This morning I read about a pitcher plant that eats baby salamanders. Yum. I read about ancient whales with floppy feet, a newly discovered extinct species of humans in the Philippines (they were tiny), and technology for detecting ruined cities under the jungles of Mexico (they were huge).
Oh, the possibilities for tales to be told!
Eighteen months ago I left a high-level job in the architectural field to write books for kids. I had no roadmap, only a vague hope of using storytelling to engage kids with the wonders of our world. More than anything I longed to dive into favorite topics from childhood—science, nature, history, and myth.
Let loose the nonfiction geek, yearning to be free! I read and watched and read some more, absorbing the work of David Attenborough, John MacPhee, Sy Montgomery, Stephen Jay Gould, PBS Eons, and many more. I studied the picture books of Melissa Stewart, Steve Jenkins, Joyce Sidman, Miranda Paul, and other fabulous creators of nonfiction stories for kids. I hiked, traveled, and talked out loud to pelicans on the beach, giant sloth fossils in museums, and the puppy at my feet (more on him later).
Questions came into focus—and then ideas for books. I enlisted help from my brother, National Geographic writer and editor (thank you, Jamie!). More questions. More reading. Emails to experts who replied with complex explanations to be translated into kid-friendly prose. Storyboards. Sketches. Dinner burning on the stove.
And wonder of wonders—on the cusp of this New Year, I find myself with three nonfiction books in the pipeline. Out of the Blue will be the first to publication; it tells the deep-time story of how animals made their way from ocean to land (forthcoming from Candlewick Press, March 2021; illustrations by Frann Preston-Gannon). The Upside-Down Book of Sloths and Fast Feet, Big Brains: The Story of Human Origins will follow (both from Norton Young Readers, a new imprint of W.W. Norton & Company).
As these books take shape, I look forward to sharing news along with links to other writers, thinkers, and creators. Meanwhile here’s a giant thank you to Ammi-Joan Paquette, agent extraordinaire, and to my wonderful husband, kids, and writing friends.
Peace and love to all in 2020.