“When one is endangered, all are in peril.”
This is the overarching theme of Katherine Applegate’s newest young adult book, Endling #1: The Last. The book—first in a series—hit shelves nationwide in May. It tells the story of Byx, a mythical creature whose doglike species, the “dairne,” has been hunted to near extinction. With the help of some strangers who soon become close friends, young Byx sets out on a dangerous journey to find a safe haven, and perhaps even others of her kind, all the while being pursued by those who want to eradicate her species. Together, the protagonists uncover a secret that threatens the existence of not just the dairnes, but of every other creature in their world.
Applegate’s previous works have wowed critics and fans alike. Her novel The One and Only Ivan—based on the true story of a gorilla who spent decades on display in a suburban shopping mall in Washington state—became a #1 New York Times bestseller and went on to win the coveted John Newberry Medal for children’s literature. (See the spring 2013 AWI Quarterly for our review.) Applegate has also authored the hugely popular Animorphs series and other acclaimed novels for both children and adults. With the new Endling series, she takes readers on a thrilling adventure that speaks to the terrible consequences of driving species toward extinction.
AWI was approached last fall by HarperCollins Children’s Books, the book’s publisher, about a potential partnership to promote species conservation. We readily agreed. AWI staff members were already enthusiastic fans of Applegate’s writing, and the partnership was seen as a way to get AWI’s message to a broader audience at a time when protection for endangered species is under attack.
In addition to making a generous financial contribution to AWI, HarperCollins collaborated with AWI on a number of supporting materials, including a list of ways that young people can take action to protect wild animals and their habitats. These action items, along with interesting facts about endangered species, are featured in a promotional flyer and a downloadable teaching guide tied to the book. Applegate also recorded a series of videos to promote the book and highlight these positive actions. The videos were shared on AWI’s social media channels in the days leading up to Endangered Species Day—a day observed annually on the third Friday in May (May 18 this year) to raise awareness of the continued plight of endangered species and celebrate those that have recovered because of conservation efforts.
AWI also created a vibrant educational poster featuring photographs of 20 animals currently listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA)—the red wolf, monk seal, polar bear, orangutan, and hawksbill sea turtle among them. With a tagline of “You can help endangered species,” the poster and accompanying teacher handout provide information about the ESA and what youth can do to make a difference. Thanks to the partnership with HarperCollins, the poster has already been distributed to over 5,000 students and teachers. During her national book tour, Applegate hand delivered the posters to middle schools across the country. AWI is also distributing the posters at teacher conventions and is making them available to teachers via our website at no cost.
Lastly, Applegate graciously lent her star power to our “A Voice for Animals” contest. Co-sponsored by AWI and the Humane Education Network, with additional backing from the Palo Alto Humane Society, the contest (now in its 28th year) provides high school students aged 14–18 with the opportunity to win monetary awards for essay, video, and/or photographs that address issues involving animal protection and prevention of animal cruelty. The top three essay submissions in the 14- to 15-year-old category on the subject of endangered species will receive a signed, personalized copy of Endling #1: The Last. Winners will be announced in June.
The launch of Endling #1: The Last comes at a time when the ESA itself is under siege in Congress. For more than four decades, the ESA has been instrumental in saving species from extinction and preserving the ecosystems on which they depend. Yet, during the 115th Congress, over 60 bills have been introduced aimed at weakening this vital law. Perhaps the most sweeping of these efforts is the Endangered Species Management Self-Determination Act (S 935/HR 2134). This bill would amend the ESA to require congressional approval before species can be listed as endangered or threatened and automatically remove plants or animals from the endangered/threatened lists after five years unless Congress passed a joint resolution to retain them. It would also require the US Fish and Wildlife Service to obtain the consent of governors before making management decisions that would affect species solely within their states. Doing so would politicize the process and severely undercut the science behind ESA decision-making, thus placing many of the over 2,000 animal and plant species the law protects in serious jeopardy.
We cannot afford to stand idly by while this assault on one of our nation’s most important conservation laws continues and species teeter on the brink of irrevocable extinction. The good news is that there are actions we can take in both our private lives and in our role as public citizens. Many of these actions are listed on AWI’s website at www.awionline.org/es. One of the most beneficial things all US citizens can do right now is to contact their members of Congress, urging them to support the ESA and oppose efforts to weaken wildlife protections. To take this action, please visit our website at www.awionline.org/ESA-attacks or contact legislative offices through the Capitol switchboard at 202-225-3121.
To purchase your copy of Endling #1: The Last and access the educational resources connected with the book, please visit www.harpercollins.com/childrens/endling/home/.