Darcy Pattison's WISDOM, tells the story of the world's oldest wild bird. Banded over 60 years ago, Wisdom's story is exceptional. And she's still making news! It has been discovered that she's about to become a mother AGAIN! Pattison is also making news these days. Her picture book about Wisdom was just honored by Writer's Digest Books as the winner of their 20th Annual Self-Published Book Awards!
I had a chance to ask Darcy about her award winning picture book.
The story of Wisdom is fascinating. Who knew that a bird could live so long? What inspired you to write about her?After the publication of PRAIRIE STORMS, I knew I wanted to write more nature book. After the Japanese tsunami, I searched through news reports for something that might make an interesting story. Taking Kirby Larson's example of TWO BOBBIES, about a cat and dog after Hurricane Katrina, I instantly recognized the possibilities in Wisdom's story.
In Elizabeth Bird's review on Fuse#8/SLJ blog, she said, " True to life incredible journeys of wild animals are difficult to tell, though. If the animal is truly wild then how do you extrapolate its life without relying on fantasy and conjecture? Wisdom: The Midway Albatross offers at least one solution to that question. Add history to facts to the glorious innovation of banding wild animals and you have yourself a bird bio that’s easy to distinguish from the flock."
What were the challenges you faced in bringing her story to life?
She captured exactly the problem: how do you really know what a bird's life is like? In this case, I researched the Pacific Ocean for the last sixty years. The setting--Wisdom's environment--was the context for much of what could be extrapolated about her life. And yes, the fact that she has been continuously banded since 1956 was key to making the story work. It was also cool to connect with Chandler Robbins, who originally banded her. On the cover, he is quoted: "On Dec. 10, 1956, early in my first visit to Midway, I banded 99 incubating laysan Albatrosses in the 'downtown' area of Sand Island, Midway. Wisdom (band number 587-51945) is still alive, healthy, and incubating again in December 2011. While I have grown old and gray and get around only with the use of a cane, Wisdom still looks and acts just the same as on the day i banded her. . . remarkable true story. . . beautifully illustrated in color." --Chandler S. Robbins Sc.D. Senior Scientist (Retired), USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD.
Scientists like Robbins and Pete Leary, wildlife biologist on Midway and extraordinary photographer, made it easy to verify information and get the details of the story right.
I took the project to various publisher and each had a reason why it wouldn't work. But I believed in the story. The final puzzle piece was when Kitty Harvill agreed to illustrate the book. She is an amazing wildlife artist and, as it happens, we share a birthday. We had long wanted to do a book together. I knew that I wouldn't do a self-published book unless it was top-quality and when she said, yes, that quality became possible.
Congratulations on Wisdom’s Writer’s Digest Award! Self publishing is not an easy way to bring a book to print. What made you decide on that path for this book?
The process of self-publishing a picture book, though, came about because of the book, THE HELP. To publicize that book, they created a children's story contest and I won! The grand prize was illustrations of the story. That meant, I had an instant book. 11 Ways to Ruin a Photograph is the story of a girl whose father is sent overseas on assignment for a year. During that year, she decides that it is NOT the family photo album and she won't let any family photos turn out good that year. The book hasn't sold very well, but with the professional illustrations that I had won, it made a great book--and taught me the process of putting out a book. So, in some ways, WISDOM THE MIDWAY ALBATROSS, owes its life to that contest, too.
You’ve written on other natural subjects, including deserts. What’s next for your readers?I'm looking for great nature stories now!
Many thanks to Darcy Pattison!
WISDOM is a great book to add to a classroom library. Check out Darcy's site http://albatross.darcypattison.com for teacher resources, coloring pages to link to and more.