by Judy Newman with Alexie Basil
Christian Badach, one of our 2019 summer interns, loves Cape Cod.
Christian also loved interning at Scholastic Book Clubs this summer: working hard in an office and learning a lot from his managers in the Creative Marketing department; participating, along with the other dozen-plus interns, in a major group project on new ways to engage students and their families in Scholastic Book Clubs; and, again with all the other interns, attending the Scholastic Book Clubs summer-end staff bowling outing at Bowlmor Lanes in New York City (during which our student summer interns definitely out-bowled Scholastic Book Clubs full-time employees).
Then before school started, Christian headed up to Chatham, Massachusetts, with his family to spend a week vacationing on the Cape Cod beaches before heading back to his sophomore year at Rochester Institute of Technology.
Christian sent photos of himself and his family back to those of us still at the office and—in addition to details about lunch at the Lobster Pot; fishing in small, secluded ponds in Wellfleet and Truro; and spending time at Cahoon Hollow Beach—he told us that there is a real shark problem on Cape Cod.
At Scholastic Book Clubs, we have always loved Shark Week—it gives us an opportunity to showcase fun, engaging, and educational books about sharks.
Throughout all the decades I have been working at Scholastic Book Clubs, sharks have always been one of the top-five interest categories. Kids love to read about them, whether it’s real-life fun facts about sharks, quirky stories starring sharks, or imaginative face-offs between sharks and other animals—all of which we offer at Scholastic Book Clubs!
(Thinking about shark books makes me wonder why kids love sharks so much—and I think it’s the same reason adults love horror and thrillers: it gives us somewhere safe to place our fears…and sometimes a fun adrenaline rush.)
While sharks are fascinating topics for kids to read and learn about, they are also posing challenges to Cape Code vacationers.
Seals, Christian explained to us, have been a protected species since 1972 in New England, when it became illegal to hunt them. While they came close to extinction at the turn of the 20th century, seals are now thriving, and their population has grown to 55,000 on Cape Cod. (You can read more here!)
That’s good news for seals—and for sharks who find seals to be a very tasty and satisfying meal. Apparently, seals swim, frolic, and sunbathe near to shore, which attracts the sharks and draws them close to land, and to swimmers and families (and interns like Christian) on vacation.
In fact, just a month ago, the Colbert family filmed a great white shark swimming right past their boat in Provincetown, Massachusetts.
Some researchers say that the increase in shark activity is because of the temperature change in the ocean, while others say the only increase is in eyes looking for sharks, creating the illusion that there are more sharks than there actually are. This is a complicated food chain and environmental issue, which I plan to learn more about and explore in a future Life of a Reader post.
(My friend, Who Would Win? series author and marine life expert Jerry Pallotta, thinks that orca whales are going to come down from Canada and start feeding on all these sharks.)
In the meantime, all these vacation photos and talk about how creatures of all kinds live (and sometimes don’t live) together inspired me to think about our Scholastic Book Clubs Book of the Week, Do Unto Otters: A Book About Manners by Laurie Keller.
I had an excellent public-school education in Newton, Massachusetts. I went to college for four years. Attended a graduate program in publishing and got an MBA from NYU. Yet it still took me some digging to find out the real-life relationship between rabbits and otters—apparently, otters will eat rabbits if they get too close to the water. Who knew?
But in Laurie’s wildly popular and very accessible book, not only do they live together, they need to find ways to get along, respect, support, and be kind to each other.
One of my favorite children’s book bloggers, fifth grade teacher Courtney Hinshaw, wrote about Do Unto Otters: A Book About Manners on her blog, Ramona Recommends:
“PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT (PSA)—Every teacher and home should be proud owners of this masterpiece. The book discusses the meaning of, ‘Do unto others as you [would] have others do unto you.’ Want to teach kids more about what FRIENDLY looks likes, or how to be POLITE, or when someone should say THANK YOU? This book will be the teacher for you. Just sit back, relax, and let this book do the teaching. Instead of just telling your kids about manners, use this book to teach a valuable lesson. Children learn more effectively through examples than just being told.”
Publishers Weekly also raved:
“Without prescribing perfect etiquette, Keller serves up sound, friendly advice for maintaining a peaceable kingdom.” —Publishers Weekly
Pretty much everyone who reads Do Unto Otters is inspired to find ways to get along with others. This includes my tireless, always polite, considerate, and amazing friend and colleague David Vozar:
This week, we put together some fun ways for you to share Do Unto Otters with the young people (and even the sharks) in your life.
Allister the owl emcees an episode of Fluffy Feud in which Elliott the otter and Max the rabbit compete for who has the best manners in the Book Boys. Art Director Hisami Aoki came up with a “Please! Thank You! Excuse Me!” create-a-comic activity, along with a downloadable worksheet, in Cooked Up from a Book. And Laurie Keller, the creator of Do Unto Otters, talks about her own approach to being neighborly in Behind the Scenes.
As teachers, parents, Scholastic Book Clubs summer interns, Cape Cod lovers, or responsible, caring people—we all want to help kids learn to respect each other, be polite, and get along.
I hope you and your students enjoy Do Unto Otters! Please share any comments or ideas with me by emailing JNBlog@scholastic.com. I love hearing from the hundreds of thousands of teachers, students, and families who are part of the Scholastic Book Clubs community. (I love to see your vacation photos too!)
This Book Is Available from Scholastic Book Clubs