Review: Who Gives a Poop?

Who Gives a Poop cover

Who Gives a Poop?
Surprising Science from One End to the OtherWho Gives a Poop?

By: Heather L. Montgomery, Illustrator: Iris Gottlieb
Bloomsbury Children’s Books/October 13, 2020
Ages 10-14, 192 pages

Here’s what the publisher says:

This uniquely crafted narrative nonfiction invites readers to follow the author into science labs, forests, hospitals, and landfills, as the author asks:

Who uses poo?

Poop is disgusting, but it’s also packed with potential. One scientist spent months training a dog to track dung to better understand elephant birthing patterns. Another discovered that mastodon poop years ago is the reason we enjoy pumpkin pie today. And every week, some folks deliver their own poop to medical facilities, where it is swirled, separated, and shipped off to a hospital to be transplanted into another human. There’s even a train full of human poop sludge that’s stuck without a home in Alabama.

This irreverent and engaging book shows that poop isn’t just waste-and that dealing with it responsibly is our duty.

Here’s what reviewers have said:

⭐  “A well-stirred slurry of facts and fun for strong-stomached “poop sleuths.””  —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
⭐  “Feces have lots of great stories to tell… .” —BCCB (starred review)

And here are my thoughts:

OK, I have to confess: I had so much fun reading Who Gives a Poop?! Reading this book felt like I was walking through the woods on an exciting adventure with a trusted friend. The author’s voice is unfailingly authentic, and each chapter contains a ton of real science alongside genuine human emotion and just the right amount of humor. I think what I loved most about it, however, is how her passion for science and her reverence for curiosity comes through. She’s not afraid to ask questions, and she takes us along on her research trips to get those questions answered, as well as giving us an up-close view of her hands-on observations.

Even if you think you know all you need (or want) to know about poop, I guarantee you’ll take away loads of fascinating facts as well as many memorable stories about the scientists hunting for them. Readers of Who Gives a Poop? will thoroughly enjoy both the subject matter and the informal approach. One caution: I was peppering my family with random poop facts for days and days after reading this book. You’ve been warned! The footnotes and author’s note are lovely additions, as is the rest of the backmatter. Highly recommended for ages ten and up!

More about the book:

This fun video from the author, sharing the first chapter of Who Gives a Poop?, is not to be missed:

Click here for a fecal photo gallery from the author to go along with Who Gives a Poop?!

For more books by this author, visit https://heatherlmontgomery.com/.
Facts First! Nonfiction Monday

 

 

 

*** Disclosure: I received a digital preview copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. ***
 

Blog Tour: Growing Up Gorilla by Clare Hodgson Meeker

Growing Up Gorilla cover

Today I’m thrilled to be a part of the blog tour for Clare Hodgson Meeker’s new book, Growing Up Gorilla!

Growing Up Gorilla cover

GROWING UP GORILLA
by Clare Hodgson Meeker
Millbrook Press/September 3, 2019
Grades 3-6, 48 pages

Here’s what the publisher says about Growing Up Gorilla:

This heartwarming true story chronicles what happened after a mother gorilla gave birth for the first time and then walked away from her newborn baby at Seattle’s Woodland Park. The dedicated staff worked tirelessly to find innovative ways for mother and baby to build a relationship. The efforts were ultimately successful, as baby Yola bonded with her mother and the rest of the family group.

And here are my thoughts about Growing Up Gorilla:

This beautifully photo-illustrated nonfiction is both meticulously researched and lovingly told. Meeker does a fantastic job of bringing this true story to life in a very kid-friendly way, bringing us into the world of both the gorillas and their keepers in a way that keeps readers thoroughly absorbed at all times. There is something for everyone here, with plenty of drama and suspense as well as heart-tugging emotion and (spoiler alert!) a happy ending.
The book also contains a table of contents and extensive backmatter, including an author’s note, further reading/websites/videos, glossary, index, maps, primary source quotations/images, sidebars, and more.

AND, here’s my interview with the author of Growing Up Gorilla, Clare Hodgson Meeker!

LAT: Can you describe your writing process? Did Growing Up Gorilla require any particular changes to how your typical process?

