When it comes to picture books, not understanding the natural world inevitably leads to tragedy.
Millions of Cats by Wanda Gág
A cautionary tale about the dangers of relocating wildlife.
An old man removes an entire population of cats from their native ecosystem, only to discover he lacks the knowledge and resources to care for them on his own. When the cats grow hungry he offers them each a mouthful of grass, unaware that these obligate carnivores cannot subsist on such a diet. “What are you doing?” the old woman he lives with cries when she sees the cats, aware, as he is not, of how unsuited the creatures are for their new environment. Her fear proves well founded, as in their desperation for meat the poor felines ultimately resort to eating one another.
Only a single small kitten survives, young enough to live on the milk the man and woman are able to provide, but it faces an uncertain future as it grows “nice and plump” and nears adulthood.
The tragic tale of a good-hearted squirrel who lacks the skills to survive in the wild. Unable to tell the difference between a bear, a rabbit, a frog, and an owl, our hero’s lack of discernment proves fatal when he cheerfully accepts an owl’s invitation into her nest for “cookies.” The final details of the squirrel’s inevitable demise are, in a bold yet necessary move, left to the imagination of the reader.
“Uh oh,” indeed.