Jump for joy! It’s time to celebrate our 2018 GREEN AUTHORs!

As we launch into our 10th Annual A4ED Season, we are happy to announce 2018 GREEN AUTHORs: Patricia Newman, Elissa Brent Weissman, and Linda Crotta Brennan. Donating to conservation through at least five annual Authors for Earth Day school visits, each of these generous participants is now recognized with the GREEN AUTHOR icon created by best-selling children’s illustrator Jim Paillot.

This humble but heartful honor was created to acknowledge the achievements of our most stalwart A4ED members—a way to let them know how much their mentorship matters and to applaud their success. And what success they’ve had!

Each of these GREEN AUTHORS is a hero in her own right, not only as an award-winning author whose books grace our bookshelves but as an inspiring leader for young readers everywhere:

Patricia Newman (www.patriciamnewman.com) has authored almost a dozen children’s books, including Plastic, Ahoy!,  Sea Otter Heroes,  and Eavesdropping on Elephants. Her titles have garnered a Green Earth Book Award and Sibert Honor, and been named and AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books finalist, NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book, Bank Street College Best Children’s Book of the Year, Eureka! Gold, California Reading Association book, and Junior Library Guild Selection. Patti is a long-time member of Authors for Earth Day. In addition to her annual A4ED school visits, she served two years as our Eco-Book of the Month co-director, offering up personally selected books from her literary explorations. And in two essays for our A4ED Blog, she relates her discoveries writing books on renewable energy and plastic consumption.

Elissa Brent Weissman (www.ebweissman.com) is the author of several multi-award-winning middle grade books. Nerd Camp, which has now become a popular series, won a Cybils Award, a Sakura Medal Finalist and made the Maine Student Book Award master list. And her acclaimed novel The Length of a String has been described as “unforgettable and entirely satisfying.” Honored as one of CBS Baltimore’s Best Authors in Maryland, Elissa not only writes kid-friendly novels, shares her knowledge with students from child to adult through creative writing classes. As an educator, she has developed book-based resources for the classroom and enjoys visiting schools where she can connect with her readers. Elissa has participated in Authors for Earth Day every year since 2014. As a recent A4ED guest-blogger, she shared some interesting insight into her very first book, Standing for Socks.

Linda Crotta Brennan (www.lindacrottabrennan.com) has written over twenty books for young readers, as well as articles for Highlights for Children, Cricket, Smithsonian’s Click Magazine, and Ranger Rick. The year she joined Authors for Earth Day, 2013, her book When Rivers Burned: The Earth Day Story was named an NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book and NSTA Notable Social Studies Trade Book. It also took the Green Book Award in History, Moonbeam Children’s Book Award Gold Medal and Green Book Festival Award in History. Holding a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education and having worked as a preschool and elementary school teacher and a public library teen program coordinator, Linda’s passion for knowledge-sharing is clear. She is currently an instructor with the Institute of Children’s Literature, and we are grateful for her participation in our coalition and her contribution to our A4ED Blog.

Please help us acknowledge these amazing GREEN AUTHORS by visiting our A4ED Facebook Page and clicking LIKE on our January posts highlighting their generous contributions to kids and the environment.

Here’s wishing you all a prosperous and joyful New Year!

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Middle-grade novelist Kristin O’Donnell Tubb suggests a brilliant holiday gift inspired by the sea

“What should I get the kids for Christmas?”

Several years ago, I was on the phone with my sister, and this question was one I’d tried to answer for other relatives already. But the fact was, my kids needed nothing. (And we’re very grateful for that.)

So, I suggested an alternative: “How about donating to a charity instead? I think you can ‘adopt’ a sea turtle—maybe look into that?”

And that’s how our journey with the Sea Turtle Conservancy began. They mailed us an awesome welcome packet, along with a certificate of the turtles we adopted, Pearl and Calypso Blue, and two shiny Christmas ornaments. And then they told us how we could log in and watch where our turtles swam.

Yep. You can watch your turtles swim across the globe! And my kids LOVED it. They’d race home from school, wanting to know where their turtles were “today.” (The monitoring feeds don’t update quite that frequently, but we could get an overall sense of how far and fast they were moving.) My oldest was so enthralled, she did a science project on her turtle, Pearl.