CHM: Normally I don’t start writing a book until I’ve worked out the arc of the story from beginning to end and done enough research and interviewing to feel ready to tell the story with excitement and confidence. Preparing a proposal helps me organize my thoughts – outlining the story with chapter summaries helps me think in scenes and how I’m going to thread in the factual information I think is relevant. Once I have that, I can begin writing my first scene of the book and continue chronologically through the story. The only change in my writing process with Growing Up Gorilla was having to write a full draft before interviewing the gorilla keepers who were directly involved with helping Yola and her mother Nadiri bond. I was able to interview them once I had a publisher on board, which satisfied the Zoo’s requirements. However, the zoo staff did give me some access to the Keeper’s Daily Record book, which included their notes of what happened during the first few months after Yola’s birth, to help me write the first draft.

LAT: What do you find most challenging about writing for kids? About Growing Up Gorilla in particular?

CHM: I’ve taught writing in the schools to children for many years. When we talk about plot and what makes a story interesting, kids agree that there needs to be a problem that has to be solved and a main character they can relate to who wants something and/or has to solve the story problem. In writing a book about a baby gorilla whose mother initially refused to care for her after her birth, my challenge was to get children to relate to these characters and care about their problems. Children’s books should be action-oriented and avoid too much description or flashback. I had to choose carefully the places where I slowed down the action to describe a scene in more detail – like the night Nadiri went into labor where I wanted to show the close relationship between Nadiri and the infant care specialist who had hand-raised her at birth after Nadiri’s mother rejected her. I don’t believe in writing down to a certain grade level or limiting word choice to a grade-appropriate list. I think about presenting the story in the most natural way I can as though I am telling it to the reader sitting next to me.

LAT: What authors and or books do you most admire, and why? Did you have any specific mentor texts that you looked at for Growing Up Gorilla?

CHM: Katherine Applegate’s middle-grade novel The One and Only Ivan and her picture book Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla are fantastic examples of a gorilla character and story that children can relate to and empathize with, in both a fictional version and in a more condensed nonfiction format.
CHM: I am also a big fan of Sy Montgomery, who has written many of the Scientists in the Field series books published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Her voice is so distinctive as she takes you on an adventure shadowing biologists and naturalists who are studying animals in the wild around the world and weaving in fascinating facts about them.

LAT: Outside of the writing itself, what kinds of things do you do that you feel help your writing career?

CHM: I am a life-long learner. I love taking classes in different writing genres, from poetry and picture books to essay and novel writing. Hugo House in Seattle is a wonderful place to take classes, get inspired, and meet others in the writing and reading community. I also enjoy writing conferences where I can get tips on writing and the business of writing listening to editors and talking with fellow children’s book authors.

LAT: What advice would you give to someone who is interested in writing nonfiction for kids?

CHM: Children’s nonfiction is a very popular genre today, especially STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math). My advice is to choose a topic that you are excited about and willing to immerse yourself in, so that you can feel confident writing a story that kids and publishers will love. Think of creative ways to present your book idea, like Laurie Ann Thompson did in her Two Truths and a Lie series. It also helps to include themes that reflect the current elementary science or humanities curriculum standards so a publisher can market your book to schools and libraries.

LAT: Wow, thanks so much for that shout out, Clare! And thanks so much for including me in the blog tour for Growing Up Gorilla and for taking the time to do this interview for us.

Please check out the rest of the Growing Up Gorilla blog tour stops on the schedule below!

blog tour schedule

Review: Votes for Women!

Facts First! Nonfiction Monday

Votes for Women! cover
Votes for Women! American Suffragists and the Battle for the Ballot
by Winifred Conkling
Algonquin Young Readers, February 13, 2018

Grades 8-12, 320 pages

Here’s what the publisher says about Votes for Women!:

For nearly 150 years, American women did not have the right to vote. On August 18, 1920, they won that right, when the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified at last. To achieve that victory, some of the fiercest, most passionate women in history marched, protested, and sometimes even broke the law—for more than eight decades.
From Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who founded the suffrage movement at the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention, to Sojourner Truth and her famous “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech, to Alice Paul, arrested and force-fed in prison, this is the story of the American women’s suffrage movement and the private lives that fueled its leaders’ dedication. Votes for Women! explores suffragists’ often powerful, sometimes difficult relationship with the intersecting temperance and abolition campaigns, and includes an unflinching look at some of the uglier moments in women’s fight for the vote.
By turns illuminating, harrowing, and empowering, Votes for Women! paints a vibrant picture of the women whose tireless battle still inspires political, human rights, and social justice activism.

