MY BOY SCOUT ROOTS by Bruce Hale, author-illustrator of many books, including the beloved Chet Gecko series

Now I can confess it: The Boy Scouts turned me into a tree-hugger.  Not that I had zero appreciation for the great outdoors before I joined.  As a suburban kid, I played with friends in the odd scraps of wild land scattered about our town, and sure, I appreciated a day at the beach.

But I didn’t understand the whole “stewardship of the Earth” thing until about age 12 in Boy Scouts.

This was in 1969, back before the first Earth Day celebration.  My scoutmaster dad was the furthest thing from a peace-loving, crunchy-granola hippy — in fact, he was so far right, he made Attila the Hun look like a liberal — but he had a connection with nature that he passed on to me and my fellow scouts.

I’m in the middle, elbows on the rail, with my scoutmaster dad standing behind me.

Our troop did the occasional community service project, picking up trash and so forth, but one particular project made a difference to me.  My dad and the troop leadership decided we should beautify a tumbleweed-strewn, trashed-out little canyon near my middle school.

One Saturday morning we showed up in our olive green uniforms, bearing buckets, fertilizer, shovels, hoses, and a number of potted California redwood trees.  Now maybe redwoods weren’t the most practical trees to plant in hot, dry Southern California, but practicality rarely troubled my dad when he was in the grips of a Big Idea.

All day long, as the sun climbed, we dug and dug and dug.  We cleared rocks and pulled tumbleweeds.  (And how I wished I’d brought some work gloves!)  Was I completely sold on the whole altruistic, save-the-planet thing?

To be honest, I was not.  I would much rather have been goofing off with my friend Billy the Kid, riding our bikes around and stirring up trouble.

But when your dad is the scoutmaster, that sort of limits your options.

We worked, we dug, we sweated.  Blisters sprouted on my hands.  My back got sore. Finally, late in the afternoon, we completed our project, and the canyon was beautified.  About ten redwood saplings stood in cleared ground, with wooden logs laid here and there, so that nearby residents could sit and admire the trees.  (Assuming they actually survived.)

We ran hoses to the neighbors’ faucets and drenched the trees with water.  Every weekend for the next six months or so, someone (often Billy and I) would go water the redwoods.  And a funny thing happened over those six months.  Somehow, the chore turned into something more.

As Billy and I saw the trees take hold and flourish, we started feeling a real sense of accomplishment — but more than that, a connection to these ancient trees.  And when at last our troop erected a wooden sign that read Coronel Canyon Forestation Project – Conservation by Troop 276, we felt a real swell of pride to see how our work transformed that arid, scraggly little canyon into something beautiful.

The end result?  Many of those trees still grow in that canyon, decades later.  And me?  I’ve become a card-carrying tree-hugger.  Blame it on the Boy Scouts.

Bruce Hale is the author-illustrator of over 30 books for young readers, including Clark the Shark, Big Bad Baby, and the popular Chet Gecko Mysteries series.  You can find him online at: www.brucehale.com and www.brucehalewritingtips.com

 

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Award winning nature author Sy Montgomery is fueled by a childhood passion that has led her to write almost 20 books exploring the realms of animals

I was sent home from school on my first day of Kindergarten.

My mother was appalled. A southern Belle, she wanted to raise a daughter who was quiet, well-behaved and girlish. Alas, her wish would go unfulfilled. My offense?  I had bitten a little boy.

But at the time, I felt I had little choice. He was pulling the legs off a Daddy Longlegs. I had to stop him.

Today, I don’t bite little boys. I write books for them—and little girls, too. And grown-ups as well. I also write articles for magazines and newspapers and the web, and sometimes scripts for radio and TV. Although I have refined my technique, my efforts serve the same purpose as that well-aimed bite in kindergarten: to protect, defend, and celebrate the creatures of this sweet, green Earth.