And it is truly fascinating. If you ever thought of a turtle as “slow,” I invite you to check out a sea turtle’s path! I watched each turtle go, bit by bit, wave by wave, and thought, That’s exactly how a book comes to life. Bit by bit.  Those turtles and I knew stamina.

Calypso Blue’s journey, throughout 2012 and 2013 (map: Sea Turtle Conservancy)

There are currently 28 turtles being monitored by the Sea Turtle Conservancy, which says on their website, “Since our founding, STC’s research and conservation initiatives have been instrumental in saving the Caribbean green turtle from immediate extinction, as well as raising awareness and protection for sea turtles across the globe with nearly 60 years of experience in national and international sea turtle conservation, research and educational endeavors. The organization began its work in Costa Rica, but has expanded its research and conservation efforts throughout Central America and the Wider Caribbean.”

The Sea Turtle Conservancy does amazing work, and I proudly chose it as the recipient of my 2018 A4ED school visit contribution, both for their mission, and because it’s a program kids love. Plus awwwwthe turtles are adorable! Visit them and watch them GO! Bit by bit. Wave by wave. Just like us writers.

Kristin O’Donnell Tubb is the author of several award-winning middle-grade novels, with such diverse characters as a Civil War drummer boy, a service dog and even a con artist. Selling Hope, The 13th Sign, and A Dog Named Daisy earned prestigious peer-given SCBWI Crystal Kite Awards. See all of Kristin’s books and try out her 6-Second Writing Tips at www.kristintubb.com.

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NATURE INSPIRES! by Jennifer Swanson, who was recently honored at the 2018 Green Earth Book Awards

If I had to pick one thing that led to my career as a science writer, I would say it began in nature. I loved being outdoors as a kid. I would go camping every chance I got. I spent my summers at Girl Scout camp, happily trekking through the woods, gathering leaves, and identifying plants. When I couldn’t go there, I camped outside in the backyard with my brothers and we caught fireflies and counted the stars. Days were spent running along the creek in the backyard hunting for frogs and watching tadpoles.

As I got older, my passion for nature expanded. I used tools and technology that weren’t available to me when I was very young. My mother was the one who encouraged me to investigate further with science. One of her greatest gifts to me was a microscope! My first look at the creek water under that microscope was the moment that changed my life. Through the lens I saw AMAZING thingstiny microorganisms, fungi, bacteria and paramecium. These were all in the creek water and I didn’t even know it. What I learned that day was that science is not just something that you can see, it’s EVERYWHERE!

And so I began to notice science wherever I went: Electricity in the lights in my bedroom. Materials that make up the sheets on my bed and the cushions on the couch. Technology that is used to make computers, televisions, and even cell phones.

I now see science everywhere I go and in everything I do. It is what makes our very Earth go around, and yet most of us don’t ever stop to think about it.

My passion for science is what drives the subjects I tackle in my books. From my time in nature I ended up writing books about metamorphic rocks, tsunamis, solar power, and dolphins. My passion for physical science and technology resulted in books about electricity, magnetism, and forces and motion.

Earth science inspired me to shoot for the stars and dive deep under the ocean for Astronaut-Aquanaut. And finally, my love for engineering (also a big part of science), led to books about nanotechnology, robotics, and hybrid cars.

I have endless curiosity about the world and how it works! And yet it all began at a very early age with my love of the outdoors.

Jennifer as a toddler experimenting with balloons in a pool

Through early years playing in my backyard to summers spent at Girl Scout camp, to hiking in the woods, or just hanging out at the creek, I learned that nature is truly a wonderful place to be. That feeling is still with me today, all these many years later. If I’m ever at a loss for something to write or cannot figure out how to tackle a project, I go for a walk or ride my bike. Being surrounded by nature is peaceful, joyous… and inspiring!

What about you? Do you have a favorite outdoor spot? You should! If not, give a few of these tips a try. The next time you go outside. Stop for a minute. Look around you. What do you see?  Trees, plants, grass, a pond? Sure, those are parts of botany, or life science. But what about the sidewalks, driveways, and cars? Those could be part of physical science.  If you look up into the sky you may see the sun, the stars or the moon. That’s earth and space science.

