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Viewing Blog: Loree Griffin Burns: A Life in Books, Most Recent at Top
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Children's author Loree Burns blogs about reading, writing and her passion for all things scientific.
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1. My New Home on the Web

final-burns-header

I’m thrilled to have launched my new website this week. Please click over and check out the fun, including …

A page dedicated to my new picture book, Handle with Care;

Teacher Resource pages for Handle with Care;

A page dedicated to my upcoming Scientists in the Field title, Beetle Busters;

My very own bookstore!

As happy as I am about the new digs, it is bittersweet leaving this blog behind. My new site has room for all the things I do here, though, and simplifying my online presence makes good sense. I’ll leave this blog here as I transition some of its content over, but I’ll not be posting anything new.

So, my friends, thanks for reading. And please do come on over and visit me at http://www.loreeburns.com!


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2. My New Home on the Web

final-burns-header

I’m thrilled to have launched my new website this week. Please click over and check out the fun, including …

A page dedicated to my new picture book, Handle with Care;

Teacher Resource pages for Handle with Care;

A page dedicated to my upcoming Scientists in the Field title, Beetle Busters;

My very own bookstore!

As happy as I am about the new digs, it is bittersweet leaving this blog behind. My new site has room for all the things I do here, though, and simplifying my online presence makes good sense. I’ll leave this blog here as I transition some of its content over, but I’ll not be posting anything new.

So, my friends, thanks for reading. And please do come on over and visit me at http://www.loreeburns.com!


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3. Happy New (Book) Year!

HandleWithCare(hires)

Ellen Harasimowicz and I are kicking off 2014 with the release of our latest collaboration: a picture book about some very special butterfly lives. HANDLE WITH CARE is published by Millbrook Press and was officially released today. We hope you’ll love this story as much as we do.

Happy New Year!


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4. Happy New (Book) Year!

HandleWithCare(hires)

Ellen Harasimowicz and I are kicking off 2014 with the release of our latest collaboration: a picture book about some very special butterfly lives. HANDLE WITH CARE is published by Millbrook Press and was officially released today. We hope you’ll love this story as much as we do.

Happy New Year!


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5. Wednesday Wild: Ring-necked pheasants

© Loree Griffin Burns

I can already hear you …

Seriously, Loree? You expect us believe that picture shows two male ring-necked pheasants walking along the road?

Yes. Yes I do. Because I did see two male ring-necked pheasants walking along the road. I did! And even thought I didn’t have my camera and it was pouring rain and I was in the car and my daughter had to take a couple shots through the car window using my cell phone … these pictures clearly show the only thing you need to remember about this post: ring-necked pheasants are worth seeing in the wild.

pheasants3       pheasants2

Have an adventure today. Bring your camera.

(All photos © Catherine Griffin Burns)


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6. Wednesday Wild: Ring-necked pheasants

© Loree Griffin Burns

I can already hear you …

Seriously, Loree? You expect us believe that picture shows two male ring-necked pheasants walking along the road?

Yes. Yes I do. Because I did see two male ring-necked pheasants walking along the road. I did! And even thought I didn’t have my camera and it was pouring rain and I was in the car and my daughter had to take a couple shots through the car window using my cell phone … these pictures clearly show the only thing you need to remember about this post: ring-necked pheasants are worth seeing in the wild.

pheasants3       pheasants2

Have an adventure today. Bring your camera.

(All photos © Catherine Griffin Burns)


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7. Blog Hop Part Two: Beetle Busters

larva1  © Ellen Harasimowicz  climber

Photos © Ellen Harasimowicz

In today’s installment of the Blog Hop, I’m going to answer a few questions about my newest writing project. I’m super excited to start talking about this book, because getting to this moment was–how shall I put this?–WICKED HARD. Of all the books I’ve written, this was the toughest to figure out. But I did, and soon you’ll be able to read it. Below are some questions about the project from the magnificent Sarah Albee, along with my answers. And if you’re confused about this Blog Hop business, just click on over to Part One of this post.

Sarah: What are you working on right now?

