Cougar Crossing – Perfect Picture Book Friday

P-22 is his name. (For real.)

P is for puma. (Also called mountain lion or cougar.)

22 for ID number. (More on that later.)

Text ©️Meeg Pincus Illustration ©️Alexander Vidal

He paces. Muscles flex. Tail twitches. Famous letters loom above him in the night….

Doesn’t that narrative voice sound a bit like the voiceover in a Hollywood movie? (Or maybe like David Attenborough, LOL) Perfect for a story set in the Hollywood Hills!

Kids are going to love, love, LOVE reading this story of P-22, the puma (aka mountain lion or cougar) who became a celebrity by claiming his turf near the famed Griffith Observatory in Griffith Park in the foothills of northern LA.

The story chronicles P-22’s journey to the park, including crossing twenty lanes of LA’s legendary freeways. Two wildlife biologists, featured in a second layer of text, offer commentary, including how P-22 was tagged, how they had to intervene when he became sick from eating rodents killed with poison, and how he never found a mate.

The fantastic news is that P-22’s adventures and lonely plight bolstered public support for building the world’s largest wildlife bridge at Liberty Canyon in the Santa Monica mountains north of Los Angeles. Scheduled for completion in 2024, it will connect the foothills in the south with the range’s larger northern area, providing a much-needed boost for the cougars, and should significantly reduce the number of animals (not just cougars) killed on freeways in the area.

Back matter includes information about the National Park Service’s study of LA’s mountain lions and how tagging has helped them monitor their activity and track those killed by poison, traffic, or wildfires. There’s also a page about cougars and wildlife crossings and a full spread showing a variety of wildlife found in southern California, asking kids to see if they can find the animals throughout the pages of the book.

Because cougars are nocturnal, many of the digitally-produced illustrations depict nighttime scenes, a tough order for an illustrator. Dark shades of purple and lavender contrast nicely with the cougar’s tawny coloring and the city lights. The illustrations are well-matched to the tone of the story, and add to its overall “Hollywood” feel.

Great book!

Activities:

Watch this video of wildlife crossing the Parleys Canyon wildlife bridge over I-80 in Utah.

Check out the virtual field trips offered by the Resource Conservation District in the Santa Monica Mountains.

For older kids, pair this book with No Monkeys, No Chocolate by Melissa Stewart, and compare their similar layered story structure. How are they the same? How are they different?

Pair this book with Journey: Based on the True Story of OR7, the Most Famous Wolf in the West by Emma Bland Smith. One story is nonfiction, the other is historical fiction. Why?

Title: Cougar Crossing: How Hollywood’s Celebrity Cougar Helped Build a Bridge for City Wildlife

Author: Meed Pincus

Illustrator: Alexander Vidal

Publisher: Beach Lane Books, 2021

Theme: wildlife preservation, history, ecology

Ages: pre-K through 5th grade

For more perfect picture book recommendations, please visit Susanna Hill’s website.

7 thoughts on “Cougar Crossing – Perfect Picture Book Friday

  1. authorlaurablog says:

    What an interesting story, and I love the way the author found their way to tell the story. I’ve read about wildlife crossing paths created over/under highways, but never in a picture book.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      Meeg talked about her structure during a recent webinar, saying that she struggled to include many of the quotes from the biologists she interviewed for the book, and ending up using Melissa Stewart’s No Monkeys, No Chocolate as a mentor text for their commentary on the story. It works really well. the subject matter is ready-made for a picture book, I think. Who doesn’t empathize with P-22’s plight? And it took getting lots of people’s attention to get the bridge funded, the majority of it funded from private sources.

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