And what the critics say about Votes for Women!:

  • “This is a fascinating account of the bumpy road to women’s suffrage in the U.S. . . . Well-chosen black-and-white archival reproductions and photographs ably support the text, which makes excellent use of primary sources, including excerpts from letters and writings to bring key personalities to life.” —The Horn Book Magazine (starred review)
  • “From the first Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls in 1848 to the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920, this is a commanding and relevant account of sweeping, hard-won social reform and action.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
  • “Spanning multiple centuries, this work may be the most comprehensive account for young readers about the founders, leaders, organizers, and opponents of the American suffragist movement . . . Conkling delivers a tour de force.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
  • “Looking for a comprehensive, well-written history of women’s fight for the right to vote? You’ve found it. Conkling draws readers in  . . . this is great for research as well as a good read.” —Booklist
  • “The intense drama of the 72-year battle for women’s suffrage springs vividly to life from the pages of this compulsively readable account.” —School Library Journal

And here are my thoughts about Votes for Women!:

I listened to this one as an audiobook as part of judging the CYBILS contest. I also plan to check out the print version so I can see the images and backmatter.
From the opening scene to the final chapter, I was completely drawn in. I thought I knew a fair bit about the history of the women’s suffrage movement, but it turns out I had only superficial knowledge of the people and events involved. I’m grateful to have been enlightened, although I’ll admit the experience wasn’t always easy nor pleasant. There were times when the injustices and insults endured by the women made me sputter with outrage. And there were other times when I was, literally, reduced to tears by the way they were treated. But mostly I was grateful for the courage and persistence of these heroic female leaders and buoyed by it. Conkling has brought these icons to life and given us a peek inside their daily lives in addition to their well-known accomplishments. I found it thoroughly engaging.
This book should be required reading in schools for both girls and boys. It offers important lessons not only in history but also in equality and fairness, grit and determination, group dynamics and social interactions, and power and process. It also feels quite timely in this era of resistance, activism, and #MeToo. Highly recommended.
Facts First! Nonfiction Monday

Review: EAVESDROPPING ON ELEPHANTS

Zoo Scientists cover

Eavesdropping on Elephants cover

EAVESDROPPING ON ELEPHANTS
by Patricia Newman
Millbrook Press/August 1, 2018
Grades 4-8, 56 pages

Here’s what the publisher says:

Can understanding how forest elephants communicate help scientists find ways to protect this vulnerable species? Researcher Katy Pane and others involved with Cornell University’s Elephant Listening Project believe it can. Patricia Newman takes readers behind the scenes to see how scientists are making new discoveries about elephant communication and using what they learn to help these majestic animals.
Features: Author/Illustrator biography, Bibliography/further reading, Glossary, Index, Maps, Page Plus, Primary source quotations/images, and Reviewed

And what the critics say:

  • A Junior Library Guild Selection
  • “An inviting introduction to biologists at work.” —Booklist
  • “…this book does an excellent job of transporting readers and providing a clear, multifaceted picture of African forest elephants…“The more you listen to wildlife, the more your mind opens up to new ideas about why the world is a place worth saving.” VERDICT A great pick for middle school nonfiction collections.” —School Library Journal
  • “Fascinating for earnest conservationists.” —Kirkus Reviews

And here are my thoughts:
Patricia Newman does it again, with another engaging piece of narrative nonfiction! This is a highly engaging read about the less well-known African forest elephants and several of the scientists who study them. The science here–bioacoustics–is quite interesting and the human stories give it a personal touch. I always appreciate when we get to see how scientists really work, and it’s especially rewarding to get a peek at how they collaborate with one another on their separate-but-related research projects. The book also mentions some of the conservation aspects involved and even how kids can participate if they’re so inspired. An added bonus is that most of the scientists in the book happen to be women, which is so important for showing young girls that they can indeed have an important career in the sciences.
Finally, watch the trailer to see–and hear–some of the animals from the book!