Maybe take a notebook and write down a few things that you notice. Then go and get some books from your library to learn more about all of these things. Make it your mission in life to explore the world around you, after all, science is EVERYWHERE!

Jennifer Swanson is the award-winning author of over 35 books. Her titles in the “How Things Work” series were named in the 2012 Booklist’s Top 10 Books for Youth. Top reviews include a starred review in Booklist, and recommended reviews from School Librarians Workshop, Library Media Connection, and a Nerdy Book Club award. Learn more at www.jenniferswansonbooks.com.


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BOOK, PAPER, TREE by best-seller Dan Gutman (who interviewed his author and illustrator friends for this blog)

Books are made out of paper. Paper is made out of trees. Duh.

As an author who cares about the environment, I can’t help but wonder how many trees get cut down to produce my books.

Of course, it’s impossible to give an exact number, because there’s so much variation. Some books are longer than others. Some trees are longer than others. But according to one estimate, an average tree yields enough paper for 62.5 books. So a book that sells a million copies requires that we cut down…uh, I don’t know. If I was good in math, I probably wouldn’t have gone into writing.

The point is, I am conflicted. The more books I sell, the more trees that must be cut down to make them. If I have a bestseller, will I be wiping out a forest? It bothers me that I’m part of a business that’s dependent on destroying trees—trees that soak up carbon dioxide and almost magically produce oxygen.

So I asked a few of my children’s book author friends, who are much smarter than me, how they feel about the issue. “The alternate to paper books seems to be e-books,” said Peter Lerangis, author of the best-selling Seven Wonders series, “and that’s a pretty grim world to me.”

Oh yeah, e-books. A few years back, experts were predicting that books on paper would slowly die out and vanish. Part of me felt that my career was over. Part of me felt that the death of paper books would be a good thing, because so many forests would be preserved. Time and technology marches on. The horse and buggy was replaced by the automobile. The typewriter was replaced by the personal computer. E-books would replace paper books.

But it didn’t happen. It turns out that people love books on paper.

My friend Gordon Korman, author of Masterminds, reminded me that if e-books ever do take off, downloads and streaming will very likely end our careers as authors. “If we eventually do reach the moment where all books are e-books,” he said, “I worry that our business will end up in the same boat as the music industry, where it has become almost impossible to make money recording music.”

Whenever I visit a school and have lunch with a group of kids, I ask them if they prefer to read a book off a page or off a screen. Almost all of them prefer to hold a real book in their hands. And these are kids who grew up looking at screens. So books aren’t going away, at least not in the near future. We’ll be chopping down trees to make them for some time.

“As long as a well-managed renewable forestry is involved, there isn’t any concern,” says David Lubar (Sleeping Freshman Never Lie, among others). My publisher, HarperCollins, claims its paper comes from mills “whose forest management practices are certified by independent, internationally recognized sustainable forestry certification bodies.”

Down the line, book publishers may begin to think outside the box and move away from paper. My partner in crime Jim Paillot, who illustrates My Weird School, told me, “I would love to see a way that recycled plastics could become a form of synthetic paper.”

Wouldn’t that be great? We could take all that plastic that’s floating in the ocean and turn it into books. That would kill two birds with one stone, while avoiding killing any birds (or fish).

Chris Grabenstein, the author of the Mr. Lemoncello books, pointed out that alternatives are already available. “It’s possible to produce paper without killing trees,” he told me. “Some options include residue from sugarcane, textile scraps from unsold clothing, and even elephant dung.”

Oh great. Books printed on elephant dung. I can see the reviews now: “This book stinks!”

Dan Gutman is the award-winning author of over 130 books, including the My Weird School series, The Genius Files series, and the Baseball Card Adventure series. He is also the recruitment director for Authors for Earth Day and a 2016 Green Author. Search his name to read all of his A4ED blogs here. Then visit his web site at www.dangutman.com.




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SIMPLE ACTS SAVE LIVES by kid-enchanting nonfiction author Heather L. Montgomery

It was a clear April morning and I was riding my bike along my little country lane when I heard it—


My tires rolled over a body as flat as a smashed coke can.