I’m working on a new Scientists in the Field book called BEETLE BUSTERS: A ROGUE INSECT AND THE PEOPLE WHO TRACK IT. It’s in design now, so I can’t show you the cover yet. (It doesn’t even exist!) But I can share the photos above, which are just a few of the scads of seriously cool images taken by Ellen Harasimowicz for this book. 
 

Sarah Albee: Where did the idea for this book come from?

The subject —Asian longhorned beetles—found me, actually, and it wasn’t easy. Here’s a simplified version of what happened:
  • A pair of gnarly-looking but harmless beetles from Asia chewed their way into the heart of a poplar tree in the middle of a forest in China.
  • The tree was cut down and its wood used to make shipping pallets.
  • One such pallet was shipped from China all the way to Worcester, Massachusetts, where I live.
  • The beetles—a male and a female—survived the tree-chopping, the wood-cutting, the pallet-building, and the worldwide-shipping. They chewed their way out of the pallet, mated, and founded a family of Asian longhorned beetles in a new land.
  • About ten years later, my husband and I bought a house in that new land.
  • About ten years after that, the beetle family–by then enormous–was wreaking havoc in the forests near our house.
  • A massive program was undertaken to eradicate the beetle and, paradoxically, to study it. BEETLE BUSTERS is the story of that program, the men and women carrying it out, and the hard decisions involved in its success.

Sarah Albee: Why do you write what you do?

Because stories about our natural world and the people who explore it thrill me. And when I find a story that particularly intrigues me, I can’t rest until I’ve found a way to share it with like-minded people.
 

Sarah Albee: What is the hardest part about writing?

The first draft. For me, its always the first draft.
 
(*deep, troubled sigh*)
 
I’ve been wondering for a while now why first drafts are so hard for me. I’ve come to think that its not the writing of the draft itself that trips me up, but the process of finding structure. Until I’ve figured out where to start my story, where to end it, and how to carry readers through its middle, I tend to flail about. Once I’ve got a good structure, though, things slip into place. How do I find the best structure for a given story? By drafting and thinking and drafting and tinkering and drafting and drafting and drafting. It’s a slow process, which is why I find it so hard.
 
Thanks for inviting me to be part of the Blog Hop, Sarah!

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8. Blog Hop Part Two: Beetle Busters

larva1  © Ellen Harasimowicz  climber

Photos © Ellen Harasimowicz

In today’s installment of the Blog Hop, I’m going to answer a few questions about my newest writing project. I’m super excited to start talking about this book, because getting to this moment was–how shall I put this?–WICKED HARD. Of all the books I’ve written, this was the toughest to figure out. But I did, and soon you’ll be able to read it. Below are some questions about the project from the magnificent Sarah Albee, along with my answers. And if you’re confused about this Blog Hop business, just click on over to Part One of this post.

Sarah: What are you working on right now?

I’m working on a new Scientists in the Field book called BEETLE BUSTERS: A ROGUE INSECT AND THE PEOPLE WHO TRACK IT. It’s in design now, so I can’t show you the cover yet. (It doesn’t even exist!) But I can share the photos above, which are just a few of the scads of seriously cool images taken by Ellen Harasimowicz for this book. 
 

Sarah Albee: Where did the idea for this book come from?

The subject —Asian longhorned beetles—found me, actually, and it wasn’t easy. Here’s a simplified version of what happened:
  • A pair of gnarly-looking but harmless beetles from Asia chewed their way into the heart of a poplar tree in the middle of a forest in China.
  • The tree was cut down and its wood used to make shipping pallets.
  • One such pallet was shipped from China all the way to Worcester, Massachusetts, where I live.
  • The beetles—a male and a female—survived the tree-chopping, the wood-cutting, the pallet-building, and the worldwide-shipping. They chewed their way out of the pallet, mated, and founded a family of Asian longhorned beetles in a new land.
  • About ten years later, my husband and I bought a house in that new land.
  • About ten years after that, the beetle family–by then enormous–was wreaking havoc in the forests near our house.
  • A massive program was undertaken to eradicate the beetle and, paradoxically, to study it. BEETLE BUSTERS is the story of that program, the men and women carrying it out, and the hard decisions involved in its success.

