So happy that Kirkus Reviews–known for its pickiness–gave What in the World? Numbers in Nature a thumbs up! Here’s what the reviewer said:
This more-than-a-counting-book introduces things recognizable in numbered sets.
The compact, rhyming narrative rhetorically asks readers to think about numbers in the world, beginning and ending with eyes on the sky: “What in the world comes one by one? / A nose. A mouth. The moon. / The sun.” Young listeners who comprehend the world through the ways it can be measured will find this gripping and consoling….The counting goes up through 10, looking at birds, insects, sea creatures, and deer in the seaside forest. “Three” invites discussion about the parts of bees—their bodies comprise head, thorax, and abdomen, but they also have wings and antennae. The word—sets—that has been implied all along appears near the end: “And what comes in sets too big to count?” Here…a starry sky bears the faint outlines of each numbered thing that has come before….Textured, visually rich, and gracefully simple, this is a fine blend of informative poetry and illustration.
And School Library Journal had good things to say as well: Day’s simple rhyming text encourages children to count natural phenomena. From one moon and sun to stars in “sets too big to count,” her examples give viewers opportunities to hone their skills. The large format encourages group participation. For the most part, the items to be counted are easily identified. Five arms on five sea stars and eight undulating octopus limbs are exceptionally clear….Cyrus’s thoughtfully composed illustrations will reward repeated viewings, because featured objects recur in several places. For example, the three bees hovering in the lower corner of the spread featuring two bluebirds appear prominently when the page is turned. Sharp-eyed viewers will be rewarded by such discoveries, including the appearance of many plants and animals traced in the night sky among the stars. —Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State University Library
I don’t think there’s anything more important than connecting the “new people” in the world with nature. After all, they are the future of this planet of ours! I’m always seeking new ways to do this, both through my books and in my life. So this is the first of a series of blog posts on this theme.
Many bemoan technology for taking away time that children could be spending outdoors. But sometimes it can help kids make those all-important connections.
For instance, one evening I was in charge of two girls, 2 and 4. We read It’s a Firefly Night by Dianne Ochiltree, a lovely picture book about a girl catching fireflies–and letting them go–with her father. Since we live where there are no fireflies, at least anymore, I wondered, How can I show them that fireflies are real creatures and what they look like when they flash?
Then I had a flash–and went to youtube. Searching on lightning bugs, I found a home video of a little girl catching fireflies in a jar while her dad filmed her on a summer evening. The girls were transported, mentally putting themselves in the midst of the action. And when Daddy came to claim them, they couldn’t wait to tell him all about fireflies.
Have you got a breakthrough moment when you’ve helped kids connect with nature to share? Please comment! I’d love to hear your stories.
Flamingo’s First Christmas inspired my fellow Southern Breeze SCBWI member Wendy Salter to make a gingerbread nativity scene featuring Flamingo. She entered it in a hotly contested cookie contest, and–lo and behold–took first place. Plus, she made lots of new friends for Flamingo. Way to go, Wendy!
She is working on a play based on Flamingo’s First Christmas to be performed at the middle school where she works in Metter, GA, next Christmas.
It’s official–Kurt Cyrus will be the illustrator of my picture book, What in the World? Sets in Nature, coming from Beach Lane Books in Fall 2015! He will use the same distinctive style he mastered in Tadpole Rex–a terrific read-aloud he wrote AND illustrated about a tadpole who finds his inner tyrannosaur. ROARRRR!
Come October 12, I’ll be presenting a workshop at the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ Southern Breeze chapter Writing for Kids conference in Birmingham, AL. In the workshop–“Avoiding Common Picture Book Pitfalls”–I’ll share my more than 10 years experience critiquing picture book manuscripts with beginning writers.
In connection with that, fellow Southern Breeze author Laurel Snyder (Bigger than a Breadbox and more) posted an interview with me on her blog here.
