A storybook trail in Hannibal's Central Park brings to life Fran Hodgkins' “If You Were My Baby: A Wildlife Lullaby,” with illustrations by Laura J. Bryant.

The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and City of Hannibal Parks and Recreation invite families to discover nature and the joy of reading in Hannibal’s Central Park. A storybook trail brings to life Fran Hodgkins’ “If You Were My Baby: A Wildlife Lullaby,” with illustrations by Laura J. Bryant.

“If You Were My Baby” takes readers on a journey through the animal kingdom and celebrates the relationships between animal parents and offspring, including humans. This children’s book unfolds as readers walk from page-to-page, poster-sized illustrations appearing around each turn in the trail. Many of the characters in the book can be found living in the wild, just beyond the poster-pages along the path.

“Come walk a trail and read the book,” said MDC Conservation Education Consultant Kathi Moore. “Learn how wildlife parents raise and care for their babies, what kinds of protection babies find in nature when their moms need to go foraging, and what you should do when you find baby wildlife in nature.”

Each spring in Missouri, wildlife become active again after a long winter, and many mammals begin giving birth to offspring. As humans also awaken from winter shelters indoors, and return to the woods, prairies, and streams of our state, Missourians are likely to encounter young wildlife — sometimes unattended by their parents. Wildlife almost never abandon their offspring. Chances are, the parents are out foraging and will soon return. It’s important to remember this time of year, that the best way to help wildlife, even if they seem helpless, is to leave them alone, and keep wildlife wild.

Storybook trails offer an opportunity to have these conversations with children, while bringing literature to life, and combining two critically important activities for child development: reading and spending time in nature.

“If You Were My Baby” is installed and available for free in Hannibal’s Central Park through Friday, April 13. No registration or other materials are required to enjoy this family-friendly learning experience in nature. Readers and hikers can take pictures of their storybook walk and post to social media with #MoConservation and #KeepWildlifeWild to share experiences with other readers.

For more information, call the MDC office in Hannibal at 573-258-2530, or visit Hannibal Parks and Recreation at hannibalparks.org/programs-events/.