Sarah Albee: Why do you write what you do?

Because stories about our natural world and the people who explore it thrill me. And when I find a story that particularly intrigues me, I can’t rest until I’ve found a way to share it with like-minded people.
 

Sarah Albee: What is the hardest part about writing?

The first draft. For me, its always the first draft.
 
(*deep, troubled sigh*)
 
I’ve been wondering for a while now why first drafts are so hard for me. I’ve come to think that its not the writing of the draft itself that trips me up, but the process of finding structure. Until I’ve figured out where to start my story, where to end it, and how to carry readers through its middle, I tend to flail about. Once I’ve got a good structure, though, things slip into place. How do I find the best structure for a given story? By drafting and thinking and drafting and tinkering and drafting and drafting and drafting. It’s a slow process, which is why I find it so hard.
 
Thanks for inviting me to be part of the Blog Hop, Sarah!

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9. Blog Hop Part One: Sarah Albee

Credit: Bruno Ratensperger

Credit: Bruno Ratensperger

Blog hops are a thing, apparently. (Since I am just realizing this, perhaps “were a thing” is more accurate? I’m usually a bit behind on social media trends.) Here, gone, no matter. Blog hops are fun, and I’m going to play along …

Back in March, Kathy Erskine tagged me for a hop in which I got to share a bit about my Spring 2014 book, Handle With Care. (Here’s that post, if you missed it.) Last week, Sarah Albee tagged me in a similar blog hope meme. (Here’s her post.) Here’s the deal this time around: first, I tell you a little bit about Sarah, then I tell you a little bit about my next book.

See? Kinda fun. Especially if you are into children’s nonfiction. And guess what? Today is Nonfiction Monday! (Maybe I am actually a social media guru? Ha.)

So, what can I tell you about Sarah?

  • For starters, she sometimes goes by the names Constance Allen, Sarah Willson, Catherine Samuel, or Catherine Lukas. And she has written a lot of children’s books. (Four hundred thousand or so, as far as I can tell. Click here to see a partial list.)
  • She’s good with voices. If you run into her, ask her to talk like a pirate for you. Trust me.

Get to know Sarah for yourself through her books, by visiting her website or her blog, by following her on Twitter, or by friending her on Facebook.

Thanks for the blog hop tag, Miss Sarah!


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10. Blog Hop Part One: Sarah Albee

Credit: Bruno Ratensperger

Credit: Bruno Ratensperger

Blog hops are a thing, apparently. (Since I am just realizing this, perhaps “were a thing” is more accurate? I’m usually a bit behind on social media trends.) Here, gone, no matter. Blog hops are fun, and I’m going to play along …

Back in March, Kathy Erskine tagged me for a hop in which I got to share a bit about my Spring 2014 book, Handle With Care. (Here’s that post, if you missed it.) Last week, Sarah Albee tagged me in a similar blog hop meme. (Here’s her post.) Here’s the deal this time around: first, I tell you a little bit about Sarah, then I tell you a little bit about my next book.

See? Kinda fun. Especially if you are into children’s nonfiction. And guess what? Today is Nonfiction Monday! (Maybe I am actually a social media guru? Ha.)

So, what can I tell you about Sarah?

  • For starters, she sometimes goes by the names Constance Allen, Sarah Willson, Catherine Samuel, or Catherine Lukas. And she has written a lot of children’s books. (Four hundred thousand or so, as far as I can tell. Click here to see a partial list.)
  • She’s good with voices. If you run into her, ask her to talk like a pirate for you. Trust me.

Get to know Sarah for yourself through her books, by visiting her website or her blog, by following her on Twitter, or by friending her on Facebook.

Thanks for the blog hop tag, Miss Sarah!


