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The storymamas had the opportunity to “meet” Deborah Lee Rose and Jane Veltkamp, the authors of the new non-fiction book Beauty and the Beak: How Science, Technology, and a 3D Printed Beak Rescued a Bald Eagle. They collaborated to tell the story of Beauty, a bald eagle that lost part of her beak to a gunshot wound. Her injuries healed, but her beak did not. When Janie, a raptor biologist, met Beauty, she felt compelled to help. Her compassion for the eagle was relentless, and she worked with others to help create a prosthetic beak for Beauty using a 3D printer. Janie worked with Deborah, an accomplished science writer, to share Beauty’s story with the world through an engaging narrative format and vivid photographs.
Beauty and the Beak would be a wonderful narrative nonfiction text as a read aloud and an addition to your classroom library. It provides a concrete example of design thinking and perseverance. By thinking through different ideas, Janie and her team were able to come up with a solution that allowed Beauty to regain the use of a beak.
The end of the book is full of additional resources and an educator’s guide can be found several places; on Deborah’s website, www.deborahleerose.com, Janie’s website at www.birdsofpreynorthwest.org and from the Cornell Lab Publishing Group’s Educators page https://cornelllabpublishinggroup.com/educators-2/?v=7516fd43adaa
We can’t wait for the world to hear Beauty’s story!
3 Questions about Beauty and the Beak
What three words would you use to describe this book?
Deborah: uplifting, inspiring, eye-opening
Janie: labor of love
How did you hear about Beauty/get hooked up together to create this story?
Deborah: I had read about Beauty in several articles on animal prosthetics—the story of her pioneering prosthetic beak was reported worldwide. I wanted to know much more about Beauty herself, about Janie’s work to help her, and about bald eagles, so I called Janie at Birds of Prey Northwest, the raptor center she founded and directs in Idaho. From that first conversation grew a fantastic, ongoing collaboration to coauthor Beauty and the Beak. I ended up learning so much, thanks to Janie’s encyclopedic knowledge about bald eagles and her long experience in speaking about Beauty and other raptors to public audiences.
Janie: I had wanted to work with a science writer on Beauty’s story. When Deborah called me, and I learned that she was both a national science writer and award winning children’s author, I knew together we could capture Beauty’s powerful story in a children’s book. I already had lots of photos from Beauty’s beak surgery, by amazing photographer Glen Hush; once we found the incredible bald eagle photos available from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Digital Library, we knew we could tell kids about Beauty beginning with her life in the wild, all the way up to what her life is like today at Birds of Prey Northwest.
What was the process you used to create the story together?
Deborah: There were so many wonderful steps to the process—including my meeting Beauty face to face in Idaho!—which happened over the course of the last three years. We spent countless hours by phone and email finding out the best way to tell Beauty’s story through both text and photos. Janie and I wanted children (and adults) to understand how critical Beauty’s beak was even from the time she was born, and how disastrous losing her beak really was.
Janie: We reached out to many people for insight and help including other raptor biologists, wildlife experts, engineers, 3D printing specialists, STEM educators, and wildlife photographers. The Idaho STEM Action Center helped us with 3D printing, to make life-size replicas of Beauty’s prosthetic beak that we can share with public audiences. And even beyond Beauty’s story, we wanted to tell about the natural history of bald eagle populations in the United States—how bald eagles nearly went extinct on the U.S. mainland, how scientists worked to reintroduce bald eagles to areas where they had nearly disappeared, and what risks bald eagles still face today. We were very lucky, thanks to our publisher, to have Cornell Lab of Ornithology add special content to the book about bald eagle conservation.
3 Questions About You
If you weren’t able to do your current job, what would you want to be and why?
Deborah: I have been a science writer for a long time, and would always want to work in some way to communicate science to public audiences.
Janie: My dream is to open a raptor education center that millions of people could visit from all over the country and the world.
What is one book that has stuck with you since you’ve read it?
Janie: A book that has stayed with me since I was growing up is Aesop’s Fables. I especially love the story about the wisdom of the crow, because it’s about problem solving and the intelligence of birds. Science continues to prove how intelligent birds are across their many species. After all the years I have worked with raptors, I continue to be amazed by their intelligence.
Deborah: The book that affected my whole career was Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. I adored it as a child, because I could fully imagine myself in the story even though it was as far from my city life as you could imagine. I read it again as an adult, and discovered an even deeper reason that I love it–because the character of Charlotte is truly a writer, who understands the power of words to teach, entertain, inspire and even save a life.
What is one item in your fridge that tells us about you?
Janie: Tiny bits of salmon—to feed orphaned baby ospreys. There is always something in my frig that will be used to feed the raptors who are in my care.
Deb: Whole wheat pastry flour—I love to bake my own muffins. It took me a while to perfect my favorite recipe, and that process was a lot like creating a book!
Can’t wait to read about Beauty? You’re in luck! We are giving away THREE copies of Beauty and the Beak, thanks to Deborah, Janie, and their team. Head on over to @storymamas on Instagram to enter!
