Posts Tagged animals

STEM Tuesday — Ecosystem Recovery– Book List

Ecosystem recovery and restoration is a fascinating topic and these books offer glimpses of what it takes to tackle such an endeavor. Pick a habitat and dive in, you won’t be disappointed!

 

Rise of the Lioness: Restoring a Habitat and Its Pride on the Liuwa Plain by Bradley Hague

The story of Lady, the last lioness, is where the book begins. It’s a heartbreaking tale of how an ecosystem can decline in a short period of time. With great information about the Liuwa plain ecosystem, Hague delivers an excellent discussion of its successes and failures; particularly referring to the lost pride of lions. Additionally, he follows with an examination of the recovery program implemented for the plains. With an instructive glossary of terms; Rise of the Lioness is a great tool for those interested in ecosystem management and the challenges involved.

 

The Brilliant Deep: Rebuilding the World’s Coral Reefs by Kate Messner and Matthew Forsythe

Although this book has spare text, it focuses straight away on the scientific method using Ken Nedimyer’s research as its muse. Ken’s interest in the ocean and the changing coral reefs began a movement resulting in reef restoration around the globe. His queries and testing allow readers to understand the process involved in research. His story is a great example of how one person can create something wonderful, Messner and Forsythe did a wonderful job of bringing it to life.

 

Planet Ocean: Why We All Need A Healthy Ocean by Patricia Newman and Annie Crawley.

Planet Ocean is a fabulous journey in understanding the role oceans play in our lives. Newman and Crawley circumnavigate the globe as they observe and discuss changes that are occurring in today’s oceans and what that means for us. QR codes are included, they lead to videos that help explain the concepts discussed. Additionally, the book highlights people of all ages interested in saving the oceans – including students. There is a glossary of terms and a bibliography for those interested in learning more about the subject to round out the material. Visually stunning, this book is a must-read for ocean enthusiasts. 

 

Bringing Back the Wolves: How a Predator Restored an Ecosystem by Jude Isabella and Kim Smith.

This is a beautiful book on an incredible story of transformation, and of the delicate balance in nature. In the 1800s, the American government paid hunters to hunt down wolves that were a danger to the cattle ranches near Yellowstone National Park. It resulted in wolves being completely removed from the ecosystem, leading to an overpopulation of elk, which caused devastation in nearly every part of the ecosystem. In the 1990s, wolves were introduced into the park again, and it revived the balance of nature. Filled with beautiful art and informative sidebars, this is a very accessible book for both the casual and the serious reader.

 

A World Without Fish book

World Without Fish by  Mark Kurlansky (Author), Frank Stockton (Illustrator)

Kurlansky does a superb job of connecting all the dots—biology, economics, evolution, politics, climate, history, culture, food, and nutrition—in a way that kids can really understand. It describes how the fish we most commonly eat, including tuna, salmon, cod, swordfish—even anchovies— could disappear within fifty years, and the domino effect it would have: the oceans teeming with jellyfish and turning pinkish orange from algal blooms, the seabirds disappearing, then reptiles, then mammals. It describes the back-and-forth dynamic of fishermen, who are the original environmentalists, and scientists, who not that long ago considered fish an endless resource. It explains why fish farming is not the answer—and why sustainable fishing is, and how to help return the oceans to their natural ecological balance.

 

Wangari Maathai book

Environmental Activist Wangari Maathai (STEM Trailblazer Bios) by Jennifer Swanson

 

Swanson does a great job of highlighting an amazing STEM trailblazer who helped to rebuild an ecosystem. When Maathai was young, it was unusual for girls in Kenya to go to school, but she was determined to learn more about science and nature. As an adult, she noticed that people were cutting down too many trees. Maathai knew that forest loss was bad for the health of the environment and people. She started the Green Belt Movement, which educated women in rural villages and paid them for every tree they planted. The program helped plant millions of trees and brought money to the villages. For her environmental and human rights work, Maathai became the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Puffin Plan boo

 

The Puffin Plan: Restoring Seabirds to Egg Rock and Beyond 
by Derrick Z. Jackson (Author), Stephen W. Kress PhD (Author)
 
Fifty years ago, a young ornithologist named Steve Kress fell in love with puffin. After learning that hunting had eradicated their colonies on small, rocky islands off the coast of Maine, he resolved to bring them back. So began a decades-long quest that involved collecting chicks in Canada, flying them to Maine, raising them in coffee-can nests, transporting them to their new island home, watching over them as they grew, and then waiting—for years—to see if they would come back. This is the story of how the Puffin Project reclaimed a piece of our rich biological heritage, and how it inspired other groups around the world to help other species re-root in their native lands.
 
