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Friday, July 6, 2018

5 Books that Feature Eagles

I had the most challenging time photographing bald eagles for BACK FROM THE BRINK: Saving Animals From Extinction. Everywhere I went I saw eagles  -- when I DIDN'T have my camera equipment. They seemed to be playing with me as they flew over my car time after time. Finally, I did observe and photograph them in Florida and New York State.

Every time I see them flying free overhead,  I am reminded of how close we came to losing this magnificent bird. If it wasn't for the Endangered Species Act we probably would have.

Here are five titles that feature our national bird and one of my final photos.











Friday, June 29, 2018

Environmental Issues - Past and Present

I wrote this in my journal while writing KEEPING OUR EARTH GREEN, August 26, 2007. It was one of the most difficult books to write because it highlighted every environmental issue we were facing at that time and what kids could do in response. I was delving deep into each issue every day. Some days were excruciating.  It led me to journal some of my thoughts.


As I sit hour after hour working on the E-Science book, I am overwhelmed with the environmental issues facing our planet. I haven't felt this overwhelmed since I was a teen. Each issue brings its own set of challenges and I try my best to write this book with a sprinkle of hope throughout each section. 

I do not want kids to pick this up and feel a sense of hopelessness. I want to move them to action - empower them to make a difference. 

In the back of my mind, I am repeatedly reminded of the ancient trees. They bring me constant inspiration and hope for the future. Why is it that in these last days of summer, in the midst of all that I have to do I cannot get my mind away from old trees? 

They constantly amaze me. I think of all they've seen, all who have seen them, and how many will see them for years to come, and I am amazed. 

Our lives, our random lives, are but a minute to them. Our overwhelming issues are just a hiccup in their lives.



It's ten years since that book was released and those issues are still with us. Who would have believed that we'd have even more?

Overwhelmed doesn't begin to describe how I feel about our environment these days.

But, I'm still writing. And I'm still trying to bring hope to my readers. And I still think of those trees -- their longevity, survival, and the challenges they face,  keeps me writing on.



Friday, June 8, 2018

World Ocean Day!


Happy World Ocean Day! 

Here are some titles to share with your budding oceanographers, including one of my early books that might be in your local library already - OCEANS: An Activity Guide for Ages 6-9! 




























Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Creative Science Thinking

I've been thinking a lot about how far science has advanced and changed. My college genetics textbook is in desperate need of a second volume to catch up on all of the latest discoveries.

As students often hear during school visits,  I had to make many revisions of LEAP INTO SPACE as new discoveries were being made during my writing and researching phase and, even into the the proof stage.

Science is always on the move and scientists consistently need to open up their minds to changing the way they look at things. Their curiosity leads the way and they repeatedly pose questions as new ideas evolve.

I've also been thinking about how important this type of thinking --- creative science thinking --- is for everyone, not just scientists. This science-thinking is not the same as the step-by-step procedural methodology used by scientists to work an experiment or test a theory, but combines creativity with critical thinking. It's the way scientists look at life and their overall work.

Whether it is discovering surprising ethnicity through a DNA test, or looking at politics through a different lens, creative science-thinking might be the solution. And teaching students to look at life with curiosity, questions, and an ability to shift viewpoint will not only help them in science, but in life. It will lead to innovative thinking and higher-order cognition.

Perhaps it will also lead to adults who are able to cope more easily with problems and life-changing experiences. This is more and more important in our ever-changing world.

Class debates should not only teach students how to defend their point of view, but also to respect and listen to someone else's point of view. Creative science thinkers might find that they are also open to changing their point of view after delving deeper into the topic.

Scientists do not work in a vacuum. They build on the ideas and work of others. They cannot proceed ahead without looking behind.

Hey, teacher friends - - does this make sense? Is this already being integrated in classes other than science? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

I think this type of thinking is even more important in this period of fake news and lying politicians. Critical thinking skills are crucial. What better way to approach the news and life then as a creative science-thinker?




Friday, May 25, 2018

The Terrifying Path To Publication And How It Ends


I've decided to post the keynote address I gave at the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators conference in Los Angeles. I made the decision to post this after reading another wonderful tweet about rejection from Jane Yolen, who I greatly admire. Her tweets inspired much of this talk. 

Presenting this in front of my SCBWI friends and colleagues was an important moment for me after winning the Crystal Kite Award for SNIFFER DOGS: How Dogs (and Their Noses) Save The World

I've added some of the slides so that you can see it in its entirety. I hope it moves you to think about why you write or gives you insight as to why I write. 



The Terrifying Path To Publication And How It Ends



Good morning!  I want to speak to you today about the terrifying path to publication and how it ends. 

Every time I am fortunate enough to speak to a group of kids   I share with them the way I catch my stories from bits of inspiration gathered from my childhood experiences and my present passions. 




I tell them how reading a story in a local magazine about dogs who were sniffing out the poop of moose in the Adirondacks inspired my book Sniffer Dogs: How Dogs and Their Noses Save The World.  




I talk to them about the dogs I met and photographed, and the adventures I had during my research. 




I tell them how similar my editor is to their teacher and how she helps me craft better sentences and a better story. 



