The future of the Rain Forest of the Macaw depends on a scientist and a young Indian boy as they search for a nameless butterfly during one day in the rain forest.
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Tepui, a slender Indian boy, rolled out of his hammock in a round thatched hut in a Venezuelan forest. He picked up his blowgun, darts in a quiver, and his pack. Tiptoeing past his sleeping parents, he found his bow and two arrows. Quietly he left his hut in a village on the banks of the Orinoco River. He hurried to the state road and strode off along it. It was 6:29 A.M., the moment of sunrise.
Tepui and his people lived in a tropical rain forest, a community of interlocking parts as complex and miraculous as life itself.
On this day, as every day, a number of the parts began to act upon each other in the grand plan of life in the tropical rain forest.
Tepui left the dirt road and entered the Tropical Rain Forest of the Macaw. He walked on a well-worn footpath called the Trail of the Potoo. It was named for a bird that puts its beak up in the air when it is sitting still. In this pose it is hard to tell the big bird from a tree stub.
Under the trunk of a fallen tree miles ahead of Tepui, a jaguar opened her eyes. She had black rosettes on yellowish-brown fur, and a massive head, shoulders, and forefeet. She was listening to a frightening sound.
A colony of vicious army ants, one million strong, crackled as the ants stirred like a pot of boiling water in their bivouac between two rocks.
Not far from the ants two beetles the size of baseballs tapped the ground with their forefeet and clanged their fingersized pincers. They were the tropical rain forest's gigantic Hercules beetles, and they resembled knights in armor.
Near the beetles, a soldier termite entered a tunnel into his colony's nest, alarge roundish blob on the side of a tree. The black, hard nest was made of chewed wood cemented with termite fecal glue. The soldier closed the tunnel by plugging it with his large head. His gunlike snout was pointed outward. Through it he could shoot a noxious chemical at the birds and beasts that eat termites. He sat still. The night's battles were over, the day's defense work was beginning.
Uphill from the termites, a butterfly split the hard outer coat of her chrysalis and poked a foot into the warm, damp air. She had no name.
Not far from her the elegant great kiskadee whistled two melodious notes, flew out, caught a moth, and flew back to his perch.
The treetop birds awoke and flashed their brightly colored feathers. Yellow orioles, blue and yellow, and green, blue, black, and red tanagers preened their wings and flew. Purple honeycreepers, blue fruiteaters, iridescent hummingbirds, multicolored toucans, and wood warblers flew through the top limbs of the forest.
A scarlet macaw hooked her beak on a vine and pulled herself abreast of her last year's nest. She looked into a dark deep hole in the tallest tree in the Tropical Rain Forest of the Macaw. Spring was coming, and it was time to clean her nest. The big parrot was mostly red. Her lower back and outer tail feathers were bright blue. Yellow feathers tipped with green gleamed on her wings. She opened them. Theyspread threefeet from tip to tip. When she flew, she looked like a fiery meteor. Below her a flock of orange-winged parrots began to chatter. A pair of blue and green parakeets touched beaks in a bower of silver webbing. It had been spun during the night by a busy spider. Like the millions of other webs draped through the forest, this one sparkled with raindrops.
The mate of the scarlet macaw called to her, and she joined him on the flight to the cashew trees along the Orinoco River. Thirty other macaws joined them, streaking the sky red as they flew off to eat.
Above the macaw nest hole a threetoed sloth hung on the underside of a branch. A baby clung to her chest. He poked his head out of her fur, on which mosslike algae grew. The baby snorted. His eyes were large and scrunched close to his nose and mouth. The fuzzy infant's face looked very much like a turtle's.
The mother was an apartment house. In her long fur lived not only plants but some ninety little creatures. Among the tenants were pretty sloth moths, glossy beetles, and numerous pink or white mites. None could survive anywhere but on a sloth in a tropical rain forest. They were stirring. This was a big day for the tenants. The sloth was going to make her weekly trip to the floor of the forest, and they, of course, were going with her.
In another tree a little capuchin monkey, who was almost a year old, unwrapped her tail from around a limb and wrapped it around her mother, who rubbed her own tummy and yawned.
Ahead of Tepui in the Science Laboratory of the Tropical Rain Forest, a lanky scientist swung out of his hammock and stretched. Dr. Juan Rivero was one of five biologists who were studying the plants and animals of the forest before it was destroyed.
This day, the twenty-first day of January, was doomsday for the Tropical Rain Forest of the Macaw. Eleven bulldozers and four trucks carrying twenty chain sawyers were rumbling along. For days they had been moving down the highway from the city of Caracas on the hills above the Gulf of Mexico. The ominous caravan was headed for the state of Monagas and Tepui's tropical rain forest. Its mission was to cut down and bum the vines, flowers, and trees and to ready the land for crops.
The forest was home to millions of species of wild plants and animals. Many had never been seen by human eyes. The tangle of plants hid unknown creatures in the bracts and corollas of flowers...One Day in the Tropical Rain Forest. Copyright © by Jean George. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Meet the Author
Jean Craighead George wrote over one hundred books for children and young adults. Her novel Julie of the Wolves won the Newbery Medal in 1973, and she received a 1960 Newbery Honor for My Side of the Mountain. She continued to write acclaimed picture books that celebrate the natural world. Her other books with Wendell Minor include The Wolves Are Back; Luck; Everglades; Arctic Son; Morning, Noon, and Night; and Galapagos George.
"I began drawing before I could talk," says Gary Allen. "My family always knew I would become an artist, because I constantly drew pictures on the wall as high as I could reach." Gary Allen wen on to study art at the State University of New York College at New Paltz and is now a designer at The Culinary Institute of America In Hyde Park, New York. He lives in High Falls, New York, with his wife and stepson.
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We are not into environmental extremism--kill all the people to save the earth, and I don't think that Jean Craighead George is either. We understand that God made the earth for mankind to subdue and use, but at the same time we are to be good stewards of what God has put here for us. George writes an interesting story that can be useful in helping us to be better stewards.