 
 
 
Restoring the Great Barrier Reef by Rachel Hamby
 
This book examines the threats to the vibrant barrier reef off the Coast of Australia. The threats include climate change, overfishing, tourism and chemical runoff from farms. The book describes how the government, scientists and farmers are all working together to restore the reef. This book is one of four in the “Saving Earth’s Biomes” series. The others are: Protecting the Amazon Rainforest, Restoring the Great Lakes and Saving the Oceans from Plastic.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Susan Summers can be found exploring ecosystems near her, enjoying what nature has on offer. Visit her at her website: https://susan-inez-summers.weebly.com/

 

Shruthi Rao is at home among the trees. Her home on the web is https://shruthi-rao.com 

 

Digging Into Journey Beyond the Burrow

Hi Mixed-Up Filers! We dug into all kinds of nature topics with author Rina Heisel, author of the upcoming Journey Beyond the Burrow.

MUF: Welcome Rina. Thanks for joining us today. I’m really excited to be talking to you about this book.

Rina Heisel: Thanks. I’m excited to be here.

MUF: So, tell us about Journey Beyond the Burrow.

Rina Heisel: Journey Beyond the Burrow is an adventure story about a young mouse, Tobin. He’s the top weather scout in his burrow, and he’s an expert in the Rules of Rodentia. He’s very proud of this, and always follows the Rules, until a big storm introduces a new predator that scuttles off with Tobin’s new baby brother. The Rules say to never pursue a predator, but Tobin goes on a rescue mission, along with his best friend and his little sister.

MUF: Speaking of the new predator, they definitely freaked me out, but not as much as the part where Tobin winds up in a nest of snakes. I had to put the book down at that part. Snakes scare me.

Rina Heisel: I’ve actually heard that from a few reviewers. Some people go into Journey Beyond the Burrow expecting a cute animal story, and it is that. But it’s also got some pretty scary, intense parts. Those are some of my favorites because I always loved those types of books when I was a kid.

MUF: Speaking of books that you enjoyed as a child, can you tell us some of the books that influenced you?

Rina Heisel: I read a lot of animal fantasy: Charlotte’s Web, Watership Down, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. I liked horse books and animal rescue books, but I also loved ghost stories, especially books by Mary Downing Hahn, and the Choose Your Own Adventure books.

MUF: Oh! Those were so good. I saw on your website that you worked on nature shows for South Dakota Public Broadcasting, how did your time there influence Journey Beyond the Burrow?

Rina Heisel: The natural science shows were my favorite projects. I spent a lot of time in the Badlands getting prairie dog footage and observing them and their burrows. It got me thinking about the relationship between predator and prey.

MUF: So, you started with prairie dogs, why is the story about mice?

Rina Heisel: Mice are so expressive, and they have fingers. It’s so helpful in writing animals that an animal is able to hold something because it’s such a human quality.

Also, I had a pet mouse in college that I rescued from a tarantula cage. The owner tried to feed the mouse to the tarantula, but the spider was scared of this little baby mouse and just clung to the top of its cage. I had a very understanding roommate who let me take the mouse back to our room. We named it Lucky, and it lived on cafeteria food.

MUF: Oh! That’s awesome. So, are the Arakni in the story based on that tarantula then?

Huntsman Spider

“Hunstman Spider (Heteropoda sp.)” by GeeC is licensed with CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Rina Heisel: Arakni are based on tarantulas, yes, but also on Hunstman spiders, and A. Eximius spiders, which are spiders that live in colonies. I basically took the most terrifying traits of several spider species and combined them to make the Arakni, much to my agent’s chagrin. She had to go over all of the

different versions of the cover with spiders on them.

MUF: Wait! There’s a spider on the cover? I never noticed.

Rina Heisel: Yes! The mice that Paul Canavan drew are so expressive that they just pull you in, but there’s definitely a spider on the cover if you look for it.

MUF: Oh, I see it now. It’s kind of … menacing. So, tell us about the Rules of Rodentia. How did you come up with them?

