of Middle-Grade Authors

STEM Tuesday — Earth Day 50th Anniversary Celebration– Interview with Author Mary Kay Carson




I’m excited to turn the tables on Mary Kay Carson, who usually does these interviews and invite her to speak about her newest (really cool) book,

Wildlife Ranger Action Guide 


Be a Hero for Local Wildlife!

Birds, insects, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals live all around you – and you can help protect them! Use the field guide pages to learn about which species you’re likely to see in your area. Then turn your backyard into a sanctuary by creating an animal-friendly habitat where wild residents can find food, water, shelter, and places to nest and raise their young.



Here is a spread of the inside of this awesome book:













A lot of the books you’ve written are about space or weather, how did you come up with the idea to write Wildlife Ranger?

Providing habitat for local wildlife is a real passion of mine. My husband and I live in the city, but chose to buy the 100+ year-old home we did fifteen years ago because of the acres of urban green space that surround it. We’ve been able to watch all kinds of critters take up residence as invasive plants has been removed, native plants encouraged and cultivated, dead trees left standing, and lawn abandoned! And I want kids to feel similarly empowered. To know that they can help wildlife right in their own backyards by providing one or more of the Big Four—water, food, shelter, and nests. Kids love animals, and presentations about how scientists are helping endangered animals are some of my most requested during school visits. And while kids are drawn to the well-publicized plight of pandas, tigers, and penguins, there isn’t a whole lot a young person in Iowa can do to help those faraway animals apart from raising awareness or donating money from a bake sale. But helping the wild animals that live all around us? That’s something anyone of any age can do.

I do love to write about space and weather! But biology is actually my background. My degree was biology (systematics and ecology), I served in the fisheries program as a Peace Corps volunteer, and I have quite a few animal books under my belt—Emi and the Rhino Scientist, The Bat Scientists, Do Sharks Glow in the Dark?, etc. But I’d have to say that it was my years of experience writing for Audubon Adventures that most inspired me to propose the idea of Wildlife Ranger Action Guide. I knew there were lots of fun projects out there for kids to do that would truly help wildlife.
 Was it difficult to do the research on each animal? Can you share something unexpected or unusual you learned about some of the animals.

Our home is filled with field guides, so I can’t say the research was difficult. I am embarrassed by how much I learned along the way, however. After all, these are animals I’ve seen most of my life. But somehow I never realized that green darners migrate nor knew that cottontails can have six litters a year. SIX! I’m ready for native wildlife trivia night!

Was it fun to write in this style, ie. more expository than narrative?
I like expository writing when it really speaks directly to readers. I try to imagine myself speaking to a group of kids thirsty for facts—but also a bit fidgety—when writing expository text. Clarity, brevity, and friendliness are paramount. I’m not a big fan of rambling, stream-of-consciousness, expository text for young readers.


This book seems to just beg for readers to take with them outside. Is that how you hope that readers use it?
This book should be filthy! Covered in dirt and warped from damp grass, smudged with paint and sticky with glue from projects. Seriously! A pristine copy of Wildlife Ranger Action Guide is just sad.


Can you give your readers tips on how to record data on animals they see or how to make journal?

Choose a format that works for you. Some kids are more likely to use something they’ve invested time into or personalized, like a Wild Notes Notebook. (Download template pages here.) But there are also apps for recording observations for the smart-phone savvy, too. In these times of global climatic changes, tracking when flowers bloom  and birds migrate has never been more critical.

Is there anything else you would like readers to know about the book?

My photographer husband, Tom Uhlman, did the photos of all the step-by-step kid projects. (A good number of the animal photos in the Field Guide sections are his, too.) Kudos to him for all the kid-wrangling of neighborhood and friends’ children! It was a fun challenge to think so visually. Not only how do I write up projects and information in ways that interest readers, but how (and what!) to show so they can successfully make a Paw Printer or Coffee Tub Nest Box by looking at the photos and text. Those photo shoot days were long and messy! Also, that’s our beloved cat, Shamu, on page 38.

Thanks so much for sharing your book with us, Mary Kay! If you’re interested in winning an autographed copy, please comment below or give this post a shoutout on Twitter and tag @mixedUpFiles and @marykaycarson.
Author Jen SwansonScience ROCKS! And so do Jennifer Swanson’s books. She is the award-winning author of over 40 nonfiction books for kids. Jennifer Swanson’s love of science began when she started a science club in her garage at the age of 7. While no longer working from the garage, you can find Jennifer at her favorite place to explore the world around her. www.JenniferSwansonBooks.com Jennifer is also the creator and administrator of #STEMTuesday and #STEAMTeam2020
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  1. What an incredible way to engage the interest of children.
    This should be required reading for all parents, especially during this pandemic

  2. This book will definitely be a great read/guide for this summer and getting out into nature. Thanks for the chance to win a signed copy!

    • Congrats, Danielle!! You’re our winner!! You’ll be receiving an email later today. Thanks for leaving a comment.

  3. This book sounds great! I think it will be perfect for this summer to help kids focus on nature and appreciate what’s in their own backyard.

  4. I can’t wait until my kids are a little older and can explore with this book. It’s exactly what I needed as a kid and I know they’ll be just as inquisitive.

  5. Thanks for the awesome book!!



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