Facts First! Nonfiction Monday

2018 CYBILS Round 1 judge

2018 Cybils Round 1 Judge logo
2018 CYBILS, here I come! I’m excited to share that I’ll be a CYBILS judge again this year. The CYBILS Awards recognize authors and illustrators whose books for children and young adults combine both literary merit and popular appeal. In the past, I’ve always helped with judging the younger nonfiction category (Nonfiction Picture Books in 2011 and 2012, and Elementary/Middle Grade Nonfiction in 2014). This time around, however, I’ll be a Round 1 Judge in the Junior/Senior High Nonfiction category, along with the following talented bloggers:

Nominations will open on October 1st, and our shortlists will be due in December. There are usually around 70 entries, so I’ll be doing a LOT of reading in the coming months. (And hopefully a lot of blogging, too–get ready for those reviews!) Finalists will be announced in January, and winners are announced in February.
2018 Cybils logo
 

Interview with Patricia Newman and Annie Crawley

#ProtectOurWorld challenge poster

Last week I posted a review of ZOO SCIENTISTS TO THE RESCUE here. Today I’m honored to follow up on that post with an interview with both of the book’s creators, author Patricia Newman and photographer Annie Crawley, as part of their blog tour. Enjoy, and be sure to check out the rest of the stop in the blog tour, too!  (See below for a complete list.)
LAT: How did you first become interested in doing a book about zoo scientists in general, and about these three in particular?
Patricia headshotPatricia: When my niece was in fifth grade, she told me about a persuasive essay her teacher assigned. The topic was zoos—are they good or bad? Only the teacher didn’t provide a balanced look—most of the literature she shared with the kids was anti-zoo. As the mother of a zookeeper, I knew my niece—and kids like her—needed the other side of the story. That experience planted the seeds for Zoo Scientists to the Rescue.
Patricia: During my initial research, I learned that zoos tackle conservation using three basic approaches: visitor education; captive breeding and reintroduction programs; and in situ study, or studying wildlife in their native habitats. I searched for several months, conducting brief phone interviews with people at various zoos to find the best match. Not all zoos are large enough to have research departments, and the largest zoos often charge an hourly fee to interview their scientists. Some even charge hefty licensing fees to write about their “intellectual property.” But finally, the pieces slid into place only slightly denting my bank account. I found three charismatic species (orangutans, black-footed ferrets, and black rhinos) and three scientists willing to speak to me who address the three main ways zoos promote conservation. And this was all before I’d written a word!
Annie headshotAnnie: I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. Lincoln Park Zoo connected me with nature on a very deep level. It is open 365 days a year and it is free, so for a Mom with four kids that was important. All summer long we would go to the zoo in the morning and North Avenue Beach in the afternoon. We would get to know the animals. In 5th grade I learned that all of our Great Apes needed protecting. I signed up for a special Behind the Scenes program for students. This program had us working with the scientists, keepers, and access to so many wildlife leaders. Zoos had a great impact on my life and the way I choose to live my life. When Patti approached me to work with her on Zoo Scientists to the Rescue, I was all in. It is vital for kids/teens to connect with nature and conservation and I believe Zoo Scientists to the Rescue will inspire many families to protect our world.
LAT: I so agree. As a zoo lover myself, it was really heartening to read such a thorough, well-researched (and gorgeous!) look at the good work that zoos are doing. Besides me, what kind of reader do you think ZOO SCIENTISTS will appeal to?
Patricia: I write for the kid who asks questions about animals and our world; the kid who wants to protect wildlife; the future scientist; the future writer with a passion for the environment; or the voracious reader. But way at the back of my mind, I write the kinds of books I would have liked to read as a kid.
Annie: Similar to Plastic Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, this book is targeted to 3-8 grade students. I have had pre-sale copies and shared it with many… and young and old truly love this book. Every time I read it, I am even more inspired into action. It will appeal to nature lovers, zoo enthusiasts, scientific minds, and anyone who wants to learn more about our world. More important, I think anyone who reads Zoo Scientists to the Rescue will want to help our world!
LAT: I think it’s hard to read this book (or Plastic Ahoy!) and not come away with an enhanced passion for science, the environment, and doing what we can to help. What was your favorite part of making ZOO SCIENTISTS?
Patricia: I love to get to know the scientists. They always inspire and amaze me, and I hope they will inspire young readers to follow in their footsteps. I keep in touch with the scientists I interview to find out where science takes them and how their research grows and develops.
Annie: Getting kissed by Maku, a black rhino!
Annie: My favorite part of making this book was traveling together with Patricia and being able to be a part of all of the interviews so that I knew the kinds of images (both photo and video) that would be important to tell the story. My favorite trip was of course traveling to Chicago and to document black rhinos and Dr. Rachel Santymire at the Lincoln Park Zoo. Currently I live in Seattle, so to be able to create a book featuring a scientist from a zoo that helped shape who I am, and one where I spent hundreds and hundreds of hours of my youth was very exciting. We got a tour of the back area of the rhino exhibit and then worked with Maku’s keeper in the exhibit so that I could get some great photos. It’s the shoot we did that the cover of the book came from. During the shoot, the keeper would work with him and feed him snacks. She let me give him one and the next thing I knew Maku kissed my hand.
LAT: That is so cool! It sounds like it really was a treat for both of you to work on this project. What was the hardest part of the making ZOO SCIENTISTS, and how did you deal with that?
Patricia: For me, the hardest part was lining up the three zoos. After the zoos, the animals, and the scientists fell into the place, the rest of the book was a breeze in comparison!
