Of Raccoons and Re-readings

Reading to my resident 4-year-old was a pandemic pleasure, and Raccoon on His Own by Jim Arnosky stayed at the top of our stack. A curious little animal (a third sibling, wouldn’t you know!) finds himself alone in a floating canoe. Anxious moments abound and dangers must be dodged. The parent is on guard more faithfully than the little one realizes. All’s well that ends well. My little human could easily relate.

Is the book nonfiction? Some might say so. After hearing about a similar but more recently published title, Coyote Moon, I found myself wondering whether Jim Arnosky could have witnessed the adventure in Raccoon on His Own and skillfully described it? Did he attribute any knowledge or feelings to the little raccoon that would tip the scales toward the category of fiction?

Checking back, I found just two bits that Arnosky couldn’t have known for sure—first, that a chill ran down the little raccoon’s spine; and second, that the little raccoon was afraid to jump into the dark water. A hidden camera could have caught all the other details—but they more likely came from the author’s lively imagination and thorough understanding of the habitat.

Thanks, Jim Arnosky, for allowing children—and those of us lucky enough to read to them— to experience an everyday drama of animals living in relation to each other in the bayou. Coyote Moon has its strengths, but a story from an animal mom’s point of view doesn’t have the same appeal as one seen through the eyes of an offspring. And I’ll take the happy reunion of the raccoons over the gory feast of the coyotes any day.

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