I am excited to now be represented by Tricia Lawrence, newest agent at the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. EMLA sells more picture books than almost any other agency. Plus, it fosters networking amongst all its authors and agents–sounds like a win for everyone. I look forward to a long and happy association with Tricia!
The Next Big Thing is a global blog tour, started in Australia, to showcase authors and illustrators and their current work. I was tagged by Nikole Brooks Bethea, the energetic author of G is for Grits: A Southern Alphabet.
After posting answers to the Q & A, I passed the blog on to children’s author extraordinaire David Schwartz and debut YA author Lisa Colozza Cocca (guest blog above).
What is the working title of your next book?
Way Down Below Deep will be published in Spring 2014. The illustrator will be David Sheldon, who also illustrated Into the Deep and Barnum Brown: Dinosaur Hunter.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
I have always loved the ocean. We moved near the beach when I was six, and my mom took us every day in the summer. I learned to swim and explore tide pools there. My favorite summer days were spent getting knocked around by big waves at Jones Beach. I never missed watching Jacques Cousteau’s program on TV.
I have managed to live near (and swim in) the ocean–whether Atlantic or Pacific–almost ever since. I go to aquariums whenever I have the chance; Monterey Bay is my favorite. I’ve been thrilled to be part of underwater life snorkeling in Hawaii. On cruises, I always look into the ocean and wonder what is right underneath me. I’ve long been amazed by how little we know about such a large part of our own Earth–it really is the final frontier. Once I read about deep sea discoveries that have turned what we thought we knew on its head, I had to write about it.
In what genre does your book fall?
It’s kind of a creative nonfiction hybrid. I’d call it a poetic nonfiction picture book.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Told through the eyes of a marine biologist’s daughter on an expedition, this book introduces a fantastical but true-to-lfe cast of deep ocean creatures in Seuss-like rhyme.
Since the main characters are deep ocean animals–including the giant squid, anglerfish, lanternfish, vampire squid, glowing sucker octopus, and siphonophore (a collection of organisms that together make the world’s longest creature–yes, bigger than a giant squid)–I think they’ll have to play themselves.
Who is publishing your book? Pelican Publishing Company
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
The research took months–reading books (children’s and adults’), visiting websites like Monterey Bay Aquarium’s, watching videos of deep sea life and explorations, and taking detailed notes. Once I had a mental map of the information and how I might organize it, the first draft almost wrote itself. I thought I would be writing prose, but it came to me in rhyme. That happens to me sometimes. Of course, there were months of revising, too.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Not many deep ocean book for children are written in rhyme! Other good informational books for early elementary readers are Steve Jenkins’ beautiful Down, Down, Down and Weird Sea Creatures (National Geographic Kids).
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
As a child, my favorite Dr. Seuss book was McElligott’s Pool. I loved the boy narrator’s logical assertion that the farmer’s pond might be connected to larger and larger bodies of water, which leads him to imagine the fantastic fishes that just might show up in that pond–if he persists in fishing there.
When I read about the amazing creatures that actually exist in the deep ocean that we’ve only recently been able to film, I wanted to share with children how truth is sometimes stranger than fiction.
What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
Readers will learn how deep ocean creatures that look like aliens live–and thrive–in extremely cold or hot habitats with no sun, little oxygen and crushing pressure. The beginning and ending emphasize the rate at which we’re discovering new species. With only 1.4 million known species on the rest of our planet today, the ocean depths may hold 10 to 30 million species that still need discovering!
Florida’s Amelia Island is beautiful in April, and folks really turn out for its annual book festival. This year, Elizabeth Kostova (The Swan Thieves) and Debbie Macomber are among the author/stars who will be on hand.
I will be visiting Yulee Primary on Friday, April 26, sharing A is for Alliguitar: Musical Alphabeasts as part of the Authors in Schools program. I’ll be on hand Saturday, April 27 from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. to meet people, talk about, and sell all my books. Come visit at the Atlantic Rec Center. I’ll also be reading at the Kids Fun Zone there at 11:30 – 11:45 a.m.