Wooly Mammoth Discovery Inspires Children’s Book

Mahaska Mammoth: Wooly Dreams creators from left to right. Laura DeCook, Karen Phelps, Mary Jane Sullivan, and Linda Fox.

Mahaska Mammoth: Wooly Dreams creators from left to right. Laura DeCook, Karen Phelps, Mary Jane Sullivan, and Linda Fox.

Oskaloosa, Iowa – The idea for creating a children’s book gained traction out of the mud at the Mahaska Mammoth dig site one summer day.

Mahaska County Naturalist Laura DeCook was trying to think of ways to help make the bones educational for the public.

Mary Jane Sullivan, a member of the Friends of Mahaska County Conservation, was at the Mahaska Mammoth dig site along with DeCook. DeCook asked Sullivan her opinion on making a children’s book about mammoths. Sullivan agreed, and that conversation was the spark that ignited a year and a half long project, resulting in a book that has something for all ages.

The two invited Linda Fox to help with the project. Fox is also a board member for Mahaska County Conservation and a retired children’s librarian from Oskaloosa.

“We became a great team,” said DeCook. “So we started writing the story,   bouncing ideas off each other, and it went really smoothly.”

The group then got to the point they needed an illustrator to help make the book complete. “So I invited my friend Karen Phelps,” said DeCook. “She agreed to do our illustrations and make our story come to life.”

“This book was created so that it was entertaining. There’s a children’s story about a young wooly mammoth that has a dream, he wishes he was bigger. I think that’s something all kids can relate to,” said DeCook.

The book contains facts for older kids and adults while having a story that captivates the younger readers, and illustrations that help to spark the imagination of even the youngest reader.

A timeline helps readers better understand when wooly mammoths roamed the state, compared to dinosaurs and current time.

The book also contains pictures from the actual dig site in Mahaska County and the Mahaska County Conservation’s part in the mammoth dig.

The book also takes you back in time to better understand what the Mahaska County landscape and ecosystem would have been like 10,000 years ago, long before the tallgrass prairie. Fox said, “It’s more than going out to the pioneer farm and seeing history as man knew it, it’s going back a step farther.”

The book is also a good read-aloud book for groups of kids. The experiences that Fox, DeCook and Sullivan have had in leading children’s activities helped them lay out the book in a way that makes it easy to share in a group reading session. “When you are doing a program, and you’re reading this story to kids, it has to be a big picture,” said Fox.

“When we took it to the publisher, they couldn’t believe how much we had laid out the book,” said Fox.

The initial printing of the book had 300 copies of the hardcover and 200 softcover, but a second printing is already in the works due to demand.

All of the proceeds from the sale of the book go to fund programming for conservation in Mahaska County and was sponsored by the Friends of Mahaska County Conservation.

If you are looking for your own copy of the book, you can find them at Book Vault in Oskaloosa. Purchasing from there will give back the most to the children’s programming, as the store isn’t “taking any cut” from the sale of the book.

There are online options, such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble, but less money makes its way back to the program.



Posted by on Jan 16 2018. Filed under Local News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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