A while back I wrote about the real animals behind the characters of our children’s book, Message in a Bottle. But that was only a half of them! Here’s the second part of the animals that our biologist Simon Drobniak and we chose to star in Message in a Bottle, what makes them special and why we picked them in the first place.
#8 – Grizzly Bear
When Kiki arrives to the Canadian forests, she meets two animals: Grizzly and American golden plover. If we chose plover because almost nobody knows it, the grizzly came into the picture for the very opposite reason.
We wanted to have a few animals that children are very familiar with, and the bear (or, in this case, grizzly) is definitely one of the all-time kids’ favourites.
How’s the grizzly different from brown and black bears? Basically, the grizzly is a subspecies of brown bears that live in North America. So a grizzly is a brown bear. The black bear, however, is a completely different species. Black bears are smaller in size, have shorter claws and no shoulder hump. And they are faster tree-climbers!
#9 – Anaconda
In the Amazon jungle, Kiki encounters a whole bunch of not so friendly-looking animals. Our dubious ‘fun’ was to find the scariest and the most unpleasant inhabitants of the Amazon rainforest. Obviously, we couldn’t leave out anaconda, which, by the way, can swallow a whole horse if they’re that hungry! (Poor Kiki would be just a tiny snack…)
#10 – Goliath Birdeater
The Goliath birdeater is another addition to the wild bunch of the Amazon. Belonging to the tarantula family, the Goliath birdeater is the biggest spider in the world. It weights almost 10 times more than Kiki (the scarlet Hawaiian honeycreeper)!
Despite their ominous name, the Goliath birdeater rarely feasts on birds. They do have a particularly cool feature though: the Goliath birdeater can use their hair as darts to scare off enemies.
#11 – Atlantic Sailfish
As Kiki arrives to the shimmering shore of the Atlantic Ocean, we needed her to meet an animal who would take her to the other side of the ocean – and fast!
The Atlantic sailfish is one of the fastest, if not the fastest fish in the world. There is no consensus on this among the researchers (the black marlin is another good candidate), but there is no doubt that the sailfish is always up for a race. So that’s what our sailfish is in the story – a racer! A female racer, actually.
#12 – Poison Dart Frog
A racer naturally needs a team! The tiny poison dart frogs were a last minute addition to the artwork. They are making sure that the sailfish’s helmet is properly waxed and tail is sharp and hydrodynamic for the best thrust.
In reality, poison dart frogs are as big as green olives (so their size in the story is a bit exaggerated) and they are indeed toxic to protect themselves against enemies. Unfortunately, their toxin is also the reason why some humans hunt them.
#13 – Barbary Macaque
As Kiki drifts to the shores of North Africa, she encounters a herd of very unpleasant monkeys. Barbary macaques live in quite a close contact to humans, and they have a bad habit of stealing food and items from them. So no wonder when the macaques spot Kiki’s bottle, it’s already too late – they grab it from Kiki and (as very social animals) start fighting over it straight away!
Barbary macaques are facing plenty of challenges for their existence: their living areas are getting smaller and smaller, they are stressed by being used as photo props for tourists and are subject to illegal capture.
#14 – Long-eared Owl
The Long-eared owl is the ‘mother’ of the story – she saves Kiki from bullies, offers her shelter and care, and helps her all the way to Kiki’s destination.
We wanted that the last animal that helps Kiki is comforting and protective, and thus calming down the action to prepare the child reader for the big moment – the arrival of the mysterious message in a bottle to the child’s window.
For this, the long-eared owl was the perfect choice. Despite of their soft side in the story, in reality the long-eared owls are fierce hunters. Their sharp hearing allows then to prey even in the complete darkness.
There they are!
You can spot 14 different animal species in the story (plus few side-characters!). You may have noticed by now that the animals found in the Message in a Bottle book are also true to their geographical locations.
A great adventure should always be a a little bit educational too, don’t you think?
Is your child as excited about animals as we are? Visit Kiki’s Kids Club, a special place on our website we created especially for children to learn more about the animals featured in the story. Children can discover the animals on an interactive world map, test their knowledge in animal quizzes and print out fun activity sheets!