Annie: Time is the hardest part of making any book. Shooting with Jeff Baughman at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo was very challenging photographically on many levels. We were given permission to shoot at the breeding facility, but there were many points to consider. Their main goal is to breed black-footed ferrets to reintroduce into the wild. BFFs are nocturnal, solitary animals that do not do well with stress. They also need dim lighting. So not knowing any of this in advance, I had to work very efficiently in low light to capture these charismatic animals.
LAT: I can certainly understand the difficulty of the research and logistics to line up the three zoos and their projects, Patricia, and I’m so glad it worked out. But I can’t even imagine how you came up with such great photos in that kind of environment, Annie. Hats off to both of you! During your research, did anything surprise you, catch you off guard, or make you change your planned course for making ZOO SCIENTISTS?
Patricia: I didn’t come across any surprises that made me change course, but I’m always surprised by the coolness of the science and how scientists solve problems. The story of black-footed ferrets being saved from the brink of extinction, not once but twice, is truly astonishing!
Annie: We feature Meredith Bastian from Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park. We were able to interview her while Patricia and I were in Washington, D.C., accepting a Green Earth Book Award for Plastic Ahoy! We had a very limited time with the scientist and only were granted permission the day before we arrived. In our allotted one hour, we interviewed her, but had no time to photograph her with the orangutans nor did we have access on a level that we were given at the other zoos with the animals. It was also a very cloudy/rainy day so the orangutans were not very cooperative! Because I knew we needed to get orangutan images for the book from other zoos, I started hanging out at my local zoo in Seattle, the Woodland Park Zoo, to capture images. In addition, I was traveling to Australia and made a point to go to the Melbourne Zoo. Their orangutan exhibit is phenomenal and really helps educate people on how farming palm oil can be so destructive to our environment.
LAT: I was astonished by the story of the BFFs, too. And, as a Seattleite myself, I love visiting the orangutans at the Woodland Park Zoo. How neat to know that they are pictured in ZOO SCIENTISTS! I’m always curious about other writers’ and illustrators’ (including photographers’!) research processes. Can you tell us about yours? Did you plot the basic outline first, then fill in the blanks with research? Or did you immerse yourself in the research first, then feel your way into the structure? I see you did a lot of email and phone interviews—did you have to go back and forth to complete the stories? Were there any fun facts that got cut that you were sad to see go?
Patricia: When I write for Millbrook Press, I have to submit a formal proposal which provides a basic overview of the idea, describes the chapters, and gives the acquisition committee an idea of where this book would fit in the market. In order to complete the proposal, I conduct short informational interviews with the scientists by phone. During these interviews, I try to find out the broad strokes of their story and whether they are willing to commit the necessary time to lengthy in-person interviews, clarification questions, and vetting the final manuscript. Once I have a scientist’s buy-in, I can craft the proposal and hopefully give my editor some idea what my narrative thread might be.
Patricia: When the acquisitions committee gave me the go-ahead on Zoo Scientists to the Rescue, Annie and I made three trips to the three different zoos to interview the scientists and photograph/film them at work. We braved a spring blizzard, backed away from a charging rhino, and laughed when a chattering black-footed ferret told us exactly what he thought of our intrusion on his space!
Patricia: And as for cutting fun facts, never! I re-word and re-imagine before I cut anything fun. The writing was all about the fun. Why wouldn’t I share that with readers at every opportunity?
Annie: Patricia and I traveled together for all of the interviews. She shared with me many of the papers the scientists had written and we dug deep into who they were. Being able to document with photos and videos always takes research because the more you know about your subject, the more knowledge you can bring to your creative approach. Once the first draft was written, I knew I had to document many other animals. At this time, I became a zoo stalker with my camera. I spent weeks at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle getting to know the animals so that I could look for special moments. A photographer also has to wait for light for the subjects. Early morning and later afternoons in the fall gives you a golden light.
LAT: Oh, I love getting that insight into the process. What was your larger goal, i.e. what were you trying to give readers of ZOO SCIENTISTS as a takeaway?
Patricia: A Senegalese forestry engineer by the name of Baba Dioum presented a paper at a 1968 meeting of the IUCN. In his paper he said, “In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught.” When I write books like Zoo Scientists to the Rescue or Sea Otter Heroes or Plastic, Ahoy!, I want readers to come away with a newfound respect for our connection to the natural world. Our habits matter because they create ripples across the globe. So, whether we conserve energy to reduce climate change, learn to appreciate the role an apex predator plays in its ecosystem, reduce the amount of single-use plastic in our lives, or buy products that use sustainably-sourced palm oil, we choose to create positive ripples that help preserve the breathtaking abundance of biodiversity on our planet.
Annie: When photographing/filming I always want to document and help viewers see what a writer/script needs to tell a story. Zoo Scientists to the Rescue captures what people are doing to help save endangered species and their environments. I’m hoping that all of our readers feel inspired into action to help protect our world.
LAT: Well said, and I do think you succeeded. In addition to teaching something to our readers, I believe every book teaches us something new–about the world, about
ourselves, or about the craft of creating. What have you learned as a result of making ZOO SCIENTISTS?

