Where’s Charlie?

By Marianne Berkes, Children’s author.

Last year Charlie Sandhill Crane was learning to dance and eventually fly. He and his sister, Sandy, would soon leave Mom and Dad’s nest on the little island in Lake Fountain to be on their own. Mom and Dad put their nest there since sandhill cranes in Florida nest mainly near freshwater ponds and shallow marshes.

Yesterday a lone sandhill crane stood near my cottage pecking in the grass before he walked away. Maybe it was Charlie? It could have been, since after the colts leave home, it is usually a year or two before they mate and have their own baby chicks, who are called “colts” as they mature.

In the book, Waiting for Charlie, which resident photographer, Bob Dunham and I wrote, the story ends with Charlie and Sandy flying one last time together with their parents before leaving the nest forever. The book, which can be enjoyed by young and old, tells the story about a sandhill crane chick’s development over a ten-month time span.

Only a limited number of copies are left since the book was printed in June for JKV residents as a fundraiser, but because grandparents and family friends have sent the book to different relatives,
“Charlie” has captured the hearts of kids in many different parts of the country. Bob and I have received photos of children enjoying the book in Chicago, Vermont, and California, just to name a few.

And right here, students at Orange City Elementary have enjoyed the book, which is written in Haiku, a Japanese poem that focuses on images from nature. The students were inspired to write their own Haiku poems in three lines of five, seven and five syllables, totaling seventeen syllables in all.

It was such a joy to write “Charlie” as I watched and learned more about these charismatic creatures and created a story to go along with Bob’s beautiful photographs, all taken at John Knox Village. And since our sandhill cranes are a non-migratory species, Charlie is probably foraging for food somewhere in JKV as I write this. And maybe soon he will have a mate. Nature sure is amazing!