My neck craned, my nose crinkled, my eyes stared at a wrung rag of fur. An opossum. The lower edges of my eyelids began to prickle.

“Sad” suddenly turned into “mad.” You see, I had just spent years writing a book about roadkill. Everyday over a million animals lose their lives on the roads. I had been overwhelmed by the tragedy of it but also amazed at how scientists aren’t wasting those bodies. They scooped them up and made discoveries—squirmy parasites that are invading snake lungs, a new perspective on red wolf genetics, and the existence of contagious cancer.


Even more inspiring were the phenomenal efforts to prevent roadkill. Bridges are built for wildlife – they can now trot right over roads. Legions of volunteers serve as crossing guards, allowing cute little salamanders to make it across the pavement during breeding season. Citizens click pics to map where there are roadkill hot spots.

But there was no bridge built for this little possum. No group standing guard. No nobody. That April morning, I still didn’t know what to do when I saw a little guy like that.

Staring down at him, I recalled two other possums who lost their life on that stretch of road. This was a hot spot for possums. Why here? I glanced around. A lidless trash can gave me a wide-eyed stare.

A pizza box, a juice can, a clear baggie with a half-eaten strawberry—stuff spewed across the ground.


For years I’d been passing that trash can on my dog’s morning walk. I’d never made the connection. That trashy smell?

Like fresh-baked brownies to an opossum.

That gooey wrapper flapping against a fence post?

Like a fast food sign: Open! Open! Open!

Now, don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t blaming my neighbors. How were they to realize the impact of their lidless can? I had been studying roadkill for years and had just now put two and two together.

I pedaled faster, eager to get away from that sad spot.

All day images of that little possum kept bubbling up in my mind. Late in the afternoon some words bubbled up, “Knowledge is power.”

Heather helps a turtle trying to cross the road

Then it hit me. I’d given years of my life researching a book about the tragedy of roadkill. To write Something Rotten, A Fresh Look at Roadkill, I had gathered knowledge from across the globe. But in doing all of that, I hadn’t followed one simple rule:

Think globally, act locally.

Simple acts save lives: picking up litter, driving slower, removing a rabbit’s body off the road. Every day, everyone can save an animal’s life.

I could save an animal’s life.

So with a trash bag in hand, I marched myself out my driveway and shared this story with my neighbor.

Heather L. Montgomery writes for kids who are wild about animals. An award-winning educator, Heather uses yuck appeal to engage young minds. She has authored over a dozen nonfiction books, including Bugs Don’t Hug and Unsolved Mysteries of Nature. Explore all of her titles at www.HeatherLMontgomery.com

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Elissa Brent Weissman’s first main character, Fara Ross, caught the wave of cool by accident

Writing and publishing are slow. From the time I start writing a book to the time it’s available in bookstores and libraries, it’s usually about three or four years, sometimes longer. This means authors can’t really follow trends when they write, because who knows what will be popular by the time their book is ready for readers? A book could be outdated by the time it’s published—or, in my case, it’s possible to hit upon a future trend without trying. That trend? Being green.

I wrote my first book, Standing for Socks, in 2004 and 2005, when I was a senior in college. The story revolved around Fara Ross, a funky tween determined to make a difference. Her mismatched socks make her famous, but her freedom-of-footwear campaign—which starts in an effort to save water—is meant to drive her bigger mission and unique passion: Protecting the earth. That’s right; when I wrote Standing for Socks, being passionate about the environment was considered quirky and unusual!

Looking back, it’s hard to believe that only fourteen years ago, being green was not yet a thing. I’m sure there were people who were thinking critically about our environment and striving to protect it, but it wasn’t nearly as commonplace as it is now. If anyone carried reusable shopping bags, I didn’t see them. Hybrid cars were new and rare. I remember laughing with confusion when I learned that my graduation speaker would be Al Gore. (Really? The former vice president who lost the election a few years ago?) My friends and I were even more surprised when he used the stage to talk about global warming. It wasn’t until a year later, when his documentary An Inconvenient Truth came out, that Al Gore would become known for environmentalism, his message would hit the mainstream, and people—including myself—would begin to think more consciously about how our everyday decisions affect this planet we all share.

