Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Sarasota libraries explore world of wildlife with free events

Libraries are offering programming to tie in with One Book selection “An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us” by Ed Yong.

John Kenyon speaks about Cringer the alligator to an audience at Fruitville Library.
John Kenyon speaks about Cringer the alligator to an audience at Fruitville Library.
Photo by Ian Swaby
  • Sarasota
  • Neighbors
  • Share

Before Ellen India was adult services coordinator for Sarasota County Libraries, she had a very different sort of career.

She was a zookeeper for 15 years, who worked at Zoo Atlanta for 10 years.

Back then, she thought it was fascinating when she learned that animals can communicate with one another across vast distances, as in the case of elephants, which can pick up one another’s vibrations up to 6 miles away.

Thus, she was excited when the staff of Sarasota County Libraries settled on the book that would be the focus of the One Book, One Community program she is facilitating: “An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us” by Ed Yong.

“We knew that almost everybody has had some sort of a personal connection with an animal,” she said.

The book explores how each species possesses its own unique set of sensory skills, conveying how we are surrounded by unseen colors, unheard sounds, and other ways of experiencing the world. 

India is certain that it’s a book that will highlight not only people’s connections to the natural world, but also allow the public to connect with one another, something that has always been the purpose of the program, which the library system has hosted for over 20 years.

Judy Levine
Photo by Ian Swaby

The offerings culminate in the appearance of Yong at two separate locations, in North Port and in Sarasota, on March 1, but the programming throughout Sarasota County is already delving into the natural world.

“One of the important concepts of the One Book program is it's not just that it's a good book, and a good author that people might want to hear, but also, it's really important for us to look at all the programming ideas that we can come up with,” India said.

For example, during Animal Art with Judy Levine, held Feb. 20 at Selby Library, participants had the chance to explore the natural world through art, in an accessible way.

Levine, a local artist, had attendees make collages with animal stencils, and to ensure people wouldn’t be intimidated, she brought in Haitian artwork painted in a "naive" style.

“They don’t look like real animals, and they don’t have to be painted realistically,” she said. “Some people are intimidated if you tell them to draw a monkey or a giraffe.”

Anna Bazileeva creates animal art.
Photo by Ian Swaby

With a focus on foreground, middle ground, and background, participants created collages, cutting images from the various magazines provided and then using stencils and paint markers to add in animals of their choosing.

At the same time, Levine was able to talk with participants about animals and their unique features, like how a crevice in a dog’s nose enhances its sense of smell.

“It’s because of Judy that I came here,” said attendee Anna Bazileeva. “She’s a great artist.

Meanwhile, Reptile Encounter with Big Cat, hosted that same day at Fruitville Library, allowed the public to get up close with, and learn about, an American alligator, a monitor lizard, a tortoise and multiple snakes, with the help of Big Cat Habitat educators.

“I think having shows like this, people can come up and touch the animals, and they can ask questions that they can’t just ask a TV,” said John Kenyon, also known as “Gator John,” who hosted the event with his wife Sasha Kenyon.

“It's great — I love to learn about all of the Florida animals. It's all new to us,” said Donna Kaehler.

Reptile bones are set out during the Big Cat Habitat event.
Photo by Ian Swaby

India said she was especially glad to be able to feature the topic of bats thanks to the Florida Bat Conservancy. 

“Bats are kind of misunderstood and maybe feared by some people, but I'm really glad that we have a chance to learn about them and learn about their role in the environment and how we can live with them peacefully,” she said.

Participants can discover more about the natural world when they listen to the talk by Ed Yong, who traveled the world to research the book. The book has been called one of the year’s best by Oprah Daily, The New York Times, Washington Post and others.

“It's really interesting to try to learn a little bit more about the different species and what they really are all about, and how they interact with the world, and I think there's a lot that we can learn from them,” India said.



Ian Swaby

Ian Swaby is the Sarasota neighbors writer for the Observer. Ian is a Florida State University graduate of Editing, Writing, and Media and previously worked in the publishing industry in the Cayman Islands.

Latest News