Michelle Cusolito: No Water? No Baths? Wrong!

From: Polliwog on Safari
August 28, 2012 at 08:00AM

Today features guest blogger Darcy Pattison.

The key feature of a desert is its lack of water. But how do
animals stay clean? They still need to get rid of dirt, germs, bugs and
This story began for me on the Continental Divide, the line
of ranges that divide the Rocky Mountains watersheds into those that flow
toward the Mississippi River and those that flow toward the Pacific Ocean.
Standing on the back porch of my childhood home, the Continental Divide was a
mere half mile north and was our playground. Regina, New Mexico lays at about
6000 foot elevation, 100 miles north of Albuquerque. Scrub brush fills this
high desert area.
My father ran cattle, but he leased national forest lands to
fatten up the spring calves and rounded them up for the sale ring before winter
storms hit. Our most important asset was water rights to the Hatch Lake, which
allowed some irrigation of fields and planting of some grasses.
I remember playing with horny toads, building corrals for
them from scrap bits of wood. They always escaped, of course. It was a dry
climate, with dusty roads, rare days of rain, and harsh winters.
Fast forward to a couple years ago when I heard about birds
who anoint themselves with ants to get rid of parasites. What? This is strange,
but true. For over 100 years, naturalists have observed birds that stand on an
ant nest and let ants swarm over them. Studies have revealed that birds are
allowing ants to carry off parasites. Other birds will locate an ant nest, then
pick up an ant in its beak, crush it and use it as a washrag to clean its
feathers. Scientists believe the formic acid from the ant acts as an antiseptic
to kill and discourage parasites.
When I learned of this anointing behavior, I remembered the
dry landscape of my childhood. I wondered what were some other ways that
animals stayed clean? After a lot of research and multiple drafts, the result
was Desert Baths, a companion book to my first nature book, Prairie Storms.
For both books, I wanted to do more than just talk about a
species. Instead, I wanted to add an extra layer of information, while still
keeping the story fun to read. For Prairie Storms, the extra layer was the
variety of storms throughout a year. For Desert Baths, the extra layer is
animal hygiene.
 Take a peek at Desert Baths:
And Prairie Storms

Here are some possible discussion questions to share with your children after reading Desert Baths

  1. Is regular hygiene easy or
    hard for you? 
  2. Do you need to be reminded to brush your teeth? 
  3. Do you resist baths? 
  4. How would it affect your health if you didn’t bathe and
    clean yourself regularly? 
Published in eight languages, children’s book author and
writing teacher Darcy Pattison is the author of picture books and novels. Her
three nature books include Prairie Storms (Sylvan Dell), Desert Baths (Sylvan
Dell) and Wisdom, the Midway Albatross: Surviving the Japanese Tsunami and
Other Disasters for over 60 Years (Mims House). For more, see her website.


Posted on August 28, 2012, in Michelle Cusolito. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Michelle Cusolito: No Water? No Baths? Wrong!.

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