Remember how long it takes to publish a book, and how quickly things can change? By the time Standing for Socks came out in 2009, being green was no longer quirky and unusual; it was cool! In fact, eco-consciousness was so popular that numerous reviewers assumed I was merely jumping on the conservation bandwagon, trying to cash in on a current trend. I’d probably be much richer today if I’d lucked into a different trend, like gorgeous vampires or cartoon wimpy kids, but that’s okay. We’re all reaping much bigger benefits from the trend I unknowingly foretold. Fara would be stoked to know that people are thinking proactively about protecting our planet, its resources, and all of its inhabitants. She’d be right at home among the thoughtful, caring, inspired kids I meet each year on my Authors for Earth Day school visit. She’d gladly give up her “quirky” label to know that the things she stands for are now the norm. It’s great to be unique, but when it comes to conservation, we’re all in it together, so the more people on board, the better off we’ll all be.

I’m encouraged by how far we’ve come since I first started writing Standing for Socks, but we still have lots of work to do. Let’s work together to stand up for planet Earth. Let’s make sure that it’s always cool to save water, recycle, and speak up for our environment. If we all work together, we can make this campaign a socktacular sock-cess.

Elissa Brent Weissman is the author of several award-winning middle grade books, including the popular Nerd Camp series and her newest novel, The Length of a String. She also teaches creative writing and is an active speaker in schools, with fun book-based resources for teachers. Elissa has participated in Authors for Earth Day every year since 2014. Check out her work at www.ebweissman.com.


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BECAUSE OF A BIRD by Jennifer Ward, award-winning author of humor- and nature-themed books for children and adults

Because of a bird, my eyes opened to the big-wide world around me in such a marvelous way. I have always been a nature girl. But you know that scene in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, where the Grinch’s heart suddenly grows and bursts and he feels love and wonder and his life changes? THAT’S what happened to me once. Because of a bird.

When I witnessed a hummingbird mama craft her wee cup nest outside my kitchen window, it was an “aha” moment for me.

She built it upon a carved, wooden mobile I acquired in Mexico. Every few minutes she’d come and go and land upon that mobile. It was a curious thing to watch this behavior—and at first I wasn’t certain why she kept perching on this hanging art. But then, little by little, a tiny nest formed. A NEST!

This particular hummingbird mama sparked the idea for my book, Mama Built a Little Nest—it got me thinking about bird nests in general. They are all so different, structurally!  Birds create the most variety of homes of any wild animal. Their nests often defy gravity, natural elements, weather, and predators—and birds design them without the use of hands or opposable thumbs. Remarkable engineers. And who knew it took a hummingbird over a week to craft such a wee cup that can expand as her chicks grow? I was hooked.

I began immersing my life into the lives of birds: observing them, documenting behavior, learning all I could—reading scientific journals, keeping abreast with the latest research through the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the National Audubon Society, and FLAP (Fatal Light Awareness Program). Who knew that birds need our help in so many ways? I didn’t.

The livelihood of birds is threatened by habitat loss, pollution, pesticide use, drying water sources, climate change, outdoor cats, and death/injury caused by human structures, namely window strikes. Did you know close to a billion birds are killed each year in the U.S. alone just by window strikes? Many of these birds are neotropical migratory songbirds, flying by night, that have traveled thousands of miles to their nesting grounds in the North America.

I engage with the avian world every day and do my part to help them as I can. My husband and I know the birds on our property personally; they are like extended family to us. We greet each migration season as a cause for celebration, eagerly anticipated arrivals and departures.

My work as an author covers many topics, including humor in addition to science, but birds are a reoccurring theme with my writing and a true source of inspiration. For that, I am ever grateful to them. Forthcoming bird-themed books of mine include the parenting book, I Love Birds! 52 Ways to Wonder, Wander and Explore Birds with Kids, and How to Find a Bird.

Birds are a true barometer to the health of our planet. We need them and must be aware of the steep decline in their numbers taking place and the human-caused challenges they face. Please visit FLAP (Fatal Light Awareness Program), the National Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to learn more.

