Monday, April 22, 2024

Earth Day 2024

  As a naturalist, environmental educator, and journalist, I can't avoid celebrating Earth Day's purpose and mission. I appreciate the stories on national media that acknowledge the beauty of nature and the need to protect our planet. However, I also feel a bit overwhelmed by it all. I wonder if my fellow environmental journalists and activists share this experience. 

I watched a video of a young Italian activist crying this morning. I get it. I feel like crying often, too. Immersing ourselves in the fate of our planet, watching species go extinct, experiencing the disinterest in people around us, and bearing witness to it all is overwhelming. 

So how do we move forward? I counter my research and writing on issues that often frighten me with stories of hope and success. I turn to celebrating the small victories, which I believe are the seeds of change. I'll admit, on Earth Day I also turn off media, go outside and let nature do its thing. I listen to the bird song when I wake up and breathe in the world around me. I spend time watching spring unfold, a small victory in itself. 

How will you celebrate Earth Day today?

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Galapagos Books and News

      Visiting the Galapagos Islands to research Back from the Brink was one of my favorite research trips. When I was a budding naturalist in college I became focused on herpetology - all things reptile and amphibian. As an adult I became a trained turtle rehabilitator, so visiting and learning about the tortoises on the islands was on my bucket list. And so, I've also kept up on the islands long after my visit. I'm happy to share that the Galapagos Conservancy announced improvements to Isabela's giant tortoise breeding center. Read about it here

Here are additional books focused on the islands for adults and kids to enjoy:

Friday, November 10, 2023

Good News and Bad News ---For Wolves

There was good news and bad news recently for our country's gray wolf population, as you see below. While the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reinstated federal protections for gray wolves, the agency only restored those protections in 45 states. Wolves in the Northern Rockies are still at risk. 

     I wrote about the ping-ponging of federal protections for wolves in BACK FROM THE BRINK. That ping pong game is still in play. Your efforts are needed to stop the game and protect one of our most essential species. As I wrote in THE WOLVES AND MOOSE OF ISLE ROYALE, wolves are essential to their ecosystems. We need predators to help our entire environment thrive. 
     We are lucky to have an Endangered Species Act in our country that helps to recover threatened wildlife, but it is crucial that we protect and support that legislation. 

For more about wolves go to the NY Wolf Conservation Center online. You can make a difference. Howl for wolves! 

Sunday, November 5, 2023

Let's Read About Farming!

 It was a pleasure to be asked to present two of my books about farming - THE FARM THAT FEEDS US and THE WORLD THAT FEEDS US - along with two wonderful picture book authors, Mia Wenjen and Maria Gianferrari yesterday at Newtonville Books in Newton, MA. 

It's always fun to see how different authors treat the same topic -- in this case agriculture. Since the books all hit on different aspects of farming and are presented differently they pair well together. 

Maria's THANK A FARMER is illustrated by Monica Mikai and celebrates the people and the work that put food on our tables.  

Mia's FOOD FOR THE FUTURE, illustrated by Robert Sae-Heng, offers readers a rhyming look at different ways food is farmed around the world.  

Ginnie Hsu beautifully illustrated both of my books that center on how farmers are keeping us and our planet healthy with sustainable farming methods.  

For an older look at sustainable agriculture and state of our crops, take a look at my award-winning young adult book THE STORY OF SEEDS. It's now in paperback! 

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Buildings That Breathe Honored!

 I am honored to have BUILDINGS THAT BREATHE recognized by the California Reading Association this week. 

I researched this book in Italy in 2018 at the World Forum on Urban Forestry in Italy and in Milan. My research continued in the United States as I visited pocket parks, roof gardens, and more. Urban greening can help keep our planet healthy. Trees and plants help mitigate our climate emergency and also help reduce pollution. Read how botanists, architects, urban planners, and citizens are greening our cities. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Ada Lovelace - It's Her Day, After All.

 There can never be too many holidays for women in STEM!!!  This week featured Ada Lovelace Day. 

Ada's contributions changed technology forever.

There are many books about good ol' Ada -- I even wrote one of them.  So, let's celebrate her marvelous mind this week and all the other women who use their big brains to bring us big things! 

Ending this post with my fave bookstore event pic ever - I was in Colorado autographing my Ada Lovelace book when this wonderful, young Ada showed up! Hurrah for young STEM readers! 

Monday, October 2, 2023

Is your school mascot a wolf?

 If it is, I've written two award-winning books that I'd love to chat with you about! 

BACK FROM THE BRINK received a Silver Honor from the California Reading Association and a Sigurd F. Olsen Best Nature Book Award Honorable Mention, among other honors. Each chapter focuses on a species that we were able to save from extinction. This hopeful message demonstrates how we can all make a difference. 

Spending time in one of America's least visited national parks was an adventure I'll never forget. This book, THE WOLVES AND MOOSE OF ISLE ROYALE, tells the amazing story of how two species are crucial to the survival of an island ecosystem. It's received a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection honor. Wolves matter! 

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Welcome, Anita Sanchez!

What do you know about seaweed? Anita Sanchez has written a new book that describes how seaweed can even help mitigate climate change. Intrigued? You should be! 




I’ve known Anita since I was an intern at the Five Rivers Environmental Education Center and she was my supervisor. Since then we’ve been swapping manuscripts. I was fortunate to see early pages of The Forests In The Sea. It was such a treat to see the finished book this week at the library, complete with some terrific photos. 