Patricia: Every time I write a book about an aspect of the environment, I’m reminded that scientists find new connections all the time between humans and the plants and animals that share our planet. I guess that’s job security for me, but it’s also a wake-up call for young readers. Without a clean ocean will there be enough food to eat or oxygen to breathe? Without predators like black-footed ferrets or sea otters, how will their respective ecosystems thrive? And without large animals like orangutans and black rhinos, will the smaller animals also disappear? Despite what our current administration seems to think, humans are not “entitled” to use and abuse the world’s natural resources without giving back. We have to conserve for the future.
Annie: Zoos are really important places in our world for conservation, education, inspiration and so much more. If the habitat of the orangutan disappears because of our need for palm oil, the orangutans disappear. If black rhinos are killed to extinction because of poachers, then the human population has failed to protect the animals in need of our protection. There is so much destruction happening all around needing to be documented, shared, and reversed. I’ve learned we all need to raise our voices together and do everything possible to protect our world.
Annie: Climate change is real and our ocean is the great regulator of our planet. The weather affects all the regions of the world. People always look at our planet from a people point of view… and I have always looked out for the animals. We told the stories of these three animals and their environment through the lens of people helping them… while other people are trying to destroy the very same animals.
Annie: This is the second title Patricia and I co-created with editor Carol Hinz and entire Lerner Publishing design/marketing crew. It reinforced how much I truly appreciate the team effort to take a book from your imagination into one you can hold in your hands and share with others. It was Margaret Mead who said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” With this book, we are hoping to inspire people into action to protect our world!
LAT: Thank you for sharing those important lessons with us. What are you both working on next?
Patricia: Annie and I have are mulling over a few possibilities for our next book, but you can bet we’ll come up with something. In the meantime, I have two books coming out in 2018: a picture book called Neema’s Reason to Smile (illustrated by the talented Mehrdokht Amini) which tells the story of a Kenyan girl who yearns to be more, and another middle-grade nonfiction science book called Eavesdropping on Elephants which follows scientists who study forest elephants simply by listening to them. I’m extremely excited about both of these titles because they held kids become global citizens in very different ways.
Annie: Although Zoo Scientists to the Rescue officially launches in October, we still have so much to do! We just finished our trailer and are hoping schools and organizations will welcome us to come inspire and speak. We are planning a 30-Day Challenge for everyone to do one thing every day that will help #ProtectOurWorld
Annie: My Uncle Al always said, “Annie, have your fingers in 12 different project ideas…” As I’m writing this, I am on my way to film whales in Tonga. Three days ago, I was in the San Juan Islands off the coast of Bellingham, WA, documenting the environmental disaster of the Cooke Salmon Farm net catastrophe which released 300,000 farmed Atlantic Salmon into the Puget Sound/Salish Sea. In June I was in the Arctic Circle. And I’m also laying the groundwork on a larger project I’d like to work on with Patricia.
LAT: These projects all sound so exciting! I’m looking forward to hearing more about them all when the time comes. Is there anything you wish I would’ve asked you but didn’t? 
Patricia and Annie: You were very thorough, Laurie, and asked us great questions! Thank you so much for participating in the blog tour. We are very grateful to you for wanting to write about us and share our story with your readers. Perhaps we can close with a statement:

We truly hope our story and reading the book Zoo Scientists to the Rescue will inspire others to act. The orangutans, black rhinos, and black-footed ferrets would not be with us today if it were not for people giving them a voice. Yet, they are endangered because of people. We all need to raise our voices together, take an action every day, and share with your friends, family, and colleagues what you are doing and why. We need to work together to #ProtectOurWorld.