My work has taken me to some of the most spectacular places on Earth, meeting exciting and sometimes elusive animals. I’ve been deftly undressed by an orangutan in Borneo. I’ve held wild tarantulas in my hand in French Guiana. I’ve hiked up into the cloud forest of Papua New Guinea to help radio collar tree kangaroos and camped in the Altai Mountains of Mongolia’s Gobi searching for snow leopards.

Everywhere I go, I find incredible teachers to help me bring my message to my readers. Sometimes they’re scientists. Sometimes they’re shamans. But most often, they’re animals: pink river dolphins in the Amazon. Emus in Australia’s outback. From the giant Pacific octopuses I’ve met (and who recognize me) at the New England Aquarium in Boston, to the 18,000 snakes with whom I worked in a pit in Manitoba, Canada, I’ve been blessed to discover that everywhere, I find wisdom and courage, strength and beauty—inspiration to deepen our wonder and love for the natural world, and our respect and affection for the creatures with whom we share the planet. After all, animals love their lives as much as we love our own.

I love writing for adults, love the flexibility and depth that writing for 250 pages affords. But writing for children is especially important. Children are not just the leaders of tomorrow: they are the leaders of today. Children may not yet be able to vote or command vast sums of money, but they do powerfully influence important decisions made in their homes, decisions that affect animals and their habitats. Kids, I’ve heard from educators, are their parents’ SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT source of information about the environment—more important than radio, TV, print or internet.

Children don’t buy the lie that only people matter and animals don’t. They haven’t been hoodwinked into believing that money and status and stuff is the point of our lives.  They naturally recognize that the real world—the world where we find joy and renewal and inspiration and peace–is the sweet, green, breathing, alive world around us.

So I am super proud and grateful that 11 of my 19 books published so far are for young readers. They are hungry for news of animals’ lives. Most kids already know that animals think and feel. But in addition to this, I’m eager to show kids how animals are also endowed with superpowers like spinning silk, as spiders do, or seeing sound like dolphins or smelling time like dogs. I’m delighted to introduce them to cool scientists who are discovering the secrets of these animals while working to protect them.

Children have the courage and imagination to see their way out of disasters that might make an adult just give up. True, there’s always going to be some kid who thinks it’s fun to pull the legs off a Daddy Long Legs. Sometimes you just have to bite them. But sometimes, all it takes to turn even that kid around is a good book.

Sy Montgomery is a naturalist, author and scriptwriter, described by the Boston Globe as “part Indiana Jones, part Emily Dickinson.” She has written numerous books for adults and children, including Quest for the Tree Kangaroo: An Expedition to the Cloud Forest of New Guinea, which  received an Orbis Pictus Award and was selected as an Honor book for the ALA Sibert Award. Visit www.symontgomery to learn more about her important work.

 

 

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ECO-MOWERS by Dan Gutman, author of 117 books, including the uber-popular My Weird School series

I like to think that I’m not mowing my lawn—I’m giving it a haircut.

That’s what it feels like with my push mower.  When I used to have a power mower, I felt like I was annihilating each blade of grass.  Now I just feel like I’m giving each one a trim.

I made the switch about a dozen years ago.  My yard isn’t very large, and the gas-powered mower always felt like overkill, like I was using a bazooka to swat flies.

But more than that, I was becoming more aware of climate change and other environmental and political issues.  I became conscious of the fact that every time I mowed the lawn, I was burning gas. Gas that took millions of years to be created.  Gas that probably was pumped out from under the ground and sold to us by Saudi Arabia or some other country we’d have to defend if their oil fields were invaded.  Gas that would pollute the air and heat up the atmosphere.

And for what?  So I would have a lawn as pretty as my next door neighbor’s?

So I got the push mower.  It was cheap, easy to use, took up less space, worked great, and it ran on a renewable source of energy–muscle.  No burning gas.  No fumes.

