‘The Book of Extinct Creatures,’ An Excerpt
By Isabella Soddu & Brooke Mazurek
‘The Book of Extinct Creatures’ is a collection of mixed-media work for children. Through animals past and present, young readers will learn about important topics such as climate change and evolution.
WHAT IS EXTINCTION
Have you ever wondered why you’ve never seen a dinosaur in the wild? Or maybe a woolly mammoth in a zoo? It’s because these creatures have all gone extinct.
Extinction is when an entire species dies out, so there are no more left anywhere in the world.
Different places in the world experience different weather! Rainforests are wet and hot. Deserts are hot and dry. We call this a climate—a pattern of weather in a particular place.
Plants and animals possess qualities that help them survive their native climates. So when the climate changes (from things like carbon dioxide emissions), entire ecosystems fall out of balance.
In the wild, sometimes animals are hunted illegally. Money can be a motivator. People know that the ivory of an elephant’s tusk, for example, is considered extremely valuable in certain parts of the world.
Other people want to own exotic pets, so they’ll poach them from their homes in the wild. But when large numbers of a species are captured or killed, there is the risk of extinction.
Loss of Habitat
This is when an animal
loses its home. Loss of habitat can happen when things including deforestation and climate change occur. It can also result from humans building new homes or roads or factories. In the process, sometimes an animal’s ecological environment can be polluted.
When their home is no longer habitable, the animal has three options: adapt, migrate to a new ecosystem, or die out.
Have you ever stood inside a forest? Maybe it seems quiet at first. Like there isn’t much happening. But the trees you’re staring at are hard at work absorbing the carbon dioxide we exhale and harmful gases in the atmosphere. They’re also home to 80 percent of earth’s plants and animals. Deforestation is when these trees are torn down. Wildfires and overgrazing can cause this to happen. But many times, humans will deforest to make room for something other than the forest (think: farms and mines).
Loss of Biodiversity
There are hundreds, or sometimes hundreds of thousands of species living in one space. Were you to look outside of the window, you might see a deer. But that deer you’re seeing is only one of many different types of deer that might live nearby. There are variations of deer that are all interacting with the world around them. So when certain species become extinct, all of the different species that used to interact with that particular organism are affected.
WHAT IS BIGGER THAN A MAMMOTH?
By Isabella Soddu
I was once a warrior
A king of icy lands
My hairy armor was dashingly red
I really was quite grand
My stature was towering
I weighed a couple tons
Who would’ve guessed a human man
Was how I’d be undone?
They marched across the Bering Strait
And claimed my icy realm
My glowing hide an easy target
I was overwhelmed
I was once a mammoth
A size you couldn’t believe
Who could have thought this size of mine
Would be the end of me
The Last Passenger Pigeon
Martha is on her way to Washington
To warn us of the fate
That can befall the creatures of a ton
This letter, she must relate:
September 1, 1914
Dear Mr. President,
My name is Martha and I am
warning you, not to make so
much pigeon stew! You used us up
to feed the poor, now look and
see—there are no more!
Thousands of us filled clear
blue skies, now only I am left to
advise. So, Mr. President, it
brings me great sorrow, to say
that here today can be gone
By Isabella Soddu
Why, hello there!
I’m Vulnerable the polar bear
l’d like to share my thoughts with you
I hope you’ll be here when I’m through!
My home is made of ice and snow,
But when it’s gone, where shall I go?
The desert is far too hot
Perhaps the rainforest? Surely not!
Where would I find the seals I eat?
On grass and leaves I cannot feast!
When winter comes how can I build,
A hut of snow on rocky hills?
Oh, it is hard being a polar bear
When your icy home’s in disrepair
So tell me friend, where can I go,
When the world is out of ice and snow?
DON’T CALL ME A ZEBRA!
By Brooke Mazurek
Don’t call me a zebra!
Only my front-half has stripes
From the back, I lose my black
and my lines go slack—
So don’t call me a zebra!
A donkey or a horse!
What’s my name?
What’s my species?
I’m a QUAGGA, of course.
The Irish Elk
By Brooke Mazurek
My antlers were the size of trees
My antlers had edges jagged like car keys
My antlers were drawn on the inside of caves
My antlers, bone strong branches, made me look brave
My antlers weighed more than all four tires on your car
My antlers never stopped me from traveling far
But because my antlers were all that anyone could see
My antlers, 10,000 years ago, became the end of me
This project mines our shared passion for the environment, a subject the two of us bonded over during our first pair session together. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, we were nostalgic for what it feels like to walk through one of our favorite places in New York: the Natural History Museum. We wanted to encapsulate the importance of preserving our natural world into a digestible book for young readers. We loved the idea of helping a new generation understand their impact on the world around them while introducing big (and scary!) concepts like climate change, evolution and extinction.
Isabella Soddu is a homeschooled junior in NYC whose writing explores the mediums of poetry, personal narrative and journalism. Her love of environmentalism encourages her to bridge the gap between writing and the natural world.
Brooke Mazurek is a writer, editor and triplet. She grew up on the outskirts of a town literally named Boring, a place that inspired her belief that everything is interesting. In addition to her work as a journalist, Brooke recently co-wrote a feature-length film that explores the notion of consent. She has edited for publications including Billboard, Harper's Bazaar and Vogue Business.