Wildfire: Woodpecker’s Amazing Adventure
by Rita “em” Emery
Page Publishing

"Looking back, nothing can diminish my wonderful stay at the wildlife center."

Woodpecker, content in his natural environment in the Woodland Hills of northwest California, wakes up one morning to find hazy skies and the odor of smoke in the air. Still, he can fly out of his tree home to forage for food as usual with his friends. But the next morning, everything has changed for the worse. His habitat is blackened. Fire is evident and coming closer by the minute. Human firefighters are "trying their best to hold the line" while the flames spread. Woodpecker can barely breathe, stumbling and finally falling from his branch to the ground, gasping for every breath.

Fortunately, there are firefighters who rescue such suffering birds and animals. One scoops the dazed bird up and takes him to the wildlife center. Singed and dehydrated, he is treated with gentle care by the wildlife center staff and placed in a cage with his tail feather wrapped in a protective shield. Food goes from mockingbird mush to mealworms carefully placed in a piece of bark so the bird can have the feeling of pecking to get his meal as he would in the wild. It will be a few days before he is placed in a fenced outdoor area with other critters, such as raccoons. Once there, he can enjoy nature again, hear dogs barking, and see geese soaring overhead. One warm morning he is set in a birdcage and transported on a long trip by car back to his homeland in the Woodland Hills. The car stops, the cage opens, and Woodpecker is free to flutter and forage, with pleasant memories of his rescue and recuperation at the wildlife center.

The author of this dramatic saga has studied health, education, and recreation and lives in the California region she describes. She is a volunteer at the Suisun Wildlife Center. This position has clearly infused her with the desire and determination to share what she knows about the treatment of wild creatures when, as all too often occurs, a wildfire sweeps through the forests. Her illustrator is Pat Reed, also a resident of the northern California area where the story's action takes place. Reed's emotive drawings of the woodpecker and his predicament are soft and touching, while she is also able to show flames and their fiery destruction. Scenes within the wildlife center, both as depicted in words by Emery and in Reed's colorful artwork, are doubtless taken from an actual facility.

The book will comfort readers who may wonder what happens to animal inhabitants when a wildfire scourges an area. The author has also helpfully included information and a photo of the acorn woodpecker, the "hero" of her saga. The story would make a powerful read-to for young children, while older ones will be able to read and absorb its message for themselves. Emery has provided significant factual revelations about California's reaction to wildfires, with fighters quickly on the scene and kindly, practiced volunteers caring for stray creatures that would perish without their care. All of this is woven into an imaginative, moving tale worth telling and sharing.

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