Animal Signs: Been There, Done That

Yesterday, I shared the story of finding a leopard in Etosha National Park. A big part of that story involves finding, recognizing, and piecing together animal signs, i.e., clues about the animal and what it was doing. Clues led us to the animal. Without them, we probably wouldn’t have seen the leopard at all.

Throughout this whole Africa journey, we’ve been searching for and observing animal signs. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to get out of the car to look farther afield or more closely at something, but, then, there are insanely-hard-to-spot lions and leopards and elephants all over Africa, so sometimes it’s better to stay in the vehicle.

Wildebeest horns, Mangetti National Park

I am a wildebeest.

Cat Tracks, Mangetti National Park

Cat tracks, I think.

Broken trees in the road.

The elephant effect.

Even when we don’t see an animal, signs it leaves behind let us know it was there, and that itself can be wildly interesting.

So interesting, in fact, that I wrote a picture book about it. That book is being published by Arbordale Publishing and will be released next year, in Spring 2016.

Mind you, the book is not set in Africa; it’s set up here in the northwest corner of North America. Searching for animals signs is something we do wherever we are.

Been There, Done That cover art by A. M. Gabriel.

Been There, Done That cover art by A. M. Gabriel.

I recently received cover art for the book. The cover is still a work in progress—the text font and other design elements have not been selected, but I believe this is the final artwork by the book’s illustrator, Andrea Gabriel. Do click over to Andrea’s website and check out her work; it’s fabulous! I feel fortunate that Arbordale selected her and that she liked the story enough to want to illustrate it. I don’t know Andrea, and I’m not in touch with her while she works on the book, but I hope she’ll let me interview her when she’s finished.

While we were in Africa, I received sketches of the interior artwork, and Katie says I’m allowed to give you a peek.

Been There Done That sketch, A.M. Gabriel, with Jen Funk Weber and Arbordale Publishing

Sketch of how a moose sign came to be for Been There, Done That, by A.M. Gabriel.

We were in northern Namibia on the Kunene River, and the large pdf containing the whole book was too much for the satellite system to download. I even walked to the lodge in the dark at 5 a.m. to try downloading when no one else was competing for bandwidth. On the plus side, I got to hang with some bats (well, not literally hang as they were doing) in the outdoor Internet-access area. On the minus side, it still didn’t work: the download timed out, and I got nothing.

So our editor, Katie, at Arbordale sent each spread as an individual jpg instead. Eureka! That worked. I needed to look over the images so Andrea could get started on final art. Sometimes, this traveling-to-remote-areas lifestyle of mine is tough to work with. I appreciate and am grateful for Katie’s extra effort and Andrea’s patience.

Been There Done That river mystery illustration by A.M. Gabriel, with Jen Funk Weber and Arbordale Publishing

Animals signs along the river.

Many of you have suggested that I write a book about Africa with Mike’s photos as illustrations. I would love to! But publishing a book takes heaps more than taking, sorting, and editing photos and writing and rewriting text. Rest assured I will continue to write about the trip and the mountain of ideas it inspired. I’ll continue to share some of it here, and I will submit some to publishers. Thanks for the encouragement and support. I’ll let you know what happens.

In the meantime, we’ve got Been There, Done That to look forward to!

2 replies »

  1. I want at least one copy. So glad you are sharing more of your knowledge with the younguns!