I know I’m not going to save the planet by using a push mower instead of a power mower.  But I figure every little bit helps.  It’s the same with riding a bike instead of taking my car.  I feel good about myself for keeping a little gas unburned.  And I get some exercise. Not only that, but when I’m out in the fresh air sweating over a hot push mower, I come up with some of my best book ideas.

Sure, some of the neighbors think I’m a little weird.  But I think they also think it’s cool and retro in a sort of hipster kind of way.

In fact, just last night, my next door neighbor Art told me his gas mower broke and he replaced it with a push mower.  He said I “shamed” him into it.

Well, good!  Whatever it takes.  Now there are two of us.  Maybe soon there will be four…and eight…and sixteen…

What I really want to do is move out of the suburbs entirely and go back to New York City, where I used to live before my wife and I had kids.   We’ll get rid of our cars, and my lawn will be Central Park.  I won’t have to mow at all.

Dan Gutman is the author of the My Weird School series, The Genius Files series, and the baseball card adventure series.  You can visit his web site at www.dangutman.com, check out his Facebook fan page, and follow him on Instagram and Twitter @dangutmanbooks.

 

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THE FANTASTIC UNDERSEA LIFE OF JACQUES COUSTEAU by award winning author, illustrator and TV animator Dan Yaccarino

Like a lot of kids growing up in the 1970’s, I looked forward to Sunday nights because that was when I would be taken to far-flung places from the Yucatan Peninsula to the Arctic Circle— without leaving my living room! Not only that, but I’d travel underwater to what appeared to be an alien world of bright colors, strange creatures, and mystery. But the best part was that my guide was undoubtedly the coolest man on the planet (at least to this goggle-eyed 8-year old), and more fearless than any astronaut could ever be.

I loved watching The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau.

My admiration for the good captain continued into adulthood. By then, clad in his wetsuit and red cap with that French accent, Cousteau reached icon status. And to top it off, the man really cared about the planet, even when it jeopardized his career, as I later learned.

I guess I just assumed that kids these days were familiar with his work or at least his name, but I discovered I was wrong. On my school visits, I asked students if they knew who he was or had seen his shows, but very few, if any, ever had. His series from the late 60’s/early 70’s was one of the first of its kind, but in an age of networks like the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet, it’s not as revolutionary as it used to be. And like the groundbreaking technology he developed, such as the aqualung and various underwater cameras, the world caught up, but that didn’t mean he shouldn’t be celebrated. Cousteau was a revolutionary with an insatiable curiosity, but with something else—a conscience.

I wanted to celebrate his life as well as introduce him to a new generation of kids in hopes that they’d think he was as cool as I thought he was (and still do). And the one way I could do that was to create a picture book telling his story, which would be a big leap for me because I’d never written and illustrated a picture book biography before. In fact, other than one or two titles, I only wrote fiction.

I dove into the research (pun intended) and read and watched everything I could find about him. To my delight, I ended up having even more respect for Cousteau and his mission to raise the world’s consciousness about how fragile our planet really is than I had before.

I’m happy to report that my book The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau has gotten into the hands of many students. When I visit a well-prepared school and hear the oohs and ahhs of recognition when Cousteau’s photo comes up in my presentation, I feel as if I were back in school, a goggled-eyed 8-year old sharing the class’s fascination with the coolest man on the planet.

Dan Yaccarino is known the world over for his children’s books, as well as his Parent’s Choice Award-winning animated TV series Oswald (Nick Jr) and Emmy-winning Willa’s Wild Life (NBC and Qubo). His bold, stylized illustrations add wit and energy to the work of many prestigious authors in addition to his own stories. Go to www.yaccarinostudio.com.

 

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Celebrating Team ’14 and… YEAR-ROUND A4ED participation!

Last month, Suzy Kline, Barb Rosenstock, Kate, Klise, Suzanne Slade, Jody Feldman, Dan Gutman, Debbie Dadey, Kim Norman, Elissa Brent Weissman, Nancy Viau, Kristin O’Donnell Tubb, Kim Norman, Lori Degman, Darcy Pattison, Patricia Newman and Brooke Bessesen did special school visits across the United States. Miri Leshem-Pelly participated in Israel and Michelle Worthington did her third annual visit in Australia. CONGRATULATIONS to all!

