Tonawanda News — Do you have any idea what a tenrec is? How about a water dragon? Or a zebu?
In case you’re lost, those are animals, and Kenny Coogan, former aquarist at the Aquarium of Niagara and current pet columnist for the News, wants to teach you — and more specifically, your kids — all about them.
Coogan, who is now an animal trainer at Tampa, Fla.,’s Lowry Park Zoo, has just released his first children’s book meant to teach youngsters all about the lesser-known members of the animal kingdom alongside the more rarely used letters of the alphabet.
“The book is my response to working at different zoos and aquariums that hold weekly preschool and kindergarten classes,” Coogan said of the book, “A Tenrec Named Trey.” “Each week they usually go through a different letter (of the alphabet) and they always start with A, B and C, and around the second half of the school year, they started getting frustrated that the second half of the alphabet was always going to be the same animals, or a really odd animal that they couldn’t relate to their students.”
So Coogan put together a book of eight stories in which children are introduced to Velma Quinn the valley quail, Trey the tenrec, Uberto the umbrella cockatoo, Ella the vulture, Wade the water dragon, Tish the X-ray fish, Yago, the yellow-banded poison dart frog, and Zach and Zoe the zebus.
And just as many of these animals might be completely foreign to the 5- and 7-year-olds the book is meant for, illustrator Chris Padovan said he had to do quite a bit of research to get the animals and their habitats just right.
“I hadn’t even heard of half of those animals so I had to do a lot of research on them and I really enjoyed that,” he said, adding that he spent a lot of time “looking up photographs and reading where (the animals) were from for the background settings.”