Saving the Prairie Dogs One Children’s Book at a Time


The true passion and purpose of Roots & Shoots is ignited when someone utilizes their own unique talents to address an issue they’ve observed in their community. The product of passion for change combined with the arts or music has stunning effects, and author Alan J. Bartels proves in his latest endeavor that writing children’s book can change the world of prairie dogs.

Bartels, a friend of Dr. Jane’s, has set out to write a children’s book to raise awareness of the plight of the prairie dog due to urban development with the proceeds of the book going to Roots & Shoots. The book, What’s Going Down in Prairie Dog Town? illustrates a little story of a boy named Tyler who finds a prairie dog and releases it back into the prairie dog town. He is forced to realize the severity of the prairie dogs’ habitat destruction when his father has an opportunity to sell the land behind their home to a developer. After recognizing the importance of the prairie dogs in the ecosystem, the story has a happy ending as the land is preserved.

Cover What's Going on in Prairie Dog Town (2)

The issue of habitat destruction and eradicating prairie dogs is not just in Tyler’s world, as Bartel remarked, “During the planning for this book, a prairie dog town which I watched often, was poisoned. There were none remaining. That inspired me to get the book done.” Dr. Jane was also involved in the motivation, as Bartel explains, “I took her to see prairie chickens in the Nebraska Sandhills a few years ago. This woman who has seen the magnificent migrations in Africa was enthralled with the tiny little birds doing their mating displays on a very cold morning. Afterwards, at breakfast, a friend of mine suggested I write a children’s book about prairie dogs, and she actually came up with the title right then and there.” Dr. Jane offered input throughout the writing and illustrating process, and even wrote the foreword.  Bartel knows that Dr. Jane is an inspiration for so many, and “she has done so much for our planet. The least I could do was write this children’s book and direct the proceeds to Roots & Shoots.”

PG 21 illustration (2)smallTo help get Alan Bartel’s prairie dog-saving book to the printer and donate the proceeds to the Jane Goodall Institute’s Roots & Shoots program, he has set up a donation page here. In addition to donating, Bartel encourages people to spread the word about the habitat destruction and to reach out to local policymakers, as well as sharing this project on social media.  Another way to help is to support relocation endeavors that have successfully relocated prairie dogs to safe places, like this project here.

Above all, Bartel says, “I want the young audience to know that: I always looked up to Jane while growing up. She taught me that one person can make a difference. I hope this book makes a difference for the people who read it. Follow your passions and make the change that you want to see in the world.”


The Jane Goodall Institute is a global community conservation organization that advances the vision and work of Dr. Jane Goodall. By protecting chimpanzees and inspiring people to conserve the natural world we all share, we improve the lives of people, animals and the environment. Everything is connected—everyone can make a difference.

gfan learn more v2gfan support jgi v2

gfan shop jgi v2



About Author

Olivia is a member of the Roots & Shoots U.S. National Youth Leadership Council (NYLC). As a member of the NYLC, Olivia acts as a youth voice and works to make a positive change in her community — for people, animals and the environment. She is a high school student in Massachusetts and has been the leader of their Roots & Shoots Club since 2013. Olivia is a public speaker, scientist, artist, writer, and Youtuber. Learn more about Olivia here: