A Place for Bats
By Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Higgins Bond
32 pages, ages 6 – 10
Peachtree Publishers 2012
Every summer – and late into the fall – bats fly through the night sky. I love watching their aerial acrobatics, especially since I know every swoop and roll means one less mosquito to bite me.
This year Melissa Stewart added bats to her awesome “A Place For…” series. A Place for Bats combines the best parts of a field guide with engaging stories about environmental concerns that face bats across our country. “Bats make out world a better place,” writes Melissa Stewart. They eat mosquitoes and pollinate plants. “But sometimes people do things that make it hard for them to live and grow.” This book shows what people can do to make the earth a better place for bats.
Stewart focuses on a dozen North American bats – five of them found in the northeast, where I live: the Big Brown bat, Little Brown bat, Silver-haired bat, Hoary bat and Eastern Pipistrelle. She talks about how bats use their thin, leathery wings to catch moths for dinner and reminds us that bats are mammals. Not all bats live in caves; some hide under dead palm fronds while others roost beneath loose bark on dead trees.
Even as she explains problems facing bats, Stewart shows solutions. Turning wind turbines off on calm nights saves the lives of many bats, as does blocking cave and mine shaft entries with gates that keep people out and allow bats to fly freely.
A couple weeks ago I asked Melissa Three Questions about her book.
What is the coolest thing you learned about bats while writing this book?
Melissa: Before I wrote A Place for Bats, I had heard that some bats pollinate plants. But I had no idea just how many plants depend on bats to spread their pollen. And some of those plants produce fruits we love--peaches, bananas, avocadoes, dates, figs, mangoes, and more. Bats also spread the seeds of cocoa plants. No bats, no chocolate.
What kids of bats live around your house?
Melissa: Little brown bats fly around our yard on warm, summer evenings. Luckily, we've never had one in the house. But one of the little critters did sneak into my cabin while I was on a retreat at the Highlights Foundation in Pennsylvania. Luckily, Andy Boyles (the science editor of Highlights for Children) kept a cool head. We turned out all the lights inside the cabin, turned on all the lights outside, and left the door open for a while. When I returned to the cabin, the bat was gone. Just like moths, they are attracted to light.
What can kids do to help bats?
Melissa: I think the single easiest action kids can take to help a wide variety of creatures is to create a wildlife garden at home, at school, or at a local park. Bats, birds, butterflies, and other creatures all need food, water, and places to live.