*Sarah, your book,*

**Growing Patterns**, is beautiful and also informative. Can you start off by explaining what are Fibonacci numbers?

Thank
you, Nancy. The Fibonacci sequence is a simple number pattern that starts with
1 and 1. To get the next number in the sequence, you add the first two numbers
together. So, the third number in the sequence is 1 plus 1, which equals 2. The
next number is 1 plus 2, which equals 3. Then, 2 plus 3, which equals 5. The
numbers keep going higher and higher, always following the same pattern. So, the
first 12 Fibonacci numbers are 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, and 144.

*What made you decide to tackle this topic in a picture book for young readers?*

As
soon as my first book,

**Wolfsnail**, was published by Boyds Mills Press in 2008, I started casting about for the next project. Initially, I thought I might write about another small animal, but the nonfiction market is already saturated with books about the animals I was considering – a butterfly, a turtle, a gecko. I knew, however, that I wanted my next book to feature the same upclose, macro photography I used to illustrate Woflsnail. When I was talking through that idea with an editor at an SCBWI conference, I said, “Maybe I could do something on patterns in nature.” Coincidently, I had recently finished reading a novel that featured Fibonacci numbers in the plot. Intrigued by something one of the characters said about the numbers being found in nature, I did some research. When some of the first examples I read about were sunflowers and pinecones, I knew I had hit upon an idea I could photograph.
There
was a little hesitation at Boyds Mills initially about whether Fibonacci
numbers, which are typically taught in middle school, were appropriate in a
picture book for elementary school readers. However, the concept of patterns is
central to the early elementary curriculum, including “growing patterns,”
which, after I read the term in a math curriculum document, became my title.

*The photographs are striking. What challenges did you face in providing the images for this title?*

One
of the constraints I set for myself when I started writing nonfiction for kids
was that I needed to be able to photograph my subjects locally. I had three
small boys at the time and no time or money for traveling. All the flower
images were taken in my neighborhood – some in my backyard. The hardest to get
was the nautilus shell but my aunt who is a stained glass artist in South
Carolina knew of a source for good shells and she sent one to me by post.

The
biggest challenge in making the images was figuring out how to create a visual
narrative. Each image is essentially a straight-on photograph of a natural
object: flower, pinecone, pineapple, shell. In contrast to the images for
Wolfsnail, which were macro shots of a snail hunting for food, these Growing
Patterns images did not show action. I solved this problem by using a page
design that showed the same “growing” progression as the Fibonacci numbers have
in the pattern. On the first page, there is one tiny photograph of a single
sprouting seed. Subsequent pages show proportionately larger images with
flowers that have the number of petals equal to Fibonacci numbers.

*How can teachers use this book in their classroom?*

My
favorite way for teachers to use the book in their classrooms is a
multi-disciplinary project called The Fibonacci Folding Book. The teacher uses

**Growing Patterns**to introduce Fibonacci numbers and then the students make, write, illustrate, and share their own nature-themed books. An online video tutorial, including all the steps, connections to national standards, and student examples, is available in the FOR TEACHERS section of my website. More examples are available on my blog.
Teachers
can also ask students to suggest two starting numbers other than 1 to create
their own growing pattern. I sometimes do this with students during school
visits. We use personal white boards to do the addition required to find each
subsequent number in the sequence.

I
see that your recent title

**Mysterious Patterns: Finding Fractals in Nature**covers another great STEM theme. What is the story behind that book?

**Mysterious Patterns**came about because smart librarians suggested it. They had

**Growing Patterns**in their collections and thought fractals needed a book, too.

When
I began the research and saw the equation for the Mandelbrot set, a fairly
famous fractal, I nearly gave up. It looks like this:

My
publisher was also (understandably) nervous about whether it was right for the
elementary market. More research led to my decision to use a compare/contrast
structure to write the book. Fractals at their most basic are shapes. They are
different from the geometric shapes (cones, cylinders and spheres) students
learn in elementary school, but the fact that kids learn about these shapes in
early grades meant to me that they could be introduced to fractals, a totally
different kind of shape.

*What are you working on now?*

I am working on a book about infinty. Figuring out the
photographs for this one has been a huge challenge, but I’m in a good place
with them now. I can’t wait to share!

*Thank you, Sarah!*

*If you enjoy Sarah's book, take a peek at Joyce Sidman's SWIRL BY SWIRL: Spirals in Nature. It is the perfect companion title!*

This is fascinating. It makes me like math a little more! Bravo Sarah. Keep stretching young minds.

ReplyDeleteThanks, Leslie.

ReplyDelete