It’s the end of August, so before we pull out the books about apples, pumpkins, and leaves changing color, let’s give one last hurrah to summer with Suryia Swims! How an Orangutan Learned to Swim.
“Their evolutionary history has taught (orangutans) to beware of dangers, such as crocodiles, that lurk in the water. Because of this, the intuition that would have encouraged orangutans to swim never developed.” Orangutans like Suryia don’t swim, but then again, Suryia is not a typical orangutan. He lives in South Carolina at a wildlife preserve called T.I.G.E.R.S. (The Institute for Greatly Endangered and Rare Species) instead of Southeast Asia like his wild counterparts. His best friend is a dog named Roscoe. And when the tigers, the otter, the elephant, and the tapir go swimming in T.I.G.E.R.S. pool, Suryia jumps in, too.
The photographs by Barry Bland are incredible. Suryia cuddles leopard cubs in the water and dives for plastic rings, things an orangutan would typically never do. In the safe wildlife preserve that Bhagavan “Doc” Antle founded, animals don’t have to struggle for survival, so “their intellect and curiosity can grow”. Seeing all the other animals have fun in the water may have encouraged Suryia to overcome his fear, too. If you have a little one who is cautious around water, remind him or her that Suryia felt the same way, but with help from friends, he found the courage to dive in!
After you share this book with your children, discuss the information found in the author’s note. Why is it so unusual for Suryia to swim? Why do you think Suryia took the plunge? At our library, we have found that Storyboxes or magnetic Storyboards are great vehicles for retelling. Retelling what happened in a book gives your kids a chance to process what they’ve learned and to show what they know. We find puppets or stuffed animals of the characters in the book, or make copies of open-source images and glue magnets to the back. We put the characters and the book in a center for children to retell or act out the details they’ve learned. Your children can use a puppet orangutan and say why he’s afraid of swimming. One by one, kids can put Roscoe the dog in a pretend pool, then Bubbles the elephant, Tonks the tiger, the baby bear Ondar, etc. and retell the details of the book. Go to suryiaandroscoe.com to see video clips of this amazing, swimming orangutan and his best animal friend. Suryia Swims! written by Bhagavan “Doc” Antle with Thea Feldman and photographs by Barry Bland will reaffirm for your children that anything is possible!
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