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11. The Dolphins of Shark Bay

51m3iZh4cKL._SX285_

Earlier this year, I had the chance to talk with author Pamela Turner about her next big thing. (Here’s that post.) I’m logging on today to let you know that thing, the ‘Scientists in the Field’ book THE DOLPHINS OF SHARK BAY, is officially out in the world. Also? It’s a must-read.

I know. I say that about all the SITF books.

And I probably am biased, as I write for the series myself.

Whatever.

This is still a book I will recommend to everyone in my life, young and old. The dolphins living in the waters of Shark Bay are opening our eyes to the complexity of dolphin life and behavior … and what scientists are learning from these dolphins is rocking human notions of, well, what it means to be human. Don’t miss this one, folks!

Here’s a link to more information on the book.

Here’s a link to one of Pam’s latest blog post on the SITF website.


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12. The Dolphins of Shark Bay

51m3iZh4cKL._SX285_

Earlier this year, I had the chance to talk with author Pamela Turner about her next big thing. (Here’s that post.) I’m logging on today to let you know that thing, the ‘Scientists in the Field’ book THE DOLPHINS OF SHARK BAY, is officially out in the world. Also? It’s a must-read.

I know. I say that about all the SITF books.

And I probably am biased, as I write for the series myself.

Whatever.

This is still a book I will recommend to everyone in my life, young and old. The dolphins living in the waters of Shark Bay are opening our eyes to the complexity of dolphin life and behavior … and what scientists are learning from these dolphins is rocking human notions of, well, what it means to be human. Don’t miss this one, folks!

Here’s a link to more information on the book.

Here’s a link to one of Pam’s latest blog post on the SITF website.


Add a Comment
13. NCTE Conference

2013ac-web-header545

Last week librarians, this week English teachers! I’m thrilled to be attending the annual gathering of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) in Boston. Here’s my schedule for the weekend, in case you’ll be there too. I’d love to see you at one of these events …

Saturday, November 23

12:30-2:30pm: Books for Children Luncheon in Room 312 (Hynes Convention Center)

I’ll be grinning all through this luncheon, because Steve Jenkins is giving the keynote and because I’ll be receiving an Orbis Picturs honor award for Citizen Scientists.

3:00-3:30pm: Book signing in the Macmillan Booth (#819)

I’ll be signing copies of Citizen Scientists, and probably still flying from the joys of lunchtime!

4:15-5:30pm: Panel Presentation in Ballroom A (Hynes Convention Center) 

Reflecting on the Writing Process: Orbis Pictus Authors Share Their Journeys Authors of the Orbis Pictus award and honor books for 2013 will each share their writing journey and craft used in the creation of their nonfiction works.

Sunday, November 24

9-10am: Book Signing in the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt booth (#1506)

I’ll be signing copies of Tracking Trash and The Hive Detectives. Come on by!

11:30am – 12:45pm: Panel Presentation in Room 105 (Hynes Convention Center)

Honor Your Process: Bringing the Working Methods and Style of Published Writers to Your Classroom Award-winning authors Linda Urban, Kate Messner, Matt Phelan and Loree Griffin Burns will share the tools and strategies, from thumbnail drawings to field trips to progress journals, that have brought their work to life—and that you can easily bring back to your classroom writing workshops.


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14. NCTE Conference

2013ac-web-header545

Last week librarians, this week English teachers! I’m thrilled to be attending the annual gathering of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) in Boston. Here’s my schedule for the weekend, in case you’ll be there too. I’d love to see you at one of these events …

Saturday, November 23

12:30-2:30pm: Books for Children Luncheon in Room 312 (Hynes Convention Center)

I’ll be grinning all through this luncheon, because Steve Jenkins is giving the keynote and because I’ll be receiving an Orbis Pictus honor award for Citizen Scientists.

3:00-3:30pm: Book signing in the Macmillan Booth (#819)

I’ll be signing copies of Citizen Scientists, and probably still flying from the joys of lunchtime!

4:15-5:30pm: Panel Presentation in Ballroom A (Hynes Convention Center) 

Reflecting on the Writing Process: Orbis Pictus Authors Share Their Journeys Authors of the Orbis Pictus award and honor books for 2013 will each share their writing journey and craft used in the creation of their nonfiction works.

