I am very lucky to have the opportunity to chat with multi-award winner author Kelly Milner Halls! This interview came about at a perfect time. We are less than two weeks away from Halloween and chatting with Kelly about her just-released book “Death Eaters. Meet Nature’s Scavengers.” What an occasion to connect a holiday kids enjoy with fascinating science about the real death eaters of nature.
Kelly writes about the ‘wonders of weird,’ real and unproven (yet). She is the author of over 50 books and numerous articles, and her work is well known for being carefully and thoroughly researched and presents the most current information in a way kids love.
“Death Eaters” has already caught the eye or librarians and reviewers:
Junior Library Guild Selection
Cybil Award Nominee
So, are you ready for a treat (no trick, despite being close to Halloween)? Kelly tells us about nature’s team in charge of recycling all biological matter on the planet. I knew some of this fascinating creatures, but others took me by surprise.
MUF: Why did you write this book about death eaters?
KMH: When I was a kid, I found a dead kitten in my tree house. It broke my heart, but I knew my father would help me bury it. After we laid it to rest, I was afraid of what was happening to its little body. Then I was curious. I felt bad for being curious, and confessed it to my father. He explained to me what happened to bodies in the earth. As sad as I was, I felt better knowing the kitten at least had a purpose in death–to feed other creatures that helped keep balance in the world. So I decided to explore that topic with young readers.
MUF: What death eaters did you include in your book?
KMH: I tried to include a good cross section of animals from the extensive realm of death eaters. I covered some (but not all) bacteria, insects, small mammals, large mammals, birds and sea creatures.
MUF: Do you have a favorite death eater?
KMH: I was astonished to discover pill bugs are death eaters. I knew they ate metals from soil, including iron from blood spilled. But I didn’t know they’d actually eat tiny bits of flesh too. It was fun to make a discovery that was so new to entomologists.
MUF: What are you most excited about this book?
KMH: I’m pleased that Millbrook was bold in their photo selections. Not all kids will love this book, I recognize that. But those that do will appreciate the pictures that don’t shy from telling this story. Gore wasn’t essential. Truth was.
MUF: How can teachers use this book in the classroom?
KMH: Teachers can use this book to encourage respect for all animals, even maggots and flies. We all have a purpose in the circle of life, and once we understand that, it is much easier to spread the love. I’m all about love, so that pleases me. I also love that death eaters are the ultimate recyclers. Recycling is so important to saving the world. I hope kids will step up to do their part and are grateful it doesn’t include eating carrion.
MUF: How long have you been interested in the Wonders of Weird, as you have named your website?
KMH: I was a weird kid and I am a weird older lady. I have always been fascinated by the strange, surprising, and odd…the weird. So my books often reflect that mindset. I also love helping kids understand that being weird is being unique. It’s also pretty fun. If I can help them learn to love themselves and others, I’ll have helped make the world a kinder place.
MUF: Let’s talk about Halloween. If you were a little girl today, what would your Halloween costume be?
KMH: My favorite costume as a kid was Robin (as in Batman and Robin). But today I’d probably like to be Pikachu.
MUF: What is your favorite part of working on a book?
KMH:I love research more than anything else. Second would be sharing what I’ve discovered with kids at school visits.
MUF: What’s your advice to young readers who love weird stuff?
KMH: Don’t be embarrassed by your unique point of view. Each of us has a purpose in this life, and it’s not to be like everyone else. We are meant to discover our unique passions and use them for making the world a better place. Who you are is exactly who you were meant to be. So celebrate it! And I’ll celebrate it, too.
This has been wonderful, Kelly. Thank you for being with us today! And thank you to all MUF followers for reading. Who knows? “Death Eaters. Meet Nature’s Scavengers” might inspire your Halloween costume this year.