And then, a little like magic, I show them the finished book. 




But I don’t share with them the rocky path that I and my fellow children’s book creators embark on, every time we sit at the keyboard, or the notebook, or the canvas -  the path that leads us to the edge of insecurity and back again. 

We children’s authors and illustrators are a brave lot. We have to strap on our big girl and  big boy pants every time we sit down to work and enter into a world of endless rejection. 

What are we told when we are starting out?  That we have to not only READ but paper our walls with rejection letters. Ugh. We boost each other up at SCBWI meetings after each one is received. “Oh, no worries,” we say, encouragingly , “you are on the right path. The editor or agent wrote a personal note or they asked to see other work. Keep going.” This is the path. We all go through it. 


And when we finally do get something accepted for publication, we still doubt our abilities at every turn. We hand in a completed manuscript or illustration and worry if the editor will like it, even after they have acquired it. We fret and try our best to create other things while we wait for their notes. 

We breath a sigh of relief when they arrive and then begin fretting about the next stage. Will my revision be good enough? 

I remember how comforting it was to hear that the wonderful Queen of Children’s Literature herself  - Jane Yolen - was still receiving rejection letters even after all her awards and published books. We are not alone. It happens to all of us.


Do I tell those beautiful little faces during my school visits that Sniffer Dogs actually came about after two rejections from the same editor? No. 

And every day, I read that I’m not alone in my insecurity and worry. There are many others. 

Matt De La Pena even said in his Newberry Keynote address 
“This job can be a lonely, lonely ride. And there are moments when it’s nearly impossible to maintain a belief in yourself. Ninety-nine percent of the time the words don’t seem quite good enough. Or the characters don’t seem quite real enough. Or, worst of all, you don’t feel quite talented enough.” 






Carrie Jones, author of many wonderfully received titles, including Captivate, wrote one day on Facebook: “In the writing world, they call these pages - first pass proofs.In the Carrie Jones world, I call them - terrifying but done and on their way back to the publisher.” #timestoppers #amwriting #bloomsbury





Well known nonfiction author Kelly Milner Halls wrote about an upcoming  title on Facebook, “I've been holding my breath, waiting to see how the reviews would be. Kirkus was very good to me. But now Booklist has been as well. I hope School Library Journal will review it, too. And most of all, I hope kids will like it. But I'm thinking maybe I did a good job. : )”  




Newberry author Linda Sue Park posted back in 2015 - “Yesterday, sent novel manuscript to editor. Today, feeling both lighter & heavier. 



Many SCBWI tribe members struggle to create while working other jobs.  Others wonder if they can make ends meet as full time creators. All the while meeting rejection and insecurity at every turn with the occasional cause for celebration. So, why do we continue? 

“A writer is a writer because even when there is no hope you keep writing anyway”….Junot Diaz 



Lin-Manuel Miranda, the genius behind the Broadway hit, Hamilton,  was quoted in an interview, ”It's the tiniest grain of sand of time that we're allowed on this earth. And what do we leave behind?”

That quote goes hand in hand with a favorite of mine from poet, Mary Oliver, “Tell me what it is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"  



That’s a question we all need to ask ourselves. 
George Orwell wrote that we write for four basic reasons: sheer egoism, Aesthetic enthusiasm, Historical impulse, and Political purpose. 

That might be so for many authors, but I disagree that these are the complete reasons we children’s writers and illustrators create. We create books for children and by doing so enter into a different mission and purpose.  

As children’s writers and illustrators we do so much.

We all have the power to make a difference in the world – by picking up a pen or a brush we can empower children to see the world differently. 

We can give them hope.  



We can show them how to be kind. 


We can make them comfortable



…and also uncomfortable. 


We can encourage them to follow their dreams 



We can help them act for change. 


We can enliven their curiosity. 


We can give them a voice.  


We can demonstrate perseverance and overcoming obstacles. 


We can even tickle out a smile in an otherwise difficult life. 



And sometimes we are privileged to catch a glimpse of our work out in the world and hear from our readers. 



Those readers are our future. They will become teachers, parents, thinkers, artists, leaders, doctors, engineers, chefs, and inventors. 



Those small moments, those hugs at the end of a presentation, those tiny voices telling you how much they loved your book, those moments can drown all that insecurity and all that worry. It makes it all worthwhile. 
It’s when we realize what a gift this struggle really is!  
And how noble a calling we all have! 

“Tell me what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” 



Thank you! 







Wednesday, May 23, 2018

World Turtle Day!

I have always loved turtles! In fact, I even trained to be a turtle rehabilitator. Have you wondered about the difference between turtles and tortoises? Well, both are reptiles that belong to the order Tesdunes, but they fall into different classification families. A major difference, and easy way to tell them apart, is that turtles live in or near the water and tortoises live on land.

I have swam with sea turtles and walked among giant tortoises, but you don't have to go far to enjoy these special creatures. I bet that you can find some turtles out sunning themselves on a rock in your local pond. Most common of these are painted turtles. They are easy to spot since they live across North America.

If you are itching to know more about turtles, check out these books.  And for a look at sea turtles and giant tortoises read my latest BACK FROM THE BRINK!