It was a dark and quiet night around midnight when I heard a scritch, scritch, scritch from the corner of the bedroom. Was it the dog? I stumbled over without glasses or turning on the light because I wouldn’t want to wake my dear husband, now would I? I saw something on the window screen. “Oh! A butterfly!” I thought. “I’ll just lift up this screen and let the little fellow outside.”
“EEEKK!” the bat and I both cried at once! The little thing started circling around the bedroom as I dropped to the floor and covered my head. “What’s wrong?” asked dear husband. “Go back to sleep,” he said. ” Bats are good. They eat insects!” And he promptly went back to sleep.
Like fun I’d sleep with a bat flying over head! What to do? The bat was obviously attracted to light so I decided to turn on the lights in another bedroom. Bingo. Little Battie flew in there and started flying madly in circles. As I quickly shut the door, I realized that I saw the dog in there and the windows weren’t open. I summoned up the nerve to coax the dog out and sneak in and open the windows. Then I realized that I had to turn the bedroom lights off and the porch light on. The bat was still there an hour later, but hanging up near the ceiling. In the morning, he was gone.
Of course, I had to check the attic the next day and was relieved to discover that it was simply a renegade single bat and we didn’t have hoards of them living above us.
Driving to work just a day later I heard a fascinating story on NPR about bats. My fear quickly changed to fascination. Perhaps you knew that bats are the world’s only flying mammals? (Those flying squirrels actually just glide.) Their echolocation helps them to circle bedrooms at an amazing speed. You also probably knew that they eat insects, but did you know that they help pollinate plants and trees?
And though it hasn’t yet affected bats in the western U.S., a tragic disease called the White-nose Syndrome has plagued the bat population in the east. The fungus infects the bats while they hibernate. The bats go back to the caves and they get all comfy and go to sleep. And all of a sudden, they wake up itching like crazy. And they literally won’t go back to sleep. They use up their fat reserves, which are designed to get them through five or six months they are hibernating. They burn it up very quickly, and then die of starvation. White-nose syndrome has killed millions of bats since it spread from New York, where it was first discovered six years ago. Researchers believe it came from Europe, through trade or tourism. Its spores have now been found as far west as Minnesota. My empathy for bats increased as did my desire to know more.
I searched the library for bat books and, to be honest, they are creepy because bats are, frankly, very ugly. Witness the cover of this book, Bats by Phil Richardson:
See what I mean? Is it the fangs? The ears? The arm-wings? The total package adds up to one freaky little animal!
Bats in Question: The Smithsonian Answer Book will answer your many questions such as: Will bats really drink blood? How fast can bats fly? Are they related to birds? What are the largest and smallest bats? Why do they live in colonies? And the photo on the cover is blessedly small. Enough of realistic books, let’s turn to children’s picture books since they are some of the best bat books by far and bats seem so much more appealing in them!
Stellaluna is the classic children’s picture book about a young bat who loses her mother and grows up with a family of birds. Stellaluna begins to see how different she is from her new mother and brothers and sisters when they do weird things like eat worms, sleep right-side up, and sleep at night. Stellaluna finally meets her real mother and all the other bats and realizes why she felt like she didn’t belong with the bird family. She learns that it is alright to sleep upside down and that she is nocturnal. She finds herself.
Bat’s Big Game is a re-telling of a traditional fable from Aesop by Seattle author Margaret Read MacDonald whose books are always sure winners in my preschool story times. Bat keeps switching sides to be on the winning side of a soccer game between the animals and the birds. The other animals find his lack of loyalty distasteful and they eject Bat from the game. Kids will find Bat’s escapades entertaining, and they may also appreciate the lessons in loyalty and sportsmanship.
Bats at the Ballgame by Brian Lies has beautiful illustrations and is in my favorite category of children’s books: ones that rhyme. “Restless wings begin to itch- excitement’s at a fever pitch. At last it’s time, and with a sigh, we hustle out to diamond sky. Hurry up! Come one-come all! We’re off to watch the bats play ball!” This book is a home run.
Bats at the Library by Brian Lies has those little guys looking ding-dang cute. This is how it ends: “Through the window, into sky-it’s much too late – we’ve got to fly. But maybe a librarian will give us bats this chance again- and leave a window open wide to let us share the world inside!”
Like fun I will!