Alan Gratz, author and creator of Refugee, was kind enough to step away from his very busy schedule of moving, writing his new book, getting ready for the launch of Refugee, raising his 14 year old daughter and hosting the last local pub trivia game after 7 years to hangout with Storymamas for an hour to discuss Refugee.
According to Alan, in three words, Refugee is:
- Action-packed (he decided to make it a hyphenated one-word word)
“I write books I don’t want kids to put down.”
He really didn’t want to use this word to describe his own book, he’s very humble, but he said it’s because supporting refugee children is important to him, important for kids to know what is happening today and what has happened in the past, important to bring attention to refugees. So important, in fact, that Alan has tried to volunteer his home to host refugee families, but he lives in the ‘boonies’ and it’s better for refugees to live in bigger cities where there are more opportunities and a larger support system. So instead he gives money to causes like Save the Children and UNICEF. He’s such an amazing author and person he’s even giving a portion of the proceeds made from the book sales of Refugee to UNICEF to support refugee children around the world. Is that not enough reason to buy the book and read it, if not for our words of love for this wonderful book?! 😉
This book focuses on some pretty scary stuff. When Alan does school visits he asks thought-provoking questions to help kids imagine life as a refugee child, and the answers to these questions are harrowing:
-Who of the three characters would you be?
-When you leave your house, where do you go?
-If you leave your country, can you get out, will other countries let you in, where would you go?
-What will you put in your backpack?
-What 10 things that fit in your backpack would you take with?
-When you get to the new place you’ll live, are you going to walk into the same grade level classroom or will you have to go back to 4th grade at the age of 14 because you don’t speak the language?
The Birth of Refugee
Interestingly enough Alan wasn’t planning on writing this book, he was planning to write a story about the youngest kid who joined the navy, but when presented to the sales department he was told this book was already being written. WHAT?! Can you imagine being an author, having an idea, doing preliminary research and being told your idea is already being written?! But nonetheless, he’s a dedicated author and this didn’t deter him. He had to come up with a new idea, a new book. He thought the story of the MS. St Louis, a boat carrying Jewish refugees from Germany during WWII heading to Cuba, was an interesting one but that there wasn’t enough there for an entire book. Then during the late winter of 2015, he went on vacation with his family to the Florida Keys. One morning he went for a walk on the beach and saw sitting there in the sand, a raft. Not the raft you are probably imagining, a life raft full of air, but this raft was made of metal roofing from a shed wrapped around sideways, 2 by 4’s, a motorcycle engine and inside were sitting wet clothes, 2 liter bottles of water and candy they had used on their journey. Alan and his family were changed from that moment on thinking about how when they were sleeping in their comfy hotel, refugees came to America. While they were sitting by the pool reading books, this family was trying to survive on a makeshift raft. Alan went home, but he couldn’t stop thinking about the scene on the beach.
Then walking his dog one day, back from vacation, a story, a novella as he called it, started to be born based on his knowledge of the MS St. Louis, the visions of the raft in the Keys, most likely from Cuba, and the constant, terrifying news stories about Syria. It left him feeling like he needed to do something, something needed to be written, and so once he ended his travel he outlined, researched and began to write Refugee.
Alan admitted when writing, he works the hardest on creating characters, writing interesting, impactful characters. The plot, no problem, he loves writing the plot, he’s a “plot junky”, but when he needs to create characters he writes more than just an outline, he writes a character sheet for each one. He knows how imperative it is to write characters who the reader can connect with, characters who the reader understands. So with Refugee he knew he needed to create the three characters: Mahmoud, Josef and Isabel on and off the page. He needed to share their background stories, those ‘behind-the-scenes’ stories, answer the question who are they now but really, what made them that way?
He wants readers to wonder and think deeply about his characters. He wants readers to think about:
*Why is Mahmoud invisible? Why does he want to be invisible? Why does he embrace that?
*Why does Josef want to grow up to be an adult all of the sudden?
*What are Isabel’s hopes and dreams? Why is she scared of the water? What happened with her grandmother, how does that haunt her and maybe hold her back from what she needs to do?
But developing these stories took a lot of work, research and thought. Because Alan was writing a book about three different characters, in three different time periods, his research was different. The research about Josef, the Jewish refugee, was done in a more traditional research method of checking out books and taking notes. But the stories about Isabel, the Cuban refugee, and Mahmoud, the Syrian refugee, he explained, were much more difficult since these two stories are more recent. While the characters are fictional, everything that happens to his characters were real accounts taken from current reporting resources like magazine and newspaper articles, so finding those stories took a lot more time and effort.
One quote Alan goes back to often when talking about this book is by Eglantyne Jebb, founder of Save the Children, “Every war is a war against the child.” Children are the ones paying the price for war, whether it’s war or famine. His book is less about why they had to leave and more about what they do to survive and thus he developed characters who showed bravery even in a time of huge sacrifice and challenge. He also wanted to give each character ownership over their journey because in a time of tragedy, a time of suffering, kids are the ones who suffer the most since they are unable take action, unlike adults. Once you meet his characters and hear their stories, you will be forever changed, forever empathetic, and maybe like us you will wonder if you were in these situations what you would have done, could you have survived all they endure?
