By: Kurt Cyrus
Illustrated by: Andy Atkins
Published: August 15, 2021
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
I’ve never been to the Southwest or seen a large cactus in person. But, I liken it to a large tree in our neighborhood providing shelter and food for many animals over the years.
A saguaro cactus is a giant cactus native to the Southwest and Mexico. It can be over sixty feet tall plus have multiple branches, much like a tree. The saguaro produces flowers and fruit that provide food and nectar to many birds and animals.
In SAGUARO’S GIFT, we learn that the desert animals are celebrating Saguaro’s 100th birthday. For many years, the Saguaro has been providing shelter, shade, homes, food, and nectar for the various animals in the desert including owls, finches, turtles, rabbits, lizards, and even a Bobcat. Each of the desert creatures benefits from Saguaro and stops by to thank him for his protection, shade, and tasty food and nectar.
With a rhyming scheme and scripted lettering, the author gives a personal feel to the story of Saguaro. The illustrations are so lifelike, the reader expects to feel the soft feathers on the owl or finch. Even though the cactus has prickly spears on the outside, the animals have learned to adapt and manage them, but not all the animals. When a bobcat is being chased by javelinas (a new-to-me animal) it races up to the top of the cactus for safety. Being poked is much better than being caught by javelinas.
If like us, you live in an area with no cacti, you can apply this story to trees, bushes, and other plants that various birds and animals may benefit from in your backyard. Point out the birds who build nests, the squirrels who gather nuts, and the deer who eat the leaves or bark. Saguaro’s Gift also reminds us how we all depend on each other and benefit from the gifts we can each provide in our great ecosystem.
Kurt Cyrus was born in the high desert of central Oregon. No saguaros grow there, but sagebrush and tumbleweed are plentiful. He now makes his home across the mountains in a damp green valley. Check out his website, HERE.
Andy Atkins is a lifelong artist, avid photographer, and traveler. He began his professional career in the entertainment industry but recently returned to his first love: illustration. He has worked with Kurt Cyrus on other books as well. Andy lives in Ventura, California, with his family. You can find out more by visiting his website, HERE.