Sunday, November 24

9-10am: Book Signing in the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt booth (#1506)

I’ll be signing copies of Tracking Trash and The Hive Detectives. Come on by!

11:30am – 12:45pm: Panel Presentation in Room 105 (Hynes Convention Center)

Honor Your Process: Bringing the Working Methods and Style of Published Writers to Your Classroom Award-winning authors Linda Urban, Kate Messner, Matt Phelan and Loree Griffin Burns will share the tools and strategies, from thumbnail drawings to field trips to progress journals, that have brought their work to life—and that you can easily bring back to your classroom writing workshops.


Add a Comment
15. AASL Conference

highlight_AASL13_generic

I’m looking forward to spending Friday (November 15, 2013) at the annual conference of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) in Hartford, Connecticut. If you’ll be there too, please stop by one of these events to say hello!

Panel Discussion: Exploring Scientists at Work

1pm in Room Marriott C

Join authors Loree Griffin Burns, Pamela Turner, and Rebecca Johnson, editor Carol Hinz, and science teacher Jill Zangerl to discuss how stories about scientists at work can meet the needs of children, librarians, and teachers. Discussion will be moderated by author Vicki Cobb.

Book Signing

2:15-3:15pm in Author Alley

Rumor has it there will be FREE books, and that I’ll be signing them. Somehow I have been unable to verify this. But how can you resist even the chance of free books? Come on by! Added bonus: I’ll have a preview copy of my not-yet-off-the-presses Spring 2014 picture book with me.

Author-Librarian Tweet-Up

9-10pm in Marriott Hotel (Crush Bar & Starbucks)

If you are a Twitter User, follow hashtag #aasl13 for the latest happenings. If you are a Twitter user who follows me, feel free to giggle at the very thought of me using hashtags and tweeting up.


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16. AASL Conference

highlight_AASL13_generic

I’m looking forward to spending Friday (November 15, 2013) at the annual conference of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) in Hartford, Connecticut. If you’ll be there too, please stop by one of these events to say hello!

Panel Discussion: Exploring Scientists at Work

1pm in Room Marriott C

Join authors Loree Griffin Burns, Pamela Turner, and Rebecca Johnson, editor Carol Hinz, and science teacher Jill Zangerl to discuss how stories about scientists at work can meet the needs of children, librarians, and teachers. Discussion will be moderated by author Vicki Cobb.

Book Signing

2:15-3:15pm in Author Alley

Rumor has it there will be FREE books, and that I’ll be signing them. Somehow I have been unable to verify this. But how can you resist even the chance of free books? Come on by! Added bonus: I’ll have a preview copy of my not-yet-off-the-presses Spring 2014 picture book with me.

Author-Librarian Tweet-Up

9-10pm in Marriott Hotel (Crush Bar & Starbucks)

If you are a Twitter User, follow hashtag #aasl13 for the latest happenings. If you are a Twitter user who follows me, feel free to giggle at the very thought of me using hashtags and tweeting up.


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17. The Latest Buzz

131102 WCBA TGivg (20)

© Ed Karle

I shared some citizen science stories with the Worcester County Beekeepers this past week, and got to catch up with one of my favorite hive detectives: Mary Duane. Long live the bees … and their keepers!


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18. The Latest Buzz

131102 WCBA TGivg (20)

© Ed Karle

I shared some citizen science stories with the Worcester County Beekeepers this past week, and got to catch up with one of my favorite hive detectives: Mary Duane. Long live the bees … and their keepers!


Add a Comment
19. Can We Save The Tiger? (Part 2)

tiger

Can We Save the Tiger?

By Martin Jenkins

Illustrated by Vicky White

Candlewick Press, 2011

Category: Picture book nonfiction

Today I’m sharing some thoughts on the structure used by author Martin Jenkins in his picture book, CAN WE SAVE THE TIGER? (For a more detailed introduction to this plan, read yesterday’s post.)