Rina Heisel: The Rules come from nature and the relationships that animals have with each other. I got the idea from a biologist who talked about rabbits and the trails that they memorize. I thought about how all animals have these codes that they follow instinctively, and I wondered what that would look like written down.

MUF: Are there more rules that weren’t covered in the book?

Rina Heisel: There’s a little wiggle room in the numbering. So, there may be new rules, but there’s also a gray area. In life, it’s not just black and white. There’s this whole murky gray area.

MUF: That really feels like Tobin’s arc is finding that out. Rules of Rodentia would have made a pretty good title too.

Rina Heisel: It’s funny that you bring that up. Rules of Rodentia was my title, but my editor, Alice Jerman, wanted a title that would convey more of the story. So, my daughter and I brainstormed about 10 titles, and Journey Beyond the Burrow was one of my daughter’s suggestions.

MUF: Ha! That’s awesome. Can you tell us about your writing journey so far?

Rina Heisel: This story has been with me for about 15 years. The idea for the plot came to me in the Black Hills when we were interviewing a biologist about symbiotic relationships between animals, and I wondered “What would make a mouse and a snake team up?” I carried that little kernel of an idea around for a year or so. Then, the spiders came into play, and I wrote a summary. Then, I went to SCBWI classes and conferences to learn about writing for kids. It was around that time that my family moved to Florida, and I met my amazing writing group, The OWLS. I My first meeting with them I brought a 15 page first chapter of this animal fantasy that started out with Tobin just thinking about life. The OWLS were very patient with me, and I learned so much from them.

“Giant Batfish!” by montereydiver is licensed under CC BY 2.0

MUF: So, would that be your advice to new writers? Find a good group?

Rina Heisel: Yes, a supportive group is the biggest blessing, and SCBWI is a good resource. I learned so much by going to conferences, and going to conferences with my writing group was like imagination fuel.

MUF: Speaking of imagination fuel, what are you working on next?

Rina Heisel: I have an idea for a possible sequel to Journey Beyond the Burrow sketched out, but, right now, I’m working on an MG ghost story about siblings who visit a haunted hunting lodge in the North Woods.

MUF: Sounds spooky! Only a few more questions. What is something that readers would be surprised to find out about you?

Rina Heisel: Well, I love nature and being outside, but I’m scared of big fish. I went scuba diving with a friend near the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, and we saw a huge batfish. My poor diving partner, when we surfaced, said, “You kn

ow, for a small person, you have the most vice-like grip.” I was terrified!

MUF: That sounds like nightmare fuel. How can readers find you on social media?

Rina 

Heisel: I’m on Twitter: @rinaheisel. Instagram: rina.heisel and my Facebook page is Author Rina Heisel.

MUF: Thank you so much for talking with us today.

Journey Beyond the Burrow comes out July 13th, but one lucky winner will have a chance to win a sneak peek by entering our giveaway below.

 

Journey Beyond the Burrow Prize Pack
a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Most Perfect Interview with Author Tricia Springstubb

Author Tricia Springstubb

I’m very excited today to welcome author Tricia Springstubb to The Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors! We’re here to talk about her newest middle-grade novel The Most Perfect Thing in the Universe.

Before we get started, let’s take a look at the book.

Eleven-year-old Loah Londonderry is definitely a homebody. While her mother, a noted ornithologist, works to save the endangered birds of the shrinking Arctic tundra, Loah anxiously counts the days till her return home. But then, to Loah’s surprise and dismay, Dr. Londonderry decides to set off on a perilous solo quest to find the Loah bird, long believed extinct. Does her mother care more deeply about Loah the bird than Loah her daughter?

Things get worse yet when Loah’s elderly caretakers fall ill and she finds herself all alone except for her friend Ellis. Ellis has big problems of her own, but she believes in Loah. She’s certain Loah has strengths that are hidden yet wonderful, like the golden feather tucked away on her namesake bird’s wing. When Dr. Londonderry’s expedition goes terribly wrong, Loah needs to discover for herself whether she has the courage and heart to find help for her mother, lost at the top of the world. 

 

The Most Perfect Thing in the Universe is available for preorder now and releases June 1, 2021.

MH:  When and where did you get the idea for The Most Perfect Thing in the Universe?

