Welcome to Jeff Campbell, author of Last of the Giants! I’m so excited to share this interview today. This was such an interesting book and I’ve been recommending it to everyone.
What inspired you to write a book about extinction among giant species?
I wanted to find an intriguing, interesting approach to discussing our current extinction crisis that would appeal to young adults, and I thought, why not feature the big, charismatic species we already know and love? As it turns out, dramatic species make for dramatic stories, and in particular, they really highlight humanity’s impact on nature. Not only are we fascinated by giant animals, but they are the hardest species for us to live with. I dearly wish aurochs, moa, and Steller’s sea cows still existed, but they’d make difficult neighbors. That’s one reason saving tigers, lions, and rhinos today can be such a challenge.
Which species did you enjoy writing about the most?
I found myself fascinated by every species, but some were truly bizarre, both the life they lived and the way they met their demise. For instance, the Steller’s sea cow would probably still be with us if Arctic explorers hadn’t shipwrecked on the island around which they lived. Flocks of passenger pigeons were once so mind-bogglingly enormous they would take literally days to pass over, blotting out the sun, and people used to stick guns out of city windows to shoot at them! And the Maori gobbled up the moa, the tallest bird that ever existed, and many other of New Zealand’s unique species, and then found they didn’t have enough else to eat. So they developed cannabilism as a regular aspect of war, which might be the most dramatic, telling consequence of any extinction in history.
In your opinion, what is the biggest benefit of saving giant wildlife species?
Another thing I discovered while researching this book’s species is how important giant animals often are to ecosystems. Giant animals like tigers, rhinos, and elephants are important to conserve not just because they are clearly intelligent creatures that we admire. They play vital, sometimes irreplaceable roles in nature. Plus, when we provide giant animals with the space and resources they need to thrive, we also provide those things for many, many other species. Conserving giant animals can be one of the most effective ways to preserve wilderness and ecosystems in general.
Where can I go to learn more and get involved?
In the book, I include a section called “Call to Action” that lists a wealth of resources that’s geared especially for students and teachers. For information, I like EDGE (www.edgeofexistence.org), Bagheera (www.bagheera.com), and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (www.iucnredlist.org), which is the authority when it comes to endangered species. To get involved, I recommend seeking out local conservation organizations. Nothing feels better and more satisfying than improving the place where you live. However, Audubon (www.audubon.org) is a great place to start, with wonderful programs for all ages. Among recent books, Edward Wilson’s Half Earth is essential.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
It used to be flying, but now I wish I could be Dr. Doolittle. I want to be able to talk to the animals, all animals, but especially smart, giant mammals. I think nothing would transform our lives, and inspire conservation, more than if we could hear what bears, dolphins, whales, gorillas, and elephants have to say.
About the Book:
Age Range: 12 and up | Grade Level: 7 and up | Paperback: 272 pages | Publisher: Zest Books (March 1, 2016)
Today, an ancient world is vanishing right before our eyes: the age of giant animals. Over 40,000 years ago, the earth was ruled by megafauna: mammoths and mastodons, saber-toothed tigers and giant sloths. Of course, those creatures no longer exist, due to the evolution and arrival of the wildly adaptive human species, among other factors. Many more of the world’s biggest and baddest creatures—including the black rhino, the dodo, giant tortoises, and the great auk—have vanished since our world became truly global. Last of the Giants chronicles those giant animals and apex predators who have been pushed to extinction in the modern era.
Find the Book:
Amazon | Goodreads | Barnes & Noble | Kobo
My Thoughts on Last of the Giants:
This book contains the stories of thirteen giant species that have gone extinct, or nearly extinct, in the last 500 years. Some are animals that I’d never heard of before, like the enormous Moa bird and the Thylacine. Others are well known, like tigers, lions, and rhinoceros. With schools mandating more informational reading, you can never have too many good nonfiction books on your shelves.
Last of the Giants was a wildly interesting read. Not only did the author cover the animals’ current plight, but he also discussed their history, where they came from, how they evolved, and what role they played in their ecosystem. Of course, he also covered the decline of each animal, how the rise and spread of humans affected each species, and efforts to conserve them.
I learned so much from this book – New Zealand was a land of walking birds, where most species of bird that lived there had given up flight (including owls and swans). Australia used to have a wide variety of marsupials, including a carnivorous kangaroo. And carrier pigeon flocks contained billions of individuals in a single group.
If you, your teen, or your classroom are interested in animals, conservation, history, or plain old cool facts, this is a great book. It’s easy to read and has sections in the back with resources, additional reading, and ways to get involved.
Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration.
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