Jenny’s First Catch, An Adventure with Florida’s Wading Birds

Jenny’s First Catch

Jenny’s First Catch written by Susan Levine and illustrated by Irene Bofill is a picture book about a young bird named Jenny who wants to surprise her mom by teaching herself to fish. As the story progresses, Jenny meets all different types of birds and learns about what makes each bird unique. As Jenny meets different types of birds, the author provides a photograph and facts about that type of bird.  For example below, children can learn about the White Ibis. This section is a wonderful opportunity to expand vocabulary and learn about different types of birds. At the end of this book, both you and your child will be much more knowledgeable about birds that live in Florida. 

The story also helps learn about important lessons such as perseverance and being true to yourself.

If you don’t live in Florida, learn about birds in your area. This can be a great opportunity for language and learning. 

Jenny’s First Catch: An Adventure with Florida’s Wading Birds

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To learn about the Rookery Bay Reserve (where the story takes place), check out this video below…

Interview with Author, Susan Levine

I wanted to learn more about Susan and her background with birds and nature. I also wanted to learn more about how the environment is affecting our bird population and their way of living.

Susan lives in Naples, Florida, where she is enchanted by the wildlife, particularly the birds. She is a Florida Master Naturalist and excited to share all that she has learned about Florida’s wading birds with children through her new work, Jenny’s First Catch: An Adventure with Florida’s Wading Birds. In all her books, Susan blends her interest in wildlife with her imaginative storytelling to entertain and teach young children, while being a great resource for teachers and parents.

Thank you Susan for your thoughtful answers and suggestions!

1. Can you tell me about your journey in becoming a children’s book author and naturalist?

I started writing children’s books when my daughter was in first grade.  The class was studying their hometown of Columbus, Ohio and I was in charge of putting together a field trip to the Statehouse and surrounding sites.  I went to the library to get some picture books about Columbus for inspiration but I was told that there were no picture books about Columbus.  So I decided to write one!  The most challenging part of the process was finding a publisher.  Honestly, I may have given up except that my daughter would come home from school and ask “mom, did you find a publisher today?”  I knew I had to set an example of preserving despite obstacles so I kept at it until I was successful.
I’ve always loved nature and wildlife. I became enchanted with the mangroves and all of the beautiful flora and fauna on my visits to Naples over the past 20 years.  When I heard about the Florida Master Naturalist Program, it was like a dream come true.  I jumped on the opportunity to learn about the unique ecosystems in Florida and what we can do to protect them. The idea for a picture book about Florida’s wading birds was the result of my FMNP experience.

2. I love how you incorporate facts about birds into your book, Jenny’s First Catch. Can you talk more about your thought process with this format?

My goal has always been to make my books as educational as possible.  Even the names of my main characters are selected to honor an historic figure from that area.  I want my books to be entertaining for children but also a great resource for teachers and parents.  When I wrote my first book, Packard Takes Flight, I had lots of facts and information I wanted to include.  In my first draft, I tried to add all this information into the fictional story.  It was a disaster…….the story was long, boring and not something a child would want to read.  I went “back to the drawing board” and came up with the idea of adding fact boxes for all the extra information. Now the fictional story can be fun and fast-paced but the fact boxes are there if you want to learn more.

 3. Can you talk about how global warming and other environmental factors are affecting the bird population today? What can we do to help? 

Global warming is impacting bird populations in many ways.  The habitats and vegetation that they depend on for food and nesting are moving closer to the poles and to higher elevations.  Bird migration and nesting patterns are changing since they take their cues from the weather.  Birds are arriving at their nesting grounds earlier, before the food sources for their offspring are available.  Invasive plant species and pests can now survive and flourish where once they did not – negatively impacting the birds.  Beyond this floods, droughts, and wildfires are more frequent and severe – causing huge disruption to their habitat.

Here are a few things you can do to help curb global warming and help the birds:

1. Drive less – walk, bike, car-pool or use public transportation

2. Use only energy-efficient compact fluorescent lightbulbs in your house

3. Buy only Energy Star labelled appliances

4. Reduce, reuse and recycle

5. Use native plants for landscaping, water less, and skip pesticides

4. I would love to hear about your other published books. 

My first book, Packard Takes Flight, is about Columbus, Ohio and highlights the various sites and landmarks throughout the city, and their history.  My second book, Harriett’s Homecoming, is a similar book about Cincinnati.  Both books are based on the true story of Peregrine Falcons that nest on the tall buildings downtown.  As I mentioned earlier, I want everything in my books to be educational. When it came to selecting a main character, I didn’t want to just make up a fictional dog, cat or other animal. I wanted the character to have something to do with the city.  When I heard about the Peregrine’s that nested downtown as part of a restoration program, I knew I had my idea!  As a result, children not only learn about all the sites in the cities, but they also learn about how the use of the pesticide DDT drove raptors like Peregrine Falcons to the brink of extinction. Innovative restoration programs like the ones in Columbus and Cincinnati have been so successful that the birds have recently been taken off the Endangered Species list.

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