One goal of What’s In These Woods is to call kids’ (and adults’) attention to species of forest life that may be unfamiliar, particularly in the realm of children’s books. I’ve included the IO Moth, Morel mushroom, mahogany fern. Of course, the book needs some furry friends (for my sake, too, because I love any animal that can look me in the eye) so I tried to choose animals that have some unique sense or ability that kids can relate to.
The raccoon is a popular character in the forest book genre (and internet memes), possibly because it has “hands” like humans. A raccoon paw has five digits, although lacking an opposable thumb, and this characteristic can cause widespread “cute-overload freak outs” (I admit, I’m guilty of these) over the animal’s dexterous feats.
However, the sensation of touch is a raccoon’s strongest sense; it may actually assist the animal in feeling and understanding an object that it may not be able to identify by sight.
Above a raccoon’s claws grow whiskers (vibrissae) that can help them feel, sense and interpret an object before touching it. Additionally, a large portion of a raccoon’s brain is dedicated to understanding and translating tactile impressions, more than any other animal.
Learning about a being’s heightened senses, especially while lacking strength in another sense, is an eye-opening lesson at any age. I’m constantly amazed at what young kids can remember, too; learning one unique ability or characteristic of a forest inhabitant could stick with them for a while, and, I hope, teach them to respect what they may find in the woods.
This piece is also shown in a cropped view to show more detail. Watercolor, guache and Micron pen.