Krissi Russell | Keeping wildlife Safe in Two Languages

Author and teacher Krissi Russell.

It doesn’t matter the language or the critter, the message is the same: Don’t feed wild animals.

“The issue is all over the planet. It doesn’t happen just in Tahoe. It’s just different animals,” says Krissi Russell. “We need to learn to interact appropriately with wildlife so they can survive.”

The South Shore resident is doing her part to teach people that feeding bears – along with coyotes, geese and other critters – is the wrong thing to do.

Russell this summer came out with her third book, this one in Spanish. It’s an adaptation of her first book, “In the Meadow (Don’t Feed Our Bears),” that was published in 2008. She’s titled the new book, “No alimente a nuestros osos | Don’t Feed our Bears.”

Even though this will be her 25th year teaching Spanish at South Tahoe Middle School, translating the book wasn’t a slam dunk. Her books are a bit poetic and written in a cadence to be sung. To keep that rhythm in Spanish some of the words had to change, which means it is not a word-for-word translation.

Author and teacher Krissi Russell.

For instance, in English it reads: “Well, it goes like this. I was sitting outside on the front porch swing.” In Spanish, the book describes a front patio.

“The words don’t match up, but it’s the same message,” Russell says. “It was a big challenge to try to get the sentiment and reformatting the whole thing.”

Keeping the tempo of the writing was key because the new books come with a downloadable song, making this a sing-along story. Her previous books included CDs.

This written-song format allows Russell to blend her loves: education, environment, Spanish and music.

She says studies show there is a connection between singing and learning, which is one reason why she incorporates song into her lessons at school.

Her voice was echoing through the halls of Lake Tahoe Community College this summer during the weeklong Intensive Spanish Summer Institute where she was selling the book to all levels of Spanish speakers and readers. While the book is geared toward ages 2 to 8, the message applies to all.

Russell is hoping locals and visitors will read, hear and sing the story about bears and other animals that need to stay away from human food so ultimately they all stay wild and safe.

Author and teacher Krissi Russell.

Adding to the words, song and message are delightful watercolor illustrations that bring the bring it all together in way that is even more vivid than the imagination. The artwork is by Lois Olsen, Russell’s husband’s aunt who lives in Southern California.

It was Russell’s then 8-year-old son Caleb (he’s now 20) who was the inspiration for the words and the images. It was through his experiences with the wildlife in the Lake Tahoe Basin that led Russell to write a song she could play on guitar and the family could sing around the fire when they camped. From there it evolved into this picture book that has message for all ages, now in two languages.

“My life’s work is to educate people. This is an extension of that,” Russell says.

The book is available through Russell on her Web site for $13.95. On the South Shore it is sold at Explore Tahoe visitor and interpretive center, Driftwood Café and Lake Tahoe Historical Society Museum, as well at Strawberry Station. It is also available at The Tree House in Truckee. | littlebearbooks.net