The story Jenkins shares in CAN WE SAVE THE TIGER is a broad one: we humans are changing the planet and the animals that live here are paying the price. The menagerie of species considered endangered by human activities is overwhelming, so Jenkins separates them into five loose groups. Using a single high-impact example from each group, he then shares the extinction story in small doses, one endangered animal at a time. The resulting structure—a collage of sorts—brings readers to an unforgettable conclusion: losing species is unbearable and we must act.

Let’s look at this collage structure more closely, shall we? Here’s how I see it …

Snapshot 1: Animals that are running out of room. In other words, big animals, like the titular tiger. Jenkins’ voice throughout the book is lovely, and here, early on, we see how his choice to speak directly to the reader is effective:

“… if you were a poor farmer trying to make a living with a couple of cows and a few goats, you might not be too happy if you found there was a hungry tiger living nearby. And if you knew that someone might pay you more for a tiger skin and some bones than you could earn in three whole months of working in the fields, then you might find it very tempting to set a trap or two, even if you knew it was against the law.”

Of course the reader wants to save tigers. But the reader can also understand a poor farmer’s motives. With this carefully chosen first snapshot, the reader is hooked.

Snapshot 2: Animals that are endangered as a result of human-introduced predators. Here Jenkins shows us a tiny snail, a satisfying juxtaposition to the tiger and, I think, a subtle nod to the idea that endangered species run the gamut from BIG to SMALL (and, of course, everything in between; see the UGLY addition below). In his image of the partula snail, we see how the movement of species by humans can have unforeseen and unintended consequences for other species.

Snapshot 3: Animals that are impacted not by movement but by other human actions. Here we add to the idea of running the gamut: even UGLY animals, like vultures, are vulnerable. By now the reader is wondering if there are animals that aren’t endangered.

Snapshot 4: Animals that were nearly extinct but came back. The reader is ready for this bit of good news. Bison were forced to the edge of the extinction abyss by human actions, but we managed to pull them back from that edge in time. This snapshot is a much needed and well-timed picture of hope.

Snapshot 5: Animals that were nearly extinct, that we are trying to help, but which are still in trouble. Here Jenkins makes it clear there is still much to worry about. If we are lucky, as with the bison, we can reverse the damage of our bad habits. But sometimes we will act too late. It’s still not clear if we will be able to save the kakapo.

Each of these snapshots is actually a distinct story, a small narrative starring the animal in question and its plight. Arranged side-by-side, however, and with Vicky White’s art, the snapshots give readers a deeper and broader view of animal extinction on planet Earth. They build a perfect collage.

The effectiveness of such the collage structure, of course, is tied to the logic of its presentation. The order in which the individual images are presented to the reader must make sense, even if the reader only experiences that logic subconsciously. Jenkins shows us something big, moves on to something small, then adds something ugly, something hopeful, and something sobering. Another order of these images could, perhaps, build an effective collage. The point, however, is that there are certain orders that would not work at all … and Jenkins knew enough not to use them.

For example, starting with the kakapo, a squat and relatively unknown critter, is technically possible … but such an opening would have been much less compelling than the tiger opening. And Jenkins would have lost the lovely juxtaposition that so nicely relayed the breadth of the extinction problem. (That is, the big-small-and-everything-in-between gamut I mentioned earlier.) Starting with the tiger, an animal all readers will recognize and most will admire, gave the author a much stronger opening …  and plenty of room to transition into a second image.

Here’s something else that struck me about the collage structure: the importance of the order in which the snapshots were presented is very important, but it is not something I recognized on first reading the book. In fact, I didn’t give it a thought! On some subconscious level, the order worked for me, so, I sank into the book and enjoyed the read. The writer is the only one who needs to think the snapshot order logic through. If he does his job well, the structure will be invisible. Readers will read. Choose the wrong order, however, and readers are likely to stumble. I think Jenkins nailed it.

That’s a lot to digest in one post, so I’m going to stop here. Tomorrow I’ll share my final thoughts on this book and the collage structure. In the meanwhile, feel free to share your own thoughts in the comments; I’d love to hear them.