Together we gave the power of voice to thousands of young readers, allowing them to direct $8000 in donations—which brings our total A4ED contributions very near $33,000!

Through our students’ votes, 20 fantastic organizations were funded in 2014: Greenpeace, Sierra Club, The Gorilla Foundation, Conservation International, Defenders of Wildlife, Queens County Farm, Hug-it-Forward, Humane Society of Southwest Missouri, National Wildlife Federation, Whale & Dolphin Conservatory, Wildlife Center of Virginia, Elephant Sanctuary, Save the Bilby, Friends of the Smokies, Animal Rights Anonymous, Wildlife Conservation Society, Pets Without Partners, Pantera and Ocean Conservancy.

And we’re already set to start again…

YES, MORE BIG NEWS: Authors for Earth Day is going YEAR-ROUND!

Authors can now schedule their A4ED school visit any day of the year. We are excited to offer more flexibility, to make participation easier, opening the door for our whole coalition of 100+ available authors & illustrators to join the effort.

We are serious about reaching more students in the coming year and we need your help—please share the link to our A4ED website with all the librarians/teachers you know. Encourage them to host an A4ED event and help us help kids help the world.

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THAT MAKES ME SO MAD… by Sara Pennypacker, author of 17 books, including The New York Times best-selling Clementine series and the thought-provoking picture book Sparrow Girl

Several years ago, I was asked to give a speech that addressed the question, “Why do you write stories for children?” At first it seemed like asking me why I breathed air—I’d never even asked it of myself because the answer seemed so obvious—but it turned out to be an enlightening question.  I dove down through the surface reasons—Because writing for kids is so much fun and so interesting; Because once I tried it, I couldn’t not do it; Because kids are such a wonderful audience—and finally got to the core: I write to correct some kind of injustice, social or environmental. I write because something has gotten me mad, and I need to fix it—at least fictionally. Injustice isn’t just the original motivator, either. A book is a long slog for me—a year on average—and in order to face that blank screen or those messy drafts for 365 days, I’d better be pretty worked up about something.

Clementine illustration by Marla Frazee

Most of the time, I hope the issues firing the work are invisible. It’s always such a dilemma: People want to read about things that matter, but nobody wants to read (or write!) a preachy book. The way I solve it is to have a character with believable supporting backstory care about something passionately, then challenge and threaten her cause and record honestly what happens. For example, the plot of the latest Clementine book revolves around her becoming a vegetarian—I wrote it after becoming interested in animal welfare.

Sometimes, though, the injustice issue is the book. Sparrow Girl is a case like that. Just by accident, I happened to learn about Mao Tse-tung’s war on sparrows: In 1958 he (absurdly!) blamed sparrows for China’s food shortage and ordered every able-bodied citizen to go out over a course of three days and nights and kill them all. The directive included children—party representatives went into schools and issued firecrackers to kids, gave them the days off, and told them to go out and make noise—to basically kills birds by keeping them so scared they died of heart attacks. The plan worked, but was an ecological nightmare: without the sparrows, locusts and other insects grew to plague proportions and decimated Chinas’s crops for years, contributing to the greatest famine the world has recorded.

I literally couldn’t rest after learning this. Children, being ordered to kill animals!!! I flew out to CA to interview people who had been young in China during that time. One man told me that by the 2nd day, the sky was raining birds. On the plane home, I heard a character stand up and say heroically, “No. The sky was crying birds.” And that was that—I was writing a book about it. When the book was finished, I obviously hadn’t done a single thing to change what had happened, but the act of writing it down in a narrative form had corrected something for me, and brought me peace.

