Interview: Zoo Scientists to the Rescue

ZOO SCIENTISTS cover

Last week Laurie Ann Thompson posted a review of ZOO SCIENTISTS TO THE RESCUE on her blog, here. Today she’s 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?

Read the rest of the interview here!

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Author interview with Sarah Albee

A few weeks ago, I reviewed POISON: DEADLY DEEDS, PERILOUS PROFESSIONS, AND MURDEROUS MEDICINES, by Sarah Albee. Today, I’m excited to host Sarah for an interview with the author! Read on to learn more about how she wrote this particular book and much, much more…


LAT: Welcome, Sarah, and thanks for agreeing to answer my questions!

LAT: You know how much I love your new book, POISON. The whole time I was reading it, though, I kept wondering… how did you first become interested in writing about poisons?

Sarah Albee author photoSA: I’ve been fascinated with poison ever since I was a young kid, from the first fairy tales that were read to me, to stories that I read myself as I got older. Snow White, Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie, Shakespeare—I wanted to know if those poisonings from literature were possible in real life, and if they were, I wanted to know what was going on at the molecular level of a person who’d been poisoned. The idea of writing a book about poison occurred to me a few years ago, as I was researching my book, Why’d They Wear That? Associating poison with fashion may sound odd, but my interest was piqued as I learned more about how arsenic became wildly popular in the 19 th century—it was everywhere—at every apothecary shop, in arsenical green fabric, in paint pigments, even in edible arsenic complexion wafers (!). The history of poison just seemed like a perfect way to link so many things that intrigue me—mysteries, detective stories, human passion, alchemy, art, politics, social history, and the history of medicine.

LAT: And that linking of so many different topics is one of the biggest reasons I enjoyed reading it so much! Besides geeky nonfiction authors, what kind of readers do you think this book will appeal to?

SA: I hope it will have what publishers call “crossover appeal,” which for me would be kids who think they prefer to read only fiction. I personally love knowing the “back story,” no matter what genre I’m reading. I find that I still ask myself: “Could that actually happen in real life?” I hope the book will appeal to science-oriented readers, history lovers, and to kids who love mysteries!

LAT: I think it will. Your passion for the subject comes through on every page. What was your favorite part of the book to research and/or write?

Read Sarah’s answer–and the rest of the interview–here!

PURE GRIT by Mary Cronk Farrell

(I hope no one will mind… I posted this on my own blog last Monday, but I wasn’t able to post it here until this week. Enjoy!)

Normally I read every book before I post about it, but–just this once–I was going to cheat. As much as I’ve been dying to read PURE GRIT by Mary Cronk Farrell, my to-do list is huge right now: writing new books, promoting BE A CHANGEMAKER, volunteer projects, critiques, family, pets, home… and let’s not forget, TAXES! To top it off, I’ve been sick way too much this winter. So, I sat down planning to just skim the book for the time being, write the post, and come back later when I had time to settle in, read it in more detail, and take it all in.

PURE GRIT book cover

PURE GRIT book cover

Several hours later, I was surprised to notice the time! I hadn’t checked Twitter or Facebook or even email all day, despite the “helpful” little alerts coming from my phone. I hadn’t even eaten lunch. Instead, I’d spent the better part of the day reading PURE GRIT, in detail, from cover to cover. I simply could. not. put. it. down. An engrossing blend of fact and storytelling, PURE GRIT tells the harrowing tale of U.S. Army and Navy nurses who endured first battle, then internment in the Philippines during WWII. Despite increasingly deplorable conditions, these female POWs continued to help others during their years in the prison camps. Amazingly, every single one of them eventually made it home alive.

I urge you all to devote an afternoon to reading this beautifully done book ASAP, but first, I’m delighted to introduce you to the author, Mary Cronk Farrell, who graciously agreed to answer a few questions for me.

Author Mary Cronk Farrell

PURE GRIT author, Mary Cronk Farrell

LT: Welcome, Mary! Wow, what a powerful book. I learned some valuable lessons and insights from reading it. Other than the facts involved, what did you learn from the process of writing this book?

Sorry, but if you want to read Mary’s answer to this and many other questions about writing PURE GRIT, you’ll have to read the rest on my blog!

Writing nonfiction that honors women in history: an interview with Tracey Fern

As I explore Women’s History Month with students, I want to help them think about how they can honor women in history. We talk about honoring women in their lives, because for young students the immediate it so important. But I’m also fascinated by the way authors investigate women whose stories we might not have heard yet.

Today, I’m thrilled to share an interview with Tracey Fern about her journey to learn about the life of Eleanor Prentiss and then writing Dare the Wind. My questions are in red; Tracey’s answers follow in black. To read the whole interview, head over to Great Kid Books today!

Mary Ann Scheuer: How did you first learn about Eleanor? What drew you to her story?

Tracey Fern: I first learned about Eleanor when I was browsing through my local bookstore and happened upon David Shaw’s book, Flying Cloud. I’m always on the lookout for strong female characters, and so I knew instantly that I wanted to write about Eleanor. Eleanor’s story also combined adventure and science, two elements that I’m also often drawn toward. Finally, I’m a Massachusetts gal who grew up with the ocean and the beach in my backyard, and I love that Eleanor grew up here, too!

MS: Did you travel at all to do your research? What was your research process like?

TF: I traveled to Marblehead, Massachusetts while writing Dare the Wind. Marblehead was Eleanor’s home town, and parts of the town still look much the way I imagine they looked when Eleanor walked its cobbled streets. I also visited the Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut and toured the USS Constitution in Boston harbor to get myself in a seafaring state of mind! My research process for this book was different from my usual research, because there are relatively few primary sources available. As a result, I relied more heavily on secondary sources than I typically do.

Dare the Wind interior

Head over to Great Kid Books today to read more about Tracey’s process researching and writing Dare the Wind.