A project I had been working on this summer has finally come to fruition, and just in time for Christmas! The Adventures of Big Blue and the Capt’n, with Hari the Tiger, is a picture book I cowrote with Ben Young, a worldwide adventurer who has a deep desire to help educate people about the preservation of endangered species. He had an idea for two characters, both endangered animals: Big Blue, a blue whale, and the Capt’n, a green sea turtle. Their goal is to teach children about the endangered animals they meet as they travel the world. Ben asked for my help creating a story around Big Blue and the Capt’n, using some of his personal experiences. He’s been to Indonesia, where this story takes place. He’s also seen the animals and places mentioned in this book. In the end, I hope what we created helps make people more aware of the threats to some of the world’s most amazing and endangered animals.
And YES, there will also be plush toys of Big Blue and the Capt’n for sale.
Available at http://store.discovery.com
Okay, now in the process of wrapping up my Everything Predators book. It’s been grueling, as for every hour of writing I need to put in a few hours of research to back me up. At home, the family is getting annoyed that I’m continually watching documentaries on animals. Secret Lives of Predators, by National Geographic Channel, has been one of my faves. And there is a wall of research books preventing anyone but a mountain climber from getting to my desk.
At least things are to the point where I’m wrapping up and putting the final touches on the last chapter, chapter four, which includes fun stuff related to pop culture. And since I’m a big monster movie fan and reader of mythology, I’ve got a lot to work with.
Some movies/books/shows with larger than life predators (based on real life predators) that I mention
- Jaws—there are more deaths in one Jaws movie than there are shark-related deaths in a year.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest—the Kraken has been a popular monster in Greek and Scandinavian myths, most likely the results of people seeing giant squids, which are too shy to attack people.
- Rikki-Tikki-Tavi—As a child, I loved the cartoon adaptation of this Rudyard Kipling story about mongoose who saves a family from a cobra.
- Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner—another favorite from my childhood, but know that in real life, a road runner is never going to outrun a hungry coyote.
So while working on my Everything Predators book, I’ve come across some bizarre creatures that I wanted to share.
Goblin Sharks—these beasts live in the dark, depths of the ocean, so are rarely seen. They have jaws full of needle-like teeth that shoot forward (reminding me of the monsters in the Alien movies) to snatch prey.
Amazonian Giant Centipede—okay, anything with more than four legs can be kind of creepy. But when it has almost 100 legs and can be the size of your forearm, that is scary-creepy. And these centipedes can catch bats!
Mantis Shrimp—these little guys (most are only a few inches long) pack a punch powerful enough punch to crack the shells of snails and crabs.
Archerfish—an apt name, as they shoot water at bugs, hoping to knock them into the water, where they become fish food.
And those are just a few of the cool predators that I’m including in this book.
One of my big projects this month is book about predators. It’ll be my 6th book in National Geographic Kids Everything series, and I continue to be excited to write for them, especially since I was so enthralled with National Geographic Magazine growing up.
And while I’ve done a lot of book research about animals over my years, and written many books about different critters, it’s always fun when a project helps you learn new things, or at least look at the world differently.
That is very true of this project. It has stretched my understanding of what predators are. Mostly we think of animals like sharks and lions and wolves as predators. But when looking at what truly defines them: animals that get energy from eating other animals, the definition of a predator expands to goldfish, songbirds, hornets, toads, whales, moles, etc . . . There are thousands of animals, that eat other animals, that we don’t normally think of as predators because of our fascination with the apex predators.
What makes a predator?
- Predators kill and eat the animals they hunt.
- Typically, predators are larger than their prey, with exceptions for animals that hunt in groups, like a pack of wolves or an army of ants.
- Predators have heighten senses, like a hawk’s keen sight, or special features, like a chameleon’s long and sticky tongue, to help them catch prey.
TRIVIA: Blue whales are the world’s largest predator, eating tons of krill a day.
My fourth book in the National Geographic Kids Everything series is out this month. And like all my books, I’m proud of the work I did on this one. It took a lot of research to nail down some of the facts. But also, I have an ornithologist in the family. One of my uncles is a curator at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. So I feel like I need to know my stuff. I hope he feels I did these amazing predators justice.
Stubby, the Dog Soldier has been selected for the 2015 Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People reading list by the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) and the Children’s Book Council (CBC). The committee “looks for books that emphasize human relations, represent a diversity of groups and are sensitive to a broad range of cultural experiences, present an original theme or a fresh slant on a traditional topic are easily readable and of high literary quality, and have a pleasing format and, when appropriate, illustrations that enrich the text.”
A nice shout out to an extra special pooch!
The introduction presents some dinosaur “what if”s: What if dinosaurs had not become extinct? What was the world really like with dinosaurs roaming around? Dr. Paul Sereno, a paleontologist, helps to answer these questions through his research. In “Explorer’s Corner” sidebars throughout the book, Dr. Sereno provides extra information from his worldwide expeditions. The four chapters cover everything from “dinosaurs rule” to “fun with dinos.” Colored illustrations and sidebars complement the text. Young readers will learn how dinosaurs first evolved as well as how they became extinct. An “Afterword” explores why we are still interested in dinosaurs. An interactive glossary tests the reader’s knowledge with four definition options for each term. Correct answers are provided at the bottom of the page. A “Find Out More” section provides “Dino Documentaries,” “Dino-riffic Reads,” a list of related websites, and information about places to visit to learn more about these creatures. An index allows easy navigation through the text. This book is part of the “National Geographic Kids ‘Everything’” series, which covers an extensive number of topics for young readers. This book would be an excellent addition to supplement the science curriculum and will open the world of dinosaurs for young readers.
As a bit of a history buff and a dog lover (just ask my spoiled pooch Ty), I jumped at the chance to write a picture book about Stubby, a dog who truly shows how heroic and loyal are canine friends can be.
This book was released earlier this summer and features some fantastic art by Oliver Hurst.
Summary: A stray dog named Stubby braves the World War I battlefields alongside Private J. Robert Conroy. See the story unfold as this brave little canine makes a big difference in the lives of many World War I soldiers.