Jennifer Ward is the award-winning author of more than 20 books for children and adults. Her home is nestled among the treetops of old growth oak forest in Illinois, where she wakes up each morning to bird song and writes full-time. www.jenniferwardbooks.com


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Team ’18 mentors an estimated 12,000 students while taking Authors for Earth Day total contributions past $92,000

What wouldn’t a person do, to help the most wondrous products of four billion years of creation?    Richard Powers, The Overstory

MEET TEAM ’18, twenty-two award-winning authors and illustrators from across the United States, who stepped up to help young readers connect with the natural world: Eliot Schrefer, Tui Sutherland, Lissa Price, Katherine Roy, Loree Griffin Burns, Miranda Paul, Marty Kelley, Elissa Brent Weissman, Suzanne Slade, Debbie Dadey, Andrea Alban, Patricia Newman, Dan Gutman, Kate McMullan, Polly Holyoke, Lisa Kahn Schnell, Lori Degman, Linda Crotta Brennan, Barb Rosenstock, Sandy Asher, Rachelle Burk, and Ted Scheu.

This extraordinary line-up reached a projected TWELVE THOUSAND STUDENTS from January to May, giving kid voters the power to research important conservation initiatives and then direct $19,000 from the authors’ own speaking fees to praiseworthy environmental organizations.

As always, the students voted to support a wide range of organizations, all of which strive to save natural habitats and wild animals and/or create sustainable human communities. Twenty-one charities won contributions in 2018: Rainforest Alliance, Ocean Conservancy, Greenpeace, Sierra Club, Wildlife Conservation Society, Coral Reef Alliance, Hug It Forward, African Wildlife Foundation, David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, The Humane Society of the United States, Marine Mammal Center, Surfrider Foundation, Friends of Horicon Marsh, Scripps Institute of Oceanography, National Park Foundation, Lake County Forest Preserves, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Pet Pantry of Lancaster County, Maine Audubon, Honeybee Conservancy, and Ape Action Africa.

THANKS to the generosity of our members, the Authors for Earth Day coalition has now counted over 150 A4ED school visits and granted more than $92K to 90+ organizations worldwide! 

Such forward-thinking gifts—empowering young readers and funding critical environmental causes—reach far beyond the classroom. They have a profound impact on the future, too, as students never forget encouraging concepts they learn from talented and enthusiastic kid-lit authors.

From seed to sapling to tree, our coalition is growing. Slow and steady, every year we stretch our sights higher, always with the goal of providing young readers the sturdy branches of fact-based knowledge to climb.

We are already excited about the MONUMENTAL mile-marker we are sure to cross next year! In the meantime, join us on Facebook to read more about the extraordinary successes of our 2018 authors and illustrators and all the brilliant kids who voted for Earth Day. Every day.

Wishing you a nature-filled summer!

Brooke Bessesen, A4ED Executive Director

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Best-selling author Stuart Gibbs reminds us that we must actively protect wildlife before it’s too late

The northern white rhinoceros is going to go extinct in your lifetime. At this moment, there are only three of them left on Earth and they are all too old to breed. So soon, there will be no more northern white rhinos.

I am guessing that you are upset to hear this. Maybe you are even horrified. Well, you should be horrified. The northern white rhino is a beautiful animal and they were wiped out by humans, who killed them all simply for their horns.

Why do humans want rhino horns? For two reasons:

1) Some people mistakenly believe rhino horns have medical properties, and can cure diseases like cancer. Rhino horn is made of keratin, which is the same substance your own fingernails are made of. If keratin could really cure disease, doctors would tell you to chew your fingernails.

2) Some people simply think that a rhino horn looks better in their home than it does on a live rhino.

People often ask where I get the inspiration for my books. The inspiration for Big Game, which is about rhino poaching, came from my son. When he was five, we visited the San Diego Safari Park. At the time, there were eight northern white rhinos left in the world, and four were at that park. That really upset my son, so I decided to write about poaching.

I did not write about northern white rhinos, however, because I was worried that they would be extinct by the time the book was published. So I wrote about Indian rhinos instead, although the sad truth is that they are also headed toward extinction. All rhino species are. The Javan and Sumatran species are down to only about sixty animals each. The southern white rhino in Africa is being poached at a rate of three rhinos a day. Which means that within a few decades (maybe less), the only place anyone will be able to see a rhino is in a zoo. And that’s if we’re lucky.