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20. Can We Save the Tiger? (Part 3)

tiger

Can We Save the Tiger?

By Martin Jenkins

Illustrated by Vicky White

Candlewick Press, 2011

Category: Picture book nonfiction

If you’ve been around this week, you know I’m in the midst of a self-directed study of structure in children’s nonfiction books. If you missed them, you might want to check out my previous two posts (here and here) on CAN WE SAVE THE TIGER?

The book is structured like a collage, a collection of several short narratives that are impressive alone but which together tell a deeper story. (I got into the nitty gritty yesterday.) There are other more subtle structures at work in this book, though, and I want to be sure to mention them before I finish my study.

Jenkins starts by exploring the ways humans have visibly changed the world, and then he leads us, animal-by-animal (snapshot-by-snapshot) to the less obvious but equally dangerous invisible change we humans are engineering: climate change. This progression from visible to invisible is logical and probably unnoticed by most casual readers. But it’s effective in that it adds another layer of movement—logical movement—to the piece.

There is also a subtle but palpable emotional arc from the opening question (Can we save the tiger?) to the author’s feeling that a world with “no tigers or elephants, or sawfishes or whooping cranes, or albatrosses or ground iguanas” would be a shame. Jenkins’ final address to the reader (“don’t you?”) takes this arc even one step further. Could any reader resist this gentle pull toward the only imaginable ending? Do I think such a world would be a shame? Why, yes. Yes, I do.

Finally, the design of a children’s book lends a physical dimension to its structure and can, therefore, support textual and thematic structures. There are elements of the design of this book that demonstrate this, I think. For example, font changes are used to great effect: a bold font is used to name animals, gently emphasizing each; a chalky font is used to alert readers to pauses between snapshots (or mini narrative); and a traditional font is used for all the rest. What’s more, transition pages gently underscore the collage structure by offering artistic interludes between each section of the book (or, to use the language I’ve been using in these posts, between each snapshot in Jenkins’ collage)… and they give the artist room to share her glorious studies of animals that, like tigers, partula snails, vultures, bison and kakapos, are in trouble.

I could do several more posts on the ways, beyond structure, that this book works for me. Jenkins’ voice, for example, is superb. (By addressing readers directly, he allows them in to the story and keeps them there.) His descriptions? Lovely. (Partula snails “so small that one of them could happily spend its whole life in a medium-sized bush.”) But it’s time for me to move on to the next book, I think. This study is all about structure.

Bottom line from me? CAN WE SAVE THE TIGER is an engaging exploration of a difficult topic, and I think the structure Jenkins chose to build it with is a big part of its success with readers.


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21. Nonfiction Monday: Can We Save the Tiger?

 

Nonfiction Monday Button

On Mondays, the online arm of the children’s publishing world celebrates books of children’s nonfiction. Even though I’m a sporadic participant on the blogging side, I’m a regular explorer of the Nonfiction Monday archives from the reading side. It’s a great place to find nonfiction reviews and book tips. This week’s event is hosted by Abby the Librarian. Freshen your tea, click on over, and enjoy some happy moments reading about what’s new and wonderful in children’s nonfiction. 

I’ve decided to add a round-up of my week with Martin Jenkins and Vicky White’s magnficent picture book CAN WE SAVE THE TIGER? Exploring human-driven species extinction in a picture book for elementary grade readers is not an easy task, but Jenkins and White manage it beautifully. By laying their breathtaking art and crystal clear prose atop a solid structure, this book manages to inform and inspire without preaching.

That last paragraph was the most succinct I have managed in a week of studying the structure of this book! But if you happen to be up for a much deeper look at this work, particularly its structure, click back through my week of posts: on Tuesday, I introduced the book and my task, on Wednesday I dissected the main structure, and on Thursday I talked about the various ways author, illustrator, and design team supported that structure.

Happy reading. And Happy Nonfiction Monday!

 


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22. Wednesday Wild: Red squirrel

© Loree Griffin Burns

© Loree Griffin Burns

Can you see him? In the middle? Cute, no?