Now this is something I talk about when I visit schools. Kids know that wrong stuff happens in the world, and they assume there’s nothing they, as kids, can do about it. I tell them writing it down in a narrative form the rest of the tribe can relate to is both powerful and empowering.

Thanks for letting me blow off some steam!

Sara Pennypacker writes the uber-popular Clementine series and other children’s novels and picture books. Her work has won numerous awards, including a Golden Kite Award, a Christopher’s Medal and many children’s choice state awards. Visit her at www.sarapennypacker.com.

 

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Jeff Kinney, author-illustrator of the wildly popular book series Diary of a Wimpy Kid BUILDS GREEN to help the environment and inspire younger generations

When I was a kid, I thought of the natural world as an inexhaustible bounty. It never occurred to me that one day we might lose the treasures of nature that I took for granted.

In my lifetime, the world has changed faster than at any other time in history. Technology has enhanced and enriched our lives. Information travels more quickly than we ever could have imagined. So much good has come with the rapid advancements of the past forty years.

As human beings, we’ve learned so much about ourselves and about our world. And the most important thing we’ve learned is how much human activity can effect our environment.

I’ve read Time magazine almost my whole life. I seen hundreds of covers over the years, but the ones that always get my attention are those that feature the state of Planet Earth.

If Time is any indication, the healthfulness of our planet is in jeopardy. Cover stories over the past four decades have featured everything from the depleted ozone layer to vanishing wildlife species to the effects of global warming.

I have to admit, when I see a cover that disturbs me (like a recent one about the world’s bees vanishing), I’m tempted to bury my head in the sand and to hope that the next week’s issue will have something more entertaining on the cover (like, say, a debate on whether or not college athletes should be paid). But the truth is, the drumbeat of environmental concerns has become so deafening that it’s impossible to ignore.

What’s undeniable is that the activities of human beings are wreaking havoc on the natural world. If we don’t take action to protect our environment, we’ll destroy it, and faster than we think.

architectural drawing for the Kinneys' eco-friendly building

There’s hope that we can turn things around. There’s a growing body of information on ways we can act to help ensure that the world’s natural wonders will survive and thrive.

My wife and I are taking this information to heart. We’re constructing a three-story building in the center of our town, and we’re doing it in an environmentally-conscience way. The building will have solar panels, a charging bay for electric cars, energy-efficient toilets and sinks, and use reclaimed wood throughout. We hope this building can be a model that might inspire others to create energy-efficient buildings and homes.

There’s a term for kids who are growing up with computers as a part of their lives from the beginning… “digital natives.” Let’s raise a generation of “environmental natives” who value the world’s precious treasures and acts to protect them.

Jeff Kinney is the author and cartoonist of  the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, international award winning and bestselling teen titles, which have spawned several popular movies. He was named one of the TIME 100 World’s Most Influential People by Time Magazine in 2009. Jeff is also a game designer and creator of the website Poptropica. Discover more about his books at www.wimpykid.com.

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HOW COULD WE LET THAT BEAUTIFUL BIRD GO? by Newbery Honored and two-time National Book Award Finalist Kathi Appelt

Kathi and Mingus by photographer Igor Kraguliac

I love swamps.

When I was much younger, I lived with my sister in a small cabin outside of Nacogdoches, in deep East Texas. We were surrounded by tall pine trees and the ground was always soft and squishy.  It was dark back there, and a little creepy.  The woods were filled with poisonous snakes, biting insects and stinging vines that grabbed your socks and jeans whenever you brushed too close.

The ponds and slow-moving bayous were filled with logs that could, if you looked closely, actually be alligators.  It’s not really a place for a picnic . . . unless, that is, you want to be the lunch.

But look closer, the swampy woods of east Texas are also beautiful.  The tall cypress trees, with their knobby knees that pop up through the water and their long mossy beards, feel like grandparents.  And in a way, they are, as they provide nesting places for thousands of birds, frogs, and small mammals.

