Leave a Message in the Sand, written by Bibi Dumon Tak,  Illustrated by Annemarie van Haeringen, and translated by Laura Watkinson, is packed with fascinating facts and incredible details—so many that you might miss some! Here are five of our favorite moments from this playful poetry collection.

Children's books Leave a Message in the Sand

Hello from Lop Nur (“The Wild Bactrian Camel”)

Lady from Lop Nur welcome.

If you’re a wild Bactrian camel looking for love, head to Lop Nur—a dried-up salt lake in northwestern China. The Lop Nur Wild Camel National Nature Preserve, created in 2001, protects the critically endangered animals’ habitat.

Local conservationists have identified the camel as an umbrella species, which means that what’s good for this camel is usually good for everyone else in the habitat! By protecting the wild Bactrian camel, scientists can often indirectly help Gobi bears, wild Agali sheep, black-tailed gazelles, and all the other animals of Lop Nur.

Vote for the Okapi (“The Tapir”)

If there are ever elections for even-toed ungulates, then I’ll vote for the okapi!

Most English speakers won’t catch the reference at the end of this poem: the tapir is doing more than just promising to show up on Election Day! “Vote for the Okapi” is also the title of a 2017 book by author Edward van de Vendel and Martijn van der Linden. While Stem op de Okapi hasn’t been translated into English yet, many other books by these creators have been, including The Other Rabbit and The Dog that Nino Didn’t Have.


Children's books Leave a Message in the Sand book


Catch the Signal (“The Dik-Dik and the Hippopotamus”)

Live on Radio Impala, Pretoria, South Africa

Welcome to the studio, Hippopotamus! Great to have you here.


“The Dik-Dik and the Hippopotamus” starts with a reference to another hooved creature: the impala! This tawny antelope lives in the savannahs of southern Africa, including the area around Pretoria, South Africa. Graceful and quick, the impala is an expert jumper: it can leap distances up to 33 feet and heights up to 10 feet!


Plurals to Ponder (“The Arabian Oryx,” “The Blue Wildebeest and the Giraffe [Again],” and other poems)

Yes, they’re coming,

the blue wildebeests—the brindled gnus—

on the journey of a lifetime.

When you’re looking at a crowd of hooved creatures, plural names are bound to get tricky. Is it wildebeests or wildebeest? Okapis or okapi? Bongos or bongoes? In some cases—like wildebeest and wildebeests—both forms are correct. Watch out for the plurals in these poems: are they formed the way you expected? Did any surprise you?

Children's books Leave a Message in the Sand kids books

The Sports Announcer’s Name (“The Blue Wildebeest and the Giraffe [Again]”)

You are watching a live sports broadcast from Serengeti TV.

And now we’re switching to our reporter on the spot, Giraffa Tippelskirchi.

What’s the mood like out there, G.T.?

In the very last poem of Leave a Message in the Sand, we meet G.T.—Giraffa Tippelkirschi, Serengeti  TV’s reporter on the spot. But G.T.’s full name isn’t random: it’s the scientific name for the Masai giraffe! The largest subspecies of giraffe, the Masai giraffe was declared endangered in 2019.


Reality TV Mousewives (“The Blue Wildebeest and the Giraffe [Again]”)

And with that heart-warming shot, we’ll head back to the studio,

where The Real Mousewives of the Mafinga Hills is about to begin.


While The Real Mousewives of the Mafinga Hills is fictional, there are real mice in the real Mafinga Hills. Located on the border between Zambia and Malawi, not too far from the Serengeti, the Mafinga Hills are home to the delectable soft-furred mouse (Praomys delectorum). The rodent also lives in Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Zambia, where it is threatened by habitat loss.


Did you spot anything else while reading Leave a Message in the Sand? Did you discover a new creature or find something new to research? Let us know through the comments.

Leave a Message in the Sands: Poems about Giraffes, Bongos, and Other Hooved Mammals is available for purchase at Amazon, Christianbook, Eerdmans, Indiebound, or your local bookstore.




Leave a Message in the Sand

Poems about Giraffes, Bongos, and Other Creatures with Hooves

Written by Bibi Dumon Tak
Illustrated by Annemarie van Haeringen
Translated by Laura Watkinson

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5548-0
64 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 7.75 x 9.875

What would a boar text to a pig, a camel post on a dating site, or a goat shout from the mountaintops? In this unforgettable poetry collection, even-toed ungulates take the spotlight. Ever asked a giraffe about the clouds, read an okapi’s letter to the editor, or debated which gnu would win the race across the Serengeti? Playful poems and whimsical illustrations feature hoofed creatures from all around the world, from Siberian musk deer to African dik-diks to South American vicuñas.


BUY THIS BOOK FROM: Amazon.com | Barnes & Noble Christianbook.com | Indiebound.org