’s New Home brought out the kid in me and that kid wants Felina to have a happy new home.
- Dennis Giardina, Vice President

Friends of the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge - May 2010

A charming and important story about the importance of conservation and preservation, Felina’s New Home takes children into the rapidly shrinking natural world of one of the world’s most rare, beautiful mammals and brings a message of hope that it is not too late for Florida panthers, one of the most endangered species in the world.

Throughout the story, readers are reminded in a gentle, clear and sweet way that loss of habitat threatens not only Florida panthers, but many other creatures who share the varied natural habitats used by Florida panthers. Felina carries a timely and important lesson for children and adults alike.
- Lisa Ostberg, President

BookLoons - April 2010

Felina's New Home is a tender story about endangered Florida panthers. When Felina was a kitten, with blue eyes and spots for camouflage, she walked with her mother, who taught her to hunt, to find places for cool water to drink, and shady places to rest away from the heat of the sun. One day when she was grown, Felina noticed the shady place was gone and that many trees had disappeared.

Felina's forest companions noticed the changes as well - the red-cockaded woodpeckers, who rested in holes of trees, where they planned to raise families. The large gopher tortoise agreed with Felina about the fast cars on a new roadway, and the danger it created to cross over to the other side for food. With the disappearance of the trees came noises from humans and all-terrain vehicles. A wood stork stopped by to express how the noises scared her. Garbage littered once pristine places, including tires and sharp metal cans that could hurt the animals.

From a rumbling voice, Felina listened to the American crocodile's concern for polluted water; in turn, the fish were unhealthy to eat. Deer were being fed by humans, where human residences were built; and a Florida manatee, with its skin scarred from careless boat drivers, spoke to Felina about what humans should know.

Will Felina and her habitat friends find a new home, and how will they adapt to it? Loran Wlodarski - an award-winning author of If a Dolphin Were a Fish, Wild Careers!: Working with Animals, Sharks!: From Fear to Fascination, and Killer Whales: Creatures of Legend and Wonder - tells readers of wildlife concerns through their voices. Illustrator and graphic designer Lew Clayton used Prismacolor colored pencils in this picture book, and his love of his craft and of animals shows through his work.

The back of the book is filled with activities "For Creative Minds", including Florida Panther Fun Facts; Florida Panther Life Cycle; Endangered and Threatened Animals, and Match the Animal Information. From Felina's story, children will learn of wildlife in many areas of the world, and how human changes affect their habitats. Children will also gain knowledge of ways they can help. Have fun reading about Felina and her friends!

In the Pages - April 2010

I always look forward to this great set of new books!
Arbordale has sent me these five new titles that will really "beef up" your science and math curriculum. In case you don't know - Arbordale's website is just FULL of wonderful teaching activities, related websites, and "For Creative Minds" a wonderful educational section for each book.

Felina's New Home: A Florida Panther Story by Loran Wlodarski and illustrated by Lew Clayton is another new title. This title is focused around the forests shrinking and what the animals have to do to survive when they are losing their homes. I liked this title as well - very informative - something that we need to be aware of!

Eclectic Homeschool Online - April 2010

When we first meet Felina, she's enjoying her forest home. It's not long before we realize that something is wrong. Trees are missing, busy roads run through the forest, trash litters the ground, and Felina and her forest friends are in danger. Each page is a lesson in the things people do that endanger wildlife, and the story grows more and more distressing until some helpful people step in and take a hand.

You'll find a lot of food for thought here, and you and your child will be encouraged to think about how our choices affect our environment and our animal neighbors. For example, I imagine a young reader won't thoughtlessly throw a soda can or candy wrapper on the ground after reading this book!

The brightly colored, detailed pictures show animals and plants indigenous to Florida, but the message of conservation and stewardship applies no matter where you live.

The last two pages of the book contain fun facts and information about the life cycle of the Florida panther, along with definitions of the terms "endangered," "threatened," and "extinct." There are also pictures for discussion of what actions are helpful to wildlife, and what might be harmful.

Felina's New Home, along with many other titles from Arbordale, are available on the publisher's website in both English and Spanish, in both hardcover and softcover formats, as well as e-book subscriptions where you access the book at the Arbordale website. In addition, visit the Arbordale website for free activity pages across the curriculum, as well as mp3 audio books, interactive quizzes, related websites, and more. - April 13, 2010

There is a wonderful series of books from Arbordale Publishing that mixes animal stories with science and math. The books have nice bright illustrations (some better than others), and include interesting facts, questions and tests for readers, even help for teachers who want to incorportate the books into lesson plans.And they recommend related Web sites.