There are also, in those woods, many ghosts, the dozens of species that used to live there but have disappeared, most particularly the Ivory Billed Woodpecker, or IBWO as it’s known in birding circles.  A hundred years ago, this beautiful and statuesque bird, with its three-foot wingspan, filled the forests of the eastern United States.  There was no mistaking its cry—kint, kint, kint KAPOW! When people spotted it, they often shouted in amazement, “Good Lord, what a bird!”  And so it became known as the Good Lord Bird.

Once in a while, someone claims to have seen one, and even though it seems highly improbable and most likely impossible that one still exists, I think we see their ghosts.  We see them because there is an unanswered question out there:  “How could we let that beautiful bird go?”  Yes, I want to know, how could we?

That question is so painful to consider, that it nestles right in the deepest part of our hearts.  How could we? The yearning is so big, I think, that it’s easy to imagine that we’ve seen one.  The very act of imagining such an amazing bird, somehow lets us off the hook a bit, let’s us delay that awful question for at least a little while.

It’s why I set some of my stories in the swamps, because those too are at risk of becoming ghosts.  A swamp is a hard place to love.  They’re not like a majestic, breath-taking mountain, or a rolling hill, or a bounteous ocean side.  They’re murky and dark and dangerous.  But they are safe havens to critters we may not even know about, they are the protectors of hundreds, maybe thousands of species, and if the IBWO has even a remote shot of returning to us, then it will need these murky, dark and dangerous homes to raise its babies.

I want my books to offer up that hope, even if it’s a tiny bit magical, that anything is possible, that miracles occur.  I want that heartbreaking question, How could we? to become more than a question.  I want it to become a clarion call to take action, not only in our imaginations, but in our activities too, because inside of that question is an urgent insistence that we become better than we already are.

I want the birds to look at each one of us, and say, “Good Lord, what a human being!”

Kathi Appelt is the author of many acclaimed children’s novels and picture books. She received a Newbery Honor for The Underneath, which was also a National Book Award finalist. And The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp was a National Book Award Finalist too. Both are set in the swamps. Visit www.kathiappelt.com to learn more about her writing (and love of cats).

 

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HOW TO TELL THE STORY OF SEA TURTLES? by Steve Swinburne, award-winning author of over 25 nature books for kids

Where do you start? “Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.” That’s what Lewis Carroll wrote in Alice in Wonderland.

To tell your readers the story of sea turtles you must hook them at the start. Notice I said   story. Kids have always wanted and WILL always want: a story. A good beginning. A riveting middle. A satisfying conclusion. Kids want a page turner. An unputdownable yarn. Should nonfiction books begin with a great lead like fiction books do? Yes, yes, a hundred times yes!

“‘One egg out of a thousand will produce an adult sea turtle.” So says Dr. Kimberly Stewart as she gently places the leatherback hatchling, not much larger than a match-box car, onto the black-flecked sand. Its front flippers begin to beat, heaving the tiny turtle toward the sea and stippling the face of the sand with miniature tracks. “This could be the one in a thousand.’”

Dr Steward with a Leatherback; book cover; Steve holds a bag of sea turtle eggs

I had no idea how I would begin my sea turtle book as I traveled from my home state of Vermont to the Caribbean island of St. Kitts for ten days of research. That’s okay. Finding your leads (and middles and endings, too!) is an act of discovery. As I followed Dr. Stewart, my sea turtle expert, during nights and days on the beach, the story of her passion to save these magnificent endangered animals emerged.

I have always loved telling the story of ardent conservationists and wildlife biologists out there in the field enduring the cold, the biting flies, the crappy food, the crappier sleeping conditions, etc., in order to research and preserve endangered animals. Once A Wolf tells the story of Doug Smith’s lead role in the Yellowstone Wolf project. Black Bear – North America’s Bear highlights New Hampshire’s Ben Kilham’s passion to understand black bear behavior. In my book, Coyote – North America’s Dog, I followed the tracks of Dr. Bob Crabtree as he works to understand the relationship of coyotes and the newly-released wolves into Yellowstone National Park.

