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Ava: A Year of Adventure in the Life of an American Avocet, by Mandy Kern, Illustrated by Onalee Nicklin

Coming Summer 2021

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American Avocet in water
32 pages, full-color illustrations by Onalee Nicklin
(hardcover available summer 2021)

Ava is an American Avocet, a breed of shorebird who leaves her home at the Laguna Madre and travels 1,000 miles to stay for a season at the largest wetland complex in the interior of the United States. Cheyenne Bottoms, in the middle of Kansas, is home to millions of birds who stop during their annual migrations in the spring and fall, as well as a diverse population of wildlife who make a home there year-round. As Ava meets her mate and starts a family, readers are introduced to one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet.

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Kansas Wetlands Education Center Program Specialist Mandy Kern is passionate about helping others appreciate the natural resources around them. She enjoys making opportunities for children to connect with the outdoors, away from electronics and screens. Her first visit to Cheyenne Bottoms was in seventh-grade science class as a reward for learning to identify over 100 bird species. Prior to working at the center, she was a high school agriculture education and science instructor, where including science literacy was always a priority. Mandy lives on a market farm, where she cultivates her veggie empire with her husband Joseph and three children, Jonas, Russell, and Maggie. They are the 6th generation to live on this homestead on the Santa Fe Trail. They love to go on adventures and especially love to road trip to national parks. Her favorite bird is the Black-necked Stilt.


Onalee Nicklin is best known for her fantasy or “storybook” pencil drawings, often depicting children as mermaids, elves, or characters in a story. She works mostly with graphite pencils, colored pencils, and sometimes does a little mixed media. “I hope my work inspires people to use their imagination, to dream, to read,” she says. She credits most of the development of her skill to the lessons in “Foundations of Art” from the School of Illustrative Arts, instructor Howard David Johnson. Onalee lives in a small cottage on a farm near Emporia with her husband, a tuxedo cat, and numerous species of wildlife. Having always loved fantasy, fairytales, and storybooks—and inspired by the illustrations of Adrienne Segur—she now crafts her own whimsical and detailed illustrations.

The Kansas Wetlands Education Center is dedicated to educating the public about wetland communities, their importance, and the need for conservation and restoration, with emphasis on Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. KWEC accomplishes this through interactive exhibits and interpretation, education programs, outreach, and fostering partnerships with cooperating stakeholders. The KWEC, 592 NE K-156 Highway, is at the southeast side of Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area, northeast of Great Bend, Kansas. Visit https://wetlandscenter.fhsu.edu for more information.  

Ava: A Year of Adventure in the Life of an American Avocet was made possible by funds from the Dorothy M. Morrison Foundation, a private foundation serving the Barton County, Kansas area.


back book cover image of shorebirds

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