SciWo's Storytime: Predator-Prey Relationships (Little Cottontail)

i-9dc84d4d9156dccb30d5f62466b4219a-swblocks.jpgA few nights ago, Minnow was in the mood to make videos of some of her favorite books - almost any books, except ones with an overt scientific bent. Right now, she wants books with a storyline, and I'm afraid that some of the sciencey books I'd lined up for this month are not story-driven enough for her tastes.

But among the books she picked out, was a Little Golden Book called "Little Cottontail" by Carl Membling and illustrated by Lilian Obligado. As we read the book, it occurred to me that while on the surface this was a heart-warming book about a little rabbit's coming of age, if we dug a little deeper...there was science.

The alert reader notices that the little cottontail is learning about foraging for food in different seasons and is dramatically taught about how to avoid becoming food for a predator. The next morning, I wanted to follow up on the book and I initiated the following conversation with Minnow:

SciWo: Do you remember in the book last night, what did the rabbit eat?
Minnow: Bunny.
SciWo: Right, the bunny in the book Little Cottontail. What do bunnies eat?
Minnow: Carrots.
SciWo: Yep, bunnies can eat carrots. What else? Do they eat grass?
Minnow: Nooo.
SciWo: When bunnies can't eat carrots, what do they eat? Do you remember what they eat in the winter when snow is on the ground?
Minnow: I'm petting The Pup.
SciWo: OK, what does The Pup eat?
Minnow: Dog food.
SciWo: That's right, the pup eats dog food. What do you eat?
Minnow: People food.
SciWo: Yes, you eat people food, but what sort of people food?
Minnow: Mommy!
SciWo: Well, yes, you ate from mommy's mo-mo's when you were a bab...
Minnow: Daddy! The Pup!
SciWo: You eat Mommy and Daddy and The Pup?!?
Minnow: (Leans over and pretends to gnaw on my shin) Yes.
SciWo: Silly girl. You don't eat us. We're you're family. Want some pancakes for breakfast?
Minnow: Pancakes! ... And juice!

All of that got me thinking about other books that talk about conventional or unconventional predator-prey relationships and herbivores, omnivores, and carnivores in a way that gives preschoolers the storyline they seek. Here's what I came up with:

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this made me remember my kids' preschool years. i laughed at the conversation. kids lead their parents. parents put a frame of values around their kids. it all works out.

Kipling's Just So Stories had a bunch. Camouflage, too, and maybe some other stuff I'm forgetting.

I'd have interpreted Rikki-tiki-tavi more as a story of competition between predator species: he can manage quite well on table-scraps if he can deal with the snakes (indeed, the ending of the story is that no snake dare come inside the grounds - if snakes are his primary prey he'll starve!).

By stripey_cat (not verified) on 09 Oct 2009 #permalink

Stripey_cat, I won't argue with you that predator competition may be a more correct interpretation of that story, but there is at least some predation in there. For example, Nag has recently eaten some baby birds the first time that Rikki-tiki-tavi encounters him.