TS:  A writer’s mind is a wild, unpredictable place. Ideas lurk about. You glimpse one from the corner of your eye but before you can catch it, it has slipped back into the shadows. Maybe you get another chance–this time it lingers long enough to walk beside you for a while before it disappears again, leaving you to puzzle out what to make of it…

…which is my devious way of saying, I don’t exactly know where I got the idea for Loah!  If I look at my files, I can see I first tried to write about her back in 2017. The files have names like Loah After Retreat and Loah After Mary Jane’s House(two of many places I worked on the book) and Loah Yet Again. I set out to write a historical novel, something I’d never done. I did research, which I loved, and began a story about a timid, turn of the century girl who lived in an ambiguous European country in a spooky house with her ancient caretakers. Her beloved older sister vanishes; an orphan seeks refuge. But my world-building was shaky–I kept making things up rather than sticking to established historical facts. After many tries and lots of frustration, I had to admit I lacked the discipline to stay within set bounds of time and place.

But by then I was too in love with Loah to let her go. She became a timid contemporary girl who lives in a spooky house with ancient caretakers. It’s her beloved mother who vanishes, her new friend Ellis who hides out with her. The birds came winging in on their own. Birds have flitted through so many of my books–a sparrow even gets its own little arc in Every Single Second–and here they settled in and became central to the story.

MH: Was there a time you thought you might give up on this book? What did you do to get through that?

TS: More than one time! I especially remember one gray January afternoon. I’d been working all morning, and had just introduced a brand new character, a snarky woman wearing a hat made of faux-giraffe-skin. What in the world was she doing there? I went for a long, desolate walk. Getting away from the desk helped me realize that I was writing loony scenes in an effort to distract readers (and myself!)  from the fact that I’d lost my story’s thread. I needed to think more deeply about who Loah was, what she needed and wanted. What was my story about, and what was it reallyabout? The woman in the giraffe hat got the axe (though who knows–she may yet turn up in a different story, where she actually belongs).

I do endless revisions for all my books, but usually one thing remains constant the–the setting, the situation, the conflict. For The Most Perfect Thing in the Universe, it was Loah. She may be my favorite of all the young heroes I’ve written.

MH: What do you like about writing for MG readers?

TS: Pretty much everything! Kids this age brim with curiosity. They love to laugh. They are vulnerable and brave and they will commit to a story like nobody’s business. Middle grade readers demand strong plots, but they’re also sophisticated enough to appreciate nuance. Their sense of justice and their hopes for the world make me want to be a better person as well as a better writer. Their eyes are so wide and their hearts so big!

MH: Was this your original title?

TS: Yes, except for all those working titles I mentioned when Loah’s story was a different book. The title was a gift that came to me during my research. It’s drawn from a quote from the nineteenth-century naturalist Thomas Wentworth Higginson, who wrote, “I think that, if required on pain of death to instantly name the most perfect thing in the universe, I should risk my fate on….”

Well, I am not going to give the rest away!

Wouldn’t filling in that blank be a fun classroom writing prompt?

MH: Tell us something fascinating you discovered while researching this book.

TS: Each year Arctic terns make a round trip migration of up to 25,000 miles, the longest recorded migration of any animal on the planet. Much of their route is over water–how do they do it without the GPS lady? Sadly, due to climate change, Arctic terns, like far too many species of animals and plants, face increasing challenges to their habitat and survival. Research made me even more aware than I’d been of Earth’s precious, fragile inter-connections. We can all help protect and preserve. The Audubon Society has wonderful suggestions for how we can become nature’s advocates, starting in our own neighborhoods.

MH: Now time for a Quick-Answer Finish-This-Sentence Round. Ready?

          TS: Sure!

MH: Recently, I’ve been very interested in learning about…

          TS:   … dogs, for my new novel.

MH: The best thing that happened to me yesterday was …

           TS:  … helping my neighbor get a vaccine appointment.

MH: I can’t help but laugh out loud when …. 

            TS: … my tiny granddaughter imitates Elsa.

MH: I’m looking forward to ….

           TS: … visiting schools and young readers for real.

MH: I really like the smell of …. 

           TS: … licorice.

MH: If I weren’t a writer, I might like to be a …

           TS: … person who delivers flowers.

Well, if Tricia Springstubb showed up on my doorstep with flowers, I would welcome her smiling face! But I am very, very happy she’s writing thoughtful, engaging, entertaining middle-grade fiction for all of us.  Thank you, Tricia!

Tell us about your favorite Tricia Springstubb book! Leave a comment below.