THE BLOG
04/11/2016 09:43 am ET | Updated Apr 11, 2016

Where the Buffalo Roam

The Great Plains make up one third of the U.S.A. and the wild prairie ecosystem, which once dominated the Great Plains is 98% gone. But we can see what it once looked like if the American Prairie Reserve and author Dorothy Hinshaw Patent have anything to say about it. Camas and Sage: A Story of Bison Life on the Prairie by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent is a multi-layered, family oriented book that presents this complicated ecosystem with more than one point of view.
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First, there is a compelling narrative of the first year of life of a bison (also called "buffalo") calf, Sage, and her mother, Camas--a process fraught with danger as bison are prey animals, food for wolves and, at one time, almost killed to extinction by human hunters. Christina Wald's beautifully illustrations make this a picture book to be shared with young children.

Alongside the narrative, illustrated sidebars give pertinent information that includes more information about bison and their environment. If you notice an unusual flower or plant while out on the prairie, it becomes important to know its name and place in the ecosystem. This information is included in sidebars. So at a simple level, Camas and Sage functions as a field guide.

What is a grassland's claim to fame? Grasslands are resilient after a drought. The land can look dead but grass doesn't need regular watering to survive. And if you want to enjoy resurgent life on the prairie, spring is when you should go. This is a spectacular time to visit the American Prairie Reserve in central Montana, just north of the Missouri river. It is when bison calves are born, wild flowers bloom riotously and the Grouse males gather to do their mating dances.

This unusually constructed book gives an overview of what once was the wild and flourishing American prairie. It shows why pioneers settled there and what they saw before they tamed our grassland heritage. It creates a learning experience for the whole family.

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