LAT: I think that’s a great way to close. Thank you so much, Patricia and Annie, for answering my questions and for your dedication to bringing great books like ZOO SCIENTISTS into the world. I am sure YOUR actions will have many ripple effects around the world. 
Catch up and follow along with the rest of the blog tour here:

To download posters with information about the 30-day #ProtectOurWorld journal challenge, click here.

#ProtectOurWorld challenge poster #ProtectOurWorld challenge journal

Thanks for visiting!
Facts First! Nonfiction Monday

Review: ZOO SCIENTISTS TO THE RESCUE

Zoo Scientists cover

Zoo Scientists cover

ZOO SCIENTISTS TO THE RESCUE
by Patricia Newman, photographs by Annie Crawley
Millbrook Press/August 1, 2017
Grades 4-8, 64 pages

Here’s what the publisher says:

Zoos take care of animals and welcome visitors of all ages, but that’s not all zoos do. Author Patricia Newman and photographer Annie Crawley bring readers behind the scenes at three zoos to meet scientists working to save endangered animals.
Meredith Bastian’s experiences studying wild orangutans help educate both zoo visitors and the zoo workers who care for captive orangutans. Jeff Baughman breeds black-footed ferrets and reintroduces them into the wild. And Rachel Santymire examines poop from black rhinoceroses at the zoo and in their natural habitat to benefit all black rhinos. Find out how zoo scientists are helping us learn more about these remarkable, at-risk species before it’s too late!
Features: Author Biography, Bibliography, Full-Color Photographs, Further Reading, Glossary, Index, Maps, Primary Source Quotations, Websites

The professional reviewers liked it:

“Many kids are familiar with zoos, but there’s much more to these attractions than an opportunity to see animals up close. Newman shines a light on the important work zoo scientists do to aid conservation and contribute important research, both at zoo labs and in the wild. This engagingly written book focuses on three scientists and their work protecting and researching orangutans, black-footed ferrets, and black rhinoceroses, respectively. Each scientist describes his or her background, research in the wild, challenges to conservation efforts, and how zoo labs help them do their work. Photos of the scientists in the field, as well as their animal research subjects, enlivens the already fascinating material. Newman clearly describes the conditions that led to each species becoming endangered and encourages readers to think carefully about their own actions in light of threats to wildlife. Though the book appears slim, the content is fairly dense, so this will likely appeal more to middle-grade readers. Hand this to kids who can’t get enough of the Scientists in the Field series.” —Booklist

“In this incredibly informative book, readers learn about three zoo scientists who are working to save three species (orangutans, black-footed ferrets, and wild black rhinos) using a variety of methods, from conservation education to breeding programs. Newman also includes ideas on how students can contribute to conservation efforts, such as reducing palm oil usage. Various zoos and organizations that focus on conservation are also mentioned; for example, biobanks, where scientists freeze the sperm and eggs of various species in order to protect it from a catastrophic loss. The photographs show the animals as well as the scientists and effectively enhance the information presented. Several charts, including one comparing apes and monkeys, add a deeper level of understanding. Maps of the original and current habitats of the creatures are helpful in visualizing how the earth has changed over the years. A great book for research or for students interested in conservation. School Library Journal

And here are my thoughts:
I really enjoyed this book. As the Booklist review above says, the book is quite slim, so I was not expecting to learn as much as I did once I cracked the cover! On the one hand, I didn’t want to put the book down, because I was so engrossed in the stories and information. On the other, it was nicely broken up into the three separate stories following three separate scientists and their efforts to help three specific species, so it was easy to pick up where I’d left off when I was forced to walk away for a bit. The science is fascinating, the human stories are compelling, and the gorgeous photography brings it all to life right before your eyes. I’ve been ambivalent about zoos my whole life. I love animals, so I love being able to see them… but I also want them to live as happily and naturally as possible. This book helped me see a different side of zoos that I have heard about but never really had a chance to explore in much detail or depth, the conservation aspect. I admire the scientists profiled in this book and the work that they’re doing, and I am grateful to Patricia Newman and Annie Crawley for sharing their stories with us.
Finally, watch the trailer to see some of the people and animals from the book!