I love the great naturalist E.O Wilson’s gentle call to action when he says, “Ants make up two-thirds of the biomass of all the insects. There are millions of species of organisms and we know almost nothing about them.” He also said, “Go as far as you can, (young scientists). The world needs you badly.”

The Earth is such a cool place to live. It’s the only planet I want to live on. Forget about Mars, and I’m so over Pluto. So, get out there, you young writers and young scientists, go forth across the Earth. Be open. Be ready to be enthralled and engaged and keep telling the stories of this one-of-kind planet we call home.

Steve Swinburne is an author, photographer and musician with over two dozen children’s books and a very funny ukulele CD (“Poop-A-Lay-Lee”) to his credit. Steve travels around the globe to research his nonfiction writing projects. Learn all about the efforts to save the endangered leatherback sea turtle in Steve’s new book called Sea Turtle Scientist. Details at www.steveswinburne.com.

 

 

 

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LOVE EVERY LIVING THING by Suzy Kline, author of the beloved Horrible Harry series

Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote a wonderful poem when he got out of a prison in Siberia. His words really express the way I feel about life.

“Love every leaf, every ray of light

Love the animals, love the plants

Love each separate thing,

Loving all, you will perceive the mystery of God in all.”

I loved being a school teacher for 27 years. Mostly, I taught second and third grade which is the setting for my school stories about Horrible Harry and his friends. I enjoyed reading books aloud, writing with my students, and especially teaching science. Many of Harry’s adventures come from my real life experiences in the classroom. I am very much like Miss Mackle, Harry’s teacher. We grew monarch butterflies from eggs, observed ant behavior in ant farms, cried when Charlotte died in Charlotte’s Web, had a terrarium in class for visiting salamanders and garter snakes, as well as tanks for fish and frogs, and kept a hamster cage. We learned so much by just taking care of these magnificent creatures and from observing them!

All the characters in my stories are based on real people from my class. And Harry, well, he was inspired by one particular student I had. That year, I had to go to bed an hour earlier because I needed extra patience to deal with him. But his interest in science inspired us all, although it got him in trouble sometimes. Once he even left the playground by crawling through the hole in our school fence—he went into the empty lot next door looking for wild mushrooms!

The very first Horrible Harry in Room 2B came out in 1988, which means Harry has been in second or third grade for twenty-five years now.  Since that time, Harry has been fascinated with…

Charles, his pet spider… Edward, his pet earwig… Tasmanian devils… vultures… night crawlers… frogs and beetles… Goog, his one-eyed cat… ants… Stinkhorn mushrooms… and even canaries!

What mellows Harry’s character is that even though he is impulsive, doesn’t follow directions, and can be very gross, he loves nature, and takes very good care of his pets. In one book, Harry’s pet earwig dies. This is the scene where Harry and his friends decide to have a funeral for him. Doug is the narrator:

illustration by Frank Remkiewicz from Horrible Harry Bugs the Three Bears

We followed Harry out to the backyard.  He dug a hole in one corner of the garden.  He placed the tissue with Edward in it inside the hole.  We watched him sprinkle dirt on top until he made a mound.  Harry then patted it with the palm of his hand.  Song Lee found three little rocks and placed them on top.  Mary added some blades of grass.  Ida added a few sticks.

“We should say a prayer,” I said.

“Yeah,” Harry agreed. “Will you say one, Song Lee?”

Song Lee nodded, then spoke very softly.  “Dear God, help us love every living thing.”

“Amen,” we all said.

Keep caring about every living thing and celebrate Earth Day!

Suzy Kline is the author of nearly 50 best-selling books for young readers. In addition to the Horrible Harry series, she also writes the Herbie Jones and Song Lee series, among others. Suzy promotes Reader’s Theatre and creates science–based classroom activities that can be explored alongside with her books at www.suzykline.com.

 

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