"Felina's New Home" by Loran Wlodarksi (CQ), illustrated by Lew Clayton. This is the story of a Florida panther who is losing her home in the Florida swamps and forests to encroaching humans and the things they bring with them. Just when it seems Felina won't survive, a rescue organization steps in.
- Carol Bicak, Omaha World-Herald Book Reviwer

Home School Book Review - April 2010

Rating: 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
How would you feel if you woke up one morning and your home was gone?  Felina is a Florida panther, but while she was growing, it seemed that her forest home was shrinking.  The trees under which she sleeps and in which her friends the red-cockaded woodpeckers rest have vanished.  When she travels down a dirt path, there is now a road that blocks her way and that of her friend the gopher tortoise.  Seeking a safer place to rest, she finds that people’s noises scare her and her friend the wood stork.  Then she cuts her paw on the edge of a sharp soda can, learning that people’s trash can harm her and her friend the American crocodile.  She finally finds some deer to hunt, but people are feeding them, and they are too near human homes, so she agrees with her friend the Florida manatee that for people to feed wild animals is not really good.  Where can Felina go?  And what will happen to her?  Will she find a home?

Author Loran Wlodarski, whose If a Dolphin Were a Fish also published by Arbordale was an award winner, is an environmental science writer.  Each of the animals mentioned in the book, and illustrated with the soft, life-like drawings by Lew Clayton, is endangered or threatened.  The book will give children a look into the problem of deforestation and help them to understand what they can do to keep wild animals safe, happy, and healthy.  The “For Creative Minds” section, which may be photocopied by the owner of the book for personal use or by educators using copies in classroom settings, has further information on Florida panthers and other endangered and threatened animals, as well as an interactive matching exercise.  Other cross-curricular teaching activities, interactive quizzes, and more are available online at Arbordale’s website.  Youngsters love reading about animals, and they are sure to enjoy Felina’s New Home.

The Mullet Rapper - Everglades City Newspaper - April 2010

Since it is Spring Break for so many of our Florida students, a children's book seemed appropriate to review this time of year. Loran Wlodarski has published several award-winning educational books for children and this one focuses on the loss of habitat for the Florida Panther and other wildlife. Eventually, Felina is relocated to a protected refuge area. The book also features information about different Florida wildlife and gives the young readers an opportunity to learn from answering questions about the animals. Felina's New Home is beautifully illustrated by Lew Clayton who has been a graphic designer for 20 years. This book can be purchased at WinCar, Ivey House, Smallwood Store, Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center, and National Park Boat Tours gift shop. A nice gift for your grandchildren and an interesting way to learn about our Everglades wildlife.

Feathered Quill Book Reviews - Mar 2010

Young Felina, the Florida panther, "...was growing, but it seemed her forest was shrinking!" What would the panther do? Young readers will learn about Felina's plight in the new book, Felina's New Home.

Felina has grown up in a home that has been invaded by humans. Everywhere she goes, she finds humans or destructive signs that they have been around. From chopped down trees, to a new road and garbage littered along the bay, people have made a mess of Felina's habitat. As the young panther discovers each new transgression, a different animal tells the panther how they have been affected by the destruction.

Eventually, Felina is tranquilized, brought to a reserve, rehabilitated, and then released into a new, safer environment. The story has a happy ending, "At long last Felina had found her home; and she was very, very happy."

While Felina's New Home presents a very important topic, the destruction of natural habitats, it tends to get a bit bogged down in its message. With the exception of the last few pages, it is a rather sad tale. For example, Felina cuts her paw on a soda can and then meets a crocodile who tells the panther, "The garbage people throw away can harm all types of animals, especially if they get tangled up in it...Plus, the fish I hunt can get sick when they live in polluted water. When I eat sick fish, I feel sick too. Now I don't know what to do." Despite these minor quibbles, the message is important, alerting children to the problems and measures they can take to help wild animals.

Felina's New Home is nicely illustrated with colored pencils. The animals are quite realistic and children should enjoy all the lovely pictures of the panther and her woodland friends. At the back of the book are several instructional pages with facts about many endangered and threatened species.

Quill says: A beautiful panther teaches children about the plight of endangered animals within the pages of Felina's New Home.