The Process of Writing
Alan, like many authors, has a system for writing and it goes something like this; a month of researching, a month of outlining, a month for his first draft and then a long process of drafting and editing, drafting and editing and finally publishing. He usually takes every three months off from traveling to do author visits and such so he can do the actual writing of his books.
The way Alan outlines his books is very interesting. Here’s a sneak peak of his ‘book board’.
Each notecard is a chapter in the book. We were curious about where the notecards and outlines go once he is done with the writing. He is too much of a sentimentalist to throw them away and what’s really cool is that a lot of universities collect author’s work. He gives his work to the University of Central Florida in honor of one of his beloved professors who taught him to use YA in the classroom, Tedd Hipple. So if you’re curious you can head to the university, read his book and look at his process for Refugee as well as his other books and those of other authors.
Who is Alan Gratz?
A new career…Interestingly enough if Alan wasn’t an author he would be a game show host because he loves game shows. He grew up watching them and with his trivia hosting gig he probably would make an amazing game show host!
An influential book….One book that has stuck with Alan through the years is Tuck Everlasting because it tackled the topic of death as being a natural part of the cycle of life. As a kid he was so afraid to die, he was preoccupied with his own death. He hadn’t read about death in this context before and so in 7th grade this book had a large impact on him. While he doesn’t reread books often, this one has been reread many times and he even read it to his daughter.
The fridge….Something very interesting we learned about Alan was that he has very little in his fridge. If you looked inside every day would be the same. You would find a round glass bowl with pizza dough in it, because every night for dinner, since 8th grade, he eats a cheese pizza. According to his math he has eaten about 30,000 pizzas in his life. Sounds delicious! So if you ever invite Alan to eat with you, make sure there is pizza at the restaurant!
Storymamas were changed by Refugee and we highly recommend picking up a copy today!
3 ?s about Sticks & Stones
What three words would you use to describe Sticks and Stones?
Quirky, magical fun!
How did you come up with the disease cognadjivisibilitis?
It took a lot of thinking and a LOT of revision! I knew I wanted to explore what it would be like if a character had words on her body. But that can’t just randomly happen – there needs to be some sort of explanation. I thought a skin disorder seemed like the most natural cause. From there, I brainstormed the longest, most complicated-sounding name I could think of (because most real disorders have them), came up with symptoms, causes, treatments, etc., and cognadjivisibilitis was born.
What do you want readers to leave your book thinking?
I wrote this book to remind readers how important it is to be kind to others, and how important it is to be kind to themselves. Developing positive self-esteem can be a major challenge for kids (and grown-ups!) I hope Sticks & Stones helps readers appreciate all the wonderful, unique qualities that make them who they are.
3 ?s about You
If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be and why?
I was a school librarian before I was an author, and that was the best job in the world (besides this one, of course!) I would happily do any job that allowed me to work with kids and books. I would also love to be a professional cupcake baker, though that’s more of a fantasy as I have very few kitchen-related skills. (Maybe I could be a professional cupcake taste-tester instead. Is that a thing?)
What is one book that has stuck with you since you’ve read it?
Frindle by Andrew Clements is my all-time favorite book, and it has been ever since my third grade teacher, Mrs. Huntley, read it to my class. There was just something about it, and whatever that something was, it inspired me to read like I had never read before. It’s interesting, because I’ve gone back to re-read it several times over the years, and each time I discover something new or take away something different. I love that books can do that.
What is one item in your fridge that tells us about you?
I’m kind of a dessert-o-holic. It’s bad. And yet so good. I currently have a giant Ziploc in my fridge filled with cookies, brownies, fudge, so on and so forth. Besides the fact that I’m obsessed with dessert, I guess this would also tell you that I am strange (in a good way, obviously) and like to think outside the box. I’m pretty sure most people don’t keep these things in the fridge. I’ve arbitrarily decided that doing so will somehow make them last longer, even though desserts never last long around here regardless of where they’re stored.
BONUS ?: What can fans of Sticks & Stones expect from Bubbles?
Bubbles is similar to Sticks & Stones in that it falls in the magical realism genre; it’s a realistic novel except for one magical element, something you typically wouldn’t see happening in our world. In Bubbles, you’ll find another tween girl experiencing something very unusual. Like Elyse in Sticks & Stones, Sophie must navigate her magical challenge and the ways it impacts her relationships. I hope readers will enjoy Bubbles as much as I enjoyed writing it!
Get your copy of Abby’s book Bubbles next week, release date: July 3rd
Check out our @storymamas Instagram and Twitter feeds for more information about the books we chose this week!
The Watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli
Sam & Dave Dig A Hole by Mac Burnett
Double Take! A New Look At Opposites by Susan Hood
Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall
Hiding Phil by Eric Barclay
#authorsaturday Mo Willems
This is the week in review! Check out @storymamas on Instagram and Twitter to learn more about our picks this week!
Fish in a Tree
Here are the books we recommended this week. Also, follow us on Instagram and/or Twitter @storymamas to find out why we loved these books!
A Sick Day for Amos McGee – Philip C. Stead