Eureka! Nonfiction Honor Award for Emmanuel's Dream

EMMANUEL'S DREAM cover

EMMANUEL'S DREAM cover
I’m thrilled to announce that Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah has been selected to receive a 2015 Eureka! Honor Book Award from the California Reading Association.
The California Reading Association has established this award to celebrate and honor nonfiction children’s books. The Eureka! Nonfiction Children’s Book Award will assist teachers, librarians, and parents in identifying outstanding nonfiction books for their students and children.
And, it means a shiny new sticker for the cover! 🙂
Eureka Honor AwardEmmanuel’s Dream is in some excellent company, too! Click here for the full list of winners. I guarantee you find some great nonfiction for kids (which means it’s great for adults, too!).

Review: THE SCRAPS BOOK by Lois Ehlert

THE SCRAPS BOOK cover

THE SCRAPS BOOK cover
THE SCRAPS BOOK: NOTES FROM A COLORFUL LIFE
written and illustrated by Lois Ehlert
published by Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster, March 2014
72 pages

There have been several picture-book autobiographies of children’s book authors and illustrators over the past few years. Sadly, most have left me feeling just a little underwhelmed. While I personally enjoyed them, I felt like they were aimed more at their long-time adult fans than at contemporary child readers. While I, as an adult, was able to appreciate the rich context and interesting personal histories, I wondered if children would be able to relate to the stories and find directly relevant meaning within the pages. So, although I myself am a fan of Lois Ehlert, I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical when I picked up THE SCRAPS BOOK. Boy was I in for a delightful surprise!
Despite the high page count, there is nothing in this book that feels the least bit self-indulgent. Every page seems lovingly designed to encourage and instruct young artists. (And aren’t we all artists when we’re young? Perhaps with this book, more of us will remain so.) Throughout, Ehlert generously shares her inspirations, her processes, her notes and journals, even her messes and mistakes, giving readers insights into her books as well as her life as an artist.THE SCRAPS BOOK excerpt
I think this is truly a book people of all ages can enjoy, and the world is definitely a better place for having THE SCRAPS BOOK in it.
Facts First! Nonfiction Monday

(Disclaimer: Review copy was checked out from my local library.)

2014 Washington Library Media Association (WLMA) Conference

I had a wonderful time presenting with Mary Cronk Farrell at the 2014 WLMA Conference last Saturday! The title of our talk was “Fostering 21st Century Learning with Today’s Nonfiction,” and we delivered it to a room overflowing with teacher/librarians (aren’t t/l’s the best!?) who were looking for new ideas and book recommendations.

Mary sharing BRAVE GIRL
Mary sharing BRAVE GIRL

Our presentation discussed how much of the nonfiction being published now is so much more than “just” its subject. There are innovative formats, emotionally-charged stories, cross-discipline explorations, etc. A just-the-facts approach simply won’t be published these days, as kids have easy access to information in a variety of formats AND are faced with so many options competing for their attention. This makes nonfiction a particularly compelling choice for students in and out of the classroom or library setting.
Mary presentingMary and I took turns sharing some of our favorite recent nonfiction titles–including Mary’s PURE GRIT and my BE A CHANGEMAKER and EMMANUEL’S DREAM– and how we felt they could be used in the library or classroom to achieve multiple learning goals simultaneously, including covering core curriculum subjects, social-emotional learning, problem solving and critical thinking, creativity and innovation, information and media literacy, and technology skills. We got the librarians talking to us and to each other, and we even had them try out some exercises they might use with their students. (Let me tell you, those librarians can write, too!)
Since several attendees asked for our slides, here is the deck we used in our talk, and, since we ran out of handouts due to the overwhelming attendance, here is the handout that we passed out with the list of books referenced.
Speaker goodie cup
Speaker goodie cup!
Thanks so much for having us, WLMA! Thanks so much for the book love and dedication you put into your work each and every day, teacher/librarians! And, thanks, Mary, for being such a great co-presenter and making everything easy!

My dog, Prim
My dog, Prim, catching up on some lap time
Of course, no matter how much fun I have speaking at conferences like this, it’s always good to be home again.

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