This is a northern white rhino. Above, Stuart is seen with an Indian rhino.

While researching Big Game, I learned many fascinating things about rhinos, but here’s what impressed me the most: They are surprisingly gentle animals.  Hippos are often thought to be docile but are really dangerous—but rhinos are the opposite. Many people think of rhinos as ornery and aggressive, but for the most part they are not. The ones in zoos are often sweet-tempered and kind.

Nola, the last remaining northern white rhino in San Diego, was regarded by her keepers as one of the most docile, lovable animals at the park. Sadly, she passed away a few years ago. The remaining three northern white rhinos are owned by a Czechoslovakian zoo but are living out their final years in a preserve in Kenya, protected by armed guards.

You are probably wondering how we can keep all rhinos from going extinct. It’s a complicated problem, but basically we need to convince people to stop buying rhino horns. If rhino horn loses its value, then poachers will stop killing rhinos.

To do this, people worldwide need to be taught that rhino horn does not cure disease. Countries need to make importing rhino horn products illegal and enforce those laws. Communities that live near rhinos need to believe that a live rhinoceros is worth more than a dead one.

There are many organizations working to protect rhinos.  If you care about these amazing animals, I encourage you to visit the websites of the International Rhino Foundation and the World Wildlife Fund to find out how you can help save them.

Stuart Gibbs used to study capybaras, the world’s largest rodent. Now he writes popular middle grade novels, including the Spy School series. His mysteries Belly Up, Poached, Panda-monium, and Big Game all center around extraordinary species in serious trouble. Stuart even has a special page on his website called “Save the World!” Check it out and find his books at www.stuartgibbs.com.

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THE NATURAL HISTORY OF YOUR PLACE by prestigious science writer (for young people) Loree Griffin Burns

What’s natural history, you ask? My favorite definition was written by a teacher named Tom Fleischner. According to Tom, natural history is “the practice of giving focused attention to the more-than human world, and doing so with honesty and accuracy.”

What’s the more-than-human world? It’s the life all around you: birds, insects, squirrels, mice, moles, mushrooms, plants, grasses, weeds, shrubs, trees, euglenas … any organism that happens to be where you are when you stop and take note. People who pay close attention to these lives, recording what they see over time, are called natural historians. Natural historians have compiled a lot of information about what creatures have lived on this planet, where they have lived, and when. Read carefully, these histories tell the story of life on Earth. The most beautiful thing about that story, to me, is this: it isn’t finished yet. Which means you and I can take part in the telling. We can be natural historians too.

In the book Citizen Scientists: Be a Part of Scientific Discovery from Your Own Back Yard (Henry Holt, 2014), I introduced readers to the idea that they could be scientists in the field, collecting important information—data, if you will—in their own backyards.  Today I want to remind readers that the work of observing your backyard or favorite green space needn’t be done solely for the sake of submitting data to professional scientists … it can be done for the sheer joy of it! My three kids and I learned this for ourselves a few years ago, when we spent a single school year recording all the animals we came across in the place we call home. We took photographs and compiled them into a book—a giant three-ring binder, really—that we called The Flora and Fauna of Hosmer Street. Amazing things happened to us that year. We met some cool creatures, for sure, but we also learned to slow down, to look harder, to see more*.

Think you might like to be a natural historian yourself? My advice is simple: go for it. Spend time outside in the places you are curious about, and start recording what you see there, honestly and accurately. You can do this with a sketch pad, a notebook and a camera, or you can embrace the incredible technologies now available for this kind of work. (I’ve recently started using a smart phone application called iNaturalist, and love it.) Soon you’ll be an expert on the natural history of your place, adding new chapters to the story of life on Earth.

Loree Griffin Burns earned a PhD in biochemistry before she became a children’s author and her passion for science shows in her books. Her titles have been honored with ALA Notable designations, a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book Award, an IRA Children’s Book Award, a Green Earth Book Award and two Science Books & Films (SB&F) Prizes. Learn more about Loree at www.loreeburns.com.

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