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23. Wednesday Wild: Red squirrel

© Loree Griffin Burns

© Loree Griffin Burns

Can you see him? In the middle? Cute, no?


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24. Nonfiction Monday: Can We Save the Tiger?

 

Nonfiction Monday Button

On Mondays, the online arm of the children’s publishing world celebrates books of children’s nonfiction. Even though I’m a sporadic participant on the blogging side, I’m a regular explorer of the Nonfiction Monday archives from the reading side. It’s a great place to find nonfiction reviews and book tips. This week’s event is hosted by Abby the Librarian. Freshen your tea, click on over, and enjoy some happy moments reading about what’s new and wonderful in children’s nonfiction. 

I’ve decided to add a round-up of my week with Martin Jenkins and Vicky White’s magnficent picture book CAN WE SAVE THE TIGER? Exploring human-driven species extinction in a picture book for elementary grade readers is not an easy task, but Jenkins and White manage it beautifully. By laying their breathtaking art and crystal clear prose atop a solid structure, this book manages to inform and inspire without preaching.

That last paragraph was the most succinct I have managed in a week of studying the structure of this book! But if you happen to be up for a much deeper look at this work, particularly its structure, click back through my week of posts: on Tuesday, I introduced the book and my task, on Wednesday I dissected the main structure, and on Thursday I talked about the various ways author, illustrator, and design team supported that structure.

Happy reading. And Happy Nonfiction Monday!

 


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25. Can We Save the Tiger? (Part 3)

tiger

Can We Save the Tiger?

By Martin Jenkins

Illustrated by Vicky White

Candlewick Press, 2011

Category: Picture book nonfiction

If you’ve been around this week, you know I’m in the midst of a self-directed study of structure in children’s nonfiction books. If you missed them, you might want to check out my previous two posts (here and here) on CAN WE SAVE THE TIGER?

The book is structured like a collage, a collection of several short narratives that are impressive alone but which together tell a deeper story. (I got into the nitty gritty yesterday.) There are other more subtle structures at work in this book, though, and I want to be sure to mention them before I finish my study.

Jenkins starts by exploring the ways humans have visibly changed the world, and then he leads us, animal-by-animal (snapshot-by-snapshot) to the less obvious but equally dangerous invisible change we humans are engineering: climate change. This progression from visible to invisible is logical and probably unnoticed by most casual readers. But it’s effective in that it adds another layer of movement—logical movement—to the piece.

There is also a subtle but palpable emotional arc from the opening question (Can we save the tiger?) to the author’s feeling that a world with “no tigers or elephants, or sawfishes or whooping cranes, or albatrosses or ground iguanas” would be a shame. Jenkins’ final address to the reader (“don’t you?”) takes this arc even one step further. Could any reader resist this gentle pull toward the only imaginable ending? Do I think such a world would be a shame? Why, yes. Yes, I do.

Finally, the design of a children’s book lends a physical dimension to its structure and can, therefore, support textual and thematic structures. There are elements of the design of this book that demonstrate this, I think. For example, font changes are used to great effect: a bold font is used to name animals, gently emphasizing each; a chalky font is used to alert readers to pauses between snapshots (or mini narrative); and a traditional font is used for all the rest. What’s more, transition pages gently underscore the collage structure by offering artistic interludes between each section of the book (or, to use the language I’ve been using in these posts, between each snapshot in Jenkins’ collage)… and they give the artist room to share her glorious studies of animals that, like tigers, partula snails, vultures, bison and kakapos, are in trouble.

I could do several more posts on the ways, beyond structure, that this book works for me. Jenkins’ voice, for example, is superb. (By addressing readers directly, he allows them in to the story and keeps them there.) His descriptions? Lovely. (Partula snails “so small that one of them could happily spend its whole life in a medium-sized bush.”) But it’s time for me to move on to the next book, I think. This study is all about structure.

Bottom line from me? CAN WE SAVE THE TIGER is an engaging exploration of a difficult topic, and I think the structure Jenkins chose to build it with is a big part of its success with readers.


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