Welcome, Anita! Tell us about the inspiration for this latest middle grade book, THE FOREST IN THE SEA, a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection. 


As I was researching a book on climate change, I was getting a bit depressed by some of the scary climate change info. But when I began to focus on solutions, I was intrigued to realize how many of them involved seaweed. Seaweed is usually thought of as this slimy stuff that just lies there on a beach, but it’s one of the oldest life forms on the planet. It can capture carbon, create oxygen, and change the chemistry of water. It’s an incredibly efficient filter to remove pollution from our oceans. And, of course, you can eat it!




I was fascinated to learn about seaweed-eating cows in the UK. How did you uncover these stories? Tell us about the research process. 


Sometimes it’s just luck. I was researching seaweed as an important basis of the food chain for countless marine animals, and I happened to google “what animals eat seaweed?” I was thinking of fish or seabirds, but I was surprised to see cows pop up. There were many websites with information on seaweed-eating cows, sheep, and pigs. 


At first I thought it would just be a funny sidebar—apparently there’s a population of sheep in Scotland where the sheep have learned to swim to their favorite seaweed snack spots. But it turns out that by adding certain types of seaweed to livestock feed, you can lower methane emissions by 90 percent. There are more than a billion of cows on our planet, and it’s a not-so-funny fact that cow burps give off a huge amount of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. 






Did you face any challenges along the way? 


It’s always a challenge to write about plants (well, algae, really) instead of animals. Kids usually love cute furry animals, but cold slimy seaweed is a harder sell. I tried to add action and adventure to the book by writing about a time I went snorkeling among waving fronds of rockweed in the North Atlantic (cold!) Also writing about seaweed farmers and Native Americans using seaweed to filter wetlands gave the book a human touch.





Students have often encountered seaweed on beaches all over our coastlines. Please tell teachers how they can use this book in the classroom. 


Students reading the book will discover there’s a wide range of animals that use seaweed for habitat—food and/or shelter. Drawing a food web of all the organisms that depend on seaweed will show that seaweed (including phytoplankton, bits of green that float around the open sea) is the basis of all marine food chains.


Also, the book can be used to spark a discussion of climate change—not to focus on the doom and gloom aspects, but to focus instead on solutions. Each chapter reveals a way seaweed can help with our planet’s problems. One of my favorites is the group of Shinnecock women who started a seaweed farm to clean polluted water in Long Island sound where their ancestors lived.




Thanks for chatting with me, Anita. As I know, this is just one of your recent STEM titles. Please share your other title and tell us what is next for you. Can you give us a hint? 


I’ve recently been lucky enough to have several books released. One is Hello, Puddle!, a picture book look at a little-noticed habitat for wildlife—mud puddles. Another is The Monkey Trial, which is about the teacher who was arrested and put on trial for teaching evolution on a Tennessee classroom in 1925. In this era of banned books and censored curricula, it’s sadly all too timely.


Currently I’m working on Scat: The Incredible Science of Wildlife Poop. Like Forest in the Sea, it focuses on a weird, somewhat icky part of nature that turns out to have amazing solutions for climate change and other environmental problems. Scat can give scientists a wealth of information about endangered species of wildlife, disperse seeds, fertilize plankton, regenerate soil after wildfires, and much more. My favorite story is about a team of Mexican scientists who reseeded a burned-out forest by luring fruit bats to poop out a “seed rain” of tree seeds. 

And I’ve enjoyed working with photographers around the world to seek out images of wildlife—my favorite is of a slightly embarrassed warthog caught in the act of pooping.


More about Anita: 

Anita Sanchez’s award-winning books sing the praises of unloved plants and animals, and of the unusual, often ignored wild places of the world: dandelions, poison ivy, seaweed, mud puddles, glaciers. Years of field work and teaching outdoor classes have given her firsthand experience introducing students to the wonders of nature. Her many science books for young readers include The Forest in the Sea: Seaweed Solutions to Planetary Problems (Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection) from Holiday House. Recently released: The Monkey Trial: John Scopes and the Battle over Teaching Evolution from Clarion Books.
























National Apple Month Reading List

 It's apple season again! I think it is one of the top reasons to love fall. Here are some books, both old and new, to add for your National Apple Month reading list. Take a bite out of them before the month is out! 

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Empathy for All!

When I researched BEASTLY BRAINS I was astonished by so many facts I uncovered, but one of the most fascinating was the discovery of empathy in rats. Emotional empathy is when a species is able to experience the emotional feelings of another. It is a form of emotional intelligence.
There aren't many animals outside of the primate world that exhibit empathy. The rat I included in BEASTLY BRAINS freed another rat from captivitiy and shared food with it. Pretty amazing, right? As you know empathy is a very important trait in humans. That makes the article I read this morning even more surprising. Can you imagine crocodiles exhibiting empathy? CBS News shared on a report from Journal of Threatened Taxa that involved a situation in India when a dog fled to safety in a river after being chased by a pack of animals.
The river was inhabited by marsh crocodiles known as muggers. Rather than munch the dog for lunch, two muggers led the dog to a safe spot away from the chasing pack. According to the scientists, "the curious case of a dog 'rescued' by the group of crocodiles reported here seems more on lines of empathy than altruistic behavior." Clearly, animal cognition continues to be a much needed study.
Photo Credit: Chavan, U.M & M.R. Borkar (2023)

Earth Day 2024

  As a naturalist, environmental educator, and journalist, I can't avoid celebrating Earth Day's purpose and mission. I appreciate t...