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The Small Five: 3 Reasons Why This Book Will Encourage Your Children to Appreciate Wildlife

by Elaine Clara Mah

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As a mother of a two-year old in a world filled with technological distractions, I find myself fighting the good – and sometimes challenging – fight to instill reading habits in my young one. 

I am an avid reader, and I hope to pass this same love of books down to my child. Together, we spend many a nights on the bed-reading page after page of books.

Our other fascination, aside from books, is wildlife. I often find myself sharing stories of the African savannah and the many fascinating animals that inhabit it to little Isaac. When he is old enough, I plan to take him on an adventure of a lifetime in an African safari. But for now, stories will have to suffice.

The Small Five

Imagine my excitement when I got my hands on The Small Five, a children’s book on the five little animals – the ant lion, leopard tortoise, buffalo weaver, rhinoceros beetle and elephant shrew - that share their names with Africa’s big five – the lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino and elephant. The book tells a story of how Africa’s little five game goes up against their big counterparts in a battle of wits, will and skills.

The Small FIveWritten by Ralph Johnstone and illustrated by Harriet Stanes, The Small Five was conceived while the author was in Kenya at the Maasai Mara National Park and Samburu. There, he observed how visiting children at a safari club were thrilled to see Africa’s little creatures. Part of the proceeds from the sales of the book will support the children living at Kenya Children’s Home through buying produces from Nairobi’s Organic Farmer’s Market.

Told in clever rhymes, The Small Five indulges your child in an African setting, allowing the little ones to imagine life in the wild. It shares the qualities and quirks of the little animals but told in a way that engages and excites. Each page has a mixture of anticipation and suspense, humor and playful rhyme, leading the child to be immersed into the story as they consider whether big and strong will lead the race or small and quick will be the champion of all.

There are many reasons why this book should be included in any parents with small children’s book list, but here’s my three favorite lessons from the book that will help to instill appreciation of wildlife and nature to your children:


Big is Not Necessarily Strong and Small is Not Necessarily Weak

How often do we try to teach our little ones that big does not necessarily equate to strong and being small is not a sure sign of weakness?

In a world where bullying is a dangerous part of our society, teaching our children to not equate their size and strength as a sign of power is an important lesson that many parents struggle to impart to their innocent young children. By pitting Africa’s biggest and baddest against the smallest and often overlooked creatures, The Small Five teaches this lesson beautifully and effectively. This is indeed, as the book says, a little rhyme with a big heart!


Wit Comes in Small Packages Too

Can the tiny elephant shrew outwit the elephant, the largest land animal on earth? The Small Five tells you that it just might be able to! While it is true that the giant elephant are smart creatures, it doesn’t discount the fact that the elephant shrew, a creature so many times smaller than its large cousin can be just as smart or perhaps even smarter. Nurturing your children to understand that intelligence comes in all shapes and sizes will help build their self-esteem and better prepare them for the big challenges ahead!


Perseverance Above All

The Small FiveNever give up, even when the odds are stacked against you. The biggest lesson of the book is its lesson of perseverance – a lesson that our young minds will hopefully carry into adulthood. Admittedly, perseverance is a hard package to sell, as with it comes the necessity of hard work and grit.

But when told in bite-sized form, with beautiful illustrations complementing the story, it is my hope that little Isaac will remember that with perseverance, the leopard tortoise need never lose out to its big cousin, the leopard. 

Want to take your children on a real life adventure in Africa? Go on a family safari holiday in Africa!

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