Darcy Pattison and Kitty Harvill have teamed up again, and I couldn’t be happier with the result. You might remember when I reviewed their previous collaboration, WISDOM, THE MIDWAY ALBATROSS, here.
Unlike Wisdom, the main character in ABAYOMI, THE BRAZILIAN PUMA, is a mammal, a feline, not a bird. Unlike Wisdom, Abayomi lives in South America, in Brazil, not on an island in the North Pacific Ocean. Unlike Wisdom, Abayomi is a baby, an orphan, not a wise, old mother. Yet their stories have much in common.
LT: Hi, Darcy! I’m so excited to have you visit. Can you tell me how you first become interested in writing about Wisdom?
DP: I have been interested in writing more nature/science related books, so a couple times a month, I read the Fish and Wildlife Service blog at http://www.fws.gov/news/blog/, just trolling for topics. After the earthquake and tsunami last year, I saw information on the oldest wild bird in the world, who survived the tsunami and had to learn more.
LT: Although you’re traditionally published many times over, this book is published by your own independent publishing company. Congratulations on what must have been a huge effort to pull everything together! Can you talk about your decision to go that route with this book?
DP: I created the Mims House publisher to address timely stories like that of Wisdom. Traditional publishers work on a very long lead time, often taking two or three or four years to bring a picture book to the marketplace. With print-on-demand technology, I can do it much quicker. For marketing, I can shout very loud online, ‘Read all about it.’ Traditional publishers will always hold the lion’s share of the marketplace, but there’s also room for niche publishers, supported by new technologies.
LT: Can you tell us about Kitty Harvill’s illustration process? How did she capture Wisdom in her art?
DP: The Fish and Wildlife service makes photos available as public domain material at http://digitalmedia.fws.gov/, so it was very easy to find images for Kitty to use as photo references as she did her watercolors.
LT: I think every book teaches us something new, about the world, about ourselves, or about the craft of writing. What have you learned as a result of writing this book? What surprised you the most during the process?
DP: I was totally surprised that birds could still be laying eggs at the age of 61. But Wisdom just laid a new egg in December, 2011.
LT: Are there any tips you would like to share with aspiring children’s book writers, especially those writing nonfiction for kids?
DP: Talk to the source. When I realized I wanted to write about Wisdom, I went directly to the biologist who lives and works on Midway Atoll, Pete Leary. He was invaluable in giving me information and vetting the manuscript. The other tip is to dig deeper. This story is exciting partly because of Wisdom’s longevity. I did a timeline of her life and times to understand what she has lived through. If I had only told the story of the tsunami, it wouldn’t have been as powerful as the story of over 60 years of survival.
LT: I’ve always said that I will know I’ve made it when I receive one letter from one child saying that something I wrote made a positive difference in his or her life. How do you define success? Do you feel
like you’ve achieved it? If not, what’s left on your to-do list?
DP: I have loved every part of Wisdom’s story and chronicling it for children. I take it one project at a time, and if I can say that I did the best job possible, then I am happy. On my to-do list? Finding more equally stirring tales about nature.
LT: What are you working on now?
DP: My new book, DESERT BATHS (Sylvan Dell) comes out in August 2012. It’s a story about how desert animals take a bath–lots of fun!
LT: What would you most like people to know about you?
DP: I love to write.
LT: And it shows! It’s always inspiring and helpful to get a “peak behind the curtain” of the writers I admire. Thanks again, Darcy!
And, if you’d like to read an interview with the illustrator of WISDOM, Kitty Harvill, please click on over to this post at Archimedes Notebook.
Wisdom, the Midway Albatross
by Darcy Pattison (illustrated by Kitty Harvill)
Mim’s House, February 1, 2012
Reading level: 840L (grades 3-5)
How does a bird in the middle of the Pacific Ocean survive the 2011 Japanese tsunami and other dangers for over 60 years? No one really knows, but we do know for sure that Wisdom–the oldest known wild bird in the world–has.
This book introduces young readers to a single very special member of a largely unfamiliar species, the Laysan Albatross. Through this riveting survival story we not only grow to care about Wisdom herself, we also learn about the life cycle, habitat, and behavior of her kind. We see the many dangers they face, both natural and man-made. We learn how scientists are carefully studying them. And we cheer for the particularly resilient gooney bird who is eventually dubbed Wisdom.
Pattison does a great job of incorporating rhythm and repetition to make this an excellent choice for young readers and read alouds, and Harvill’s art is both beautiful and detailed, adding to the story and bringing Wisdom to life on every page. Children will be quickly swept up in the drama and suspense of Wisdom’s trials and will keep reading (or listening) to find out what happens to her next. Then, they’ll sigh with relief at the happy ending when Wisdom–somehow–still survives.
The book also includes acknowledgements, a Facts About Wisdom section, The Oldest Bird in the World timeline, a Typical Year for a Laysan Albatross timeline, a further reading list, and sections about both the author and illustrator. In addition, there’s a blog with lots of videos, pictures, and additional resources for students and teachers.
Yes, after reading this, I just had to become Facebook friends with Wisdom herself. Click here if you want to be, too!
Make sure to check out the other stops on Wisdom’s blog tour:
- Sue Heavenrich at Archimedes Notebook today,
- my author interview with Darcy Pattison here on 3/6/2012,
- Diane R. Chen Kelly at Practically Paradise on 3/9/2012, and
- Shirley Duke at Simply Science on 3/14/2012.
To check out the rest of today’s roundup of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics books for kids, head on over to this week’s STEM Friday host, NC Teacher Stuff!
(Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. I received no monetary compensation. All opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone.)