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Elizabeth Bird of the Fuse8 Blog on the School Library Journal website, said this about animal biographies in general, and my book, Wisdom the Midway Albatross, in particular:

If I had a better knowledge of my nonfiction children’s history then I might be able to tell you the exact moment that biographies of individual animals took off. Technically we’ve seen them for years, in books like the Newbery Honor winning Rascal (which is considered nonfiction in spite of some creative liberties) from 1963. The picture book animal biography feels comparatively new to me. I think they may have existed in spurts here and there but in the last ten years there’s been a veritable explosion of them on the scene. This is a very good thing. When done well a good animal bio can provide insight into an otherwise unapproachable species, foster concern beyond our own human lives, and give a glimpse into the wider natural world. True to life incredible journeys of wild animals are difficult to tell, though. If the animal is truly wild then how do you extrapolate its life without relying on fantasy and conjecture? Wisdom: The Midway Albatross offers at least one solution to that question. Add history to facts to the glorious innovation of banding wild animals and you have yourself a bird bio that’s easy to distinguish from the flock.

Bird is right: animal biographies are capturing the imagination of folks more than ever before. When The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate won the 2013 Newbery, the most prestigious award in children’s literature, it highlighted the interest in animal biographies. She followed the fictionalized version of Ivan’s life with a nonfiction version, Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla. Applegate had originally wanted to write the nonfiction story, but took the leap into fiction. And we’re glad she finally managed both.

True Animal Biographies - Nonfiction Children's Picture Books for Common Core | Mims House Books

Mims House has two animal biographies available, and a third coming out in Fall, 2016.

  • Wisdom, the Midway Albatross: Surviving the Japanese Tsunami and Other Disasters for Over 60 Years is the story of the oldest known wild bird in the world and how she survived the tsunami. Wisdom, a Laysan albatross, has been continually banded since December 10, 1056. She’s survived earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tropical storms, plastic pollution, longline fishing, and much more in her years. This story received a Starred Review from Publisher’s Weekly. Read more about her story here.
  • Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma: The True Story of an Orphaned Cub tells how a mother puma is killed, leaving her cub to fend for himself in the wild. It’s a hopeful story, as Abayomi’s story isn’t over yet. Scientists hope to return him to the wild soon. Along with Ivan’s story, this story was named a 2015 National Science Teacher’s Outstanding Science Trade Book. Read more about his story here.
  • Nefertiti, the Spidernaut, which will be released in Fall, 2016, tells the story of a Johnson jumping spider who goes to space. Sent to the International Space Station, she was the focus of an experiment testing how jumping spiders adapt to weightlessness. Can they still jump to catch their prey? Or will they float helplessly in the microgravity environment? Join our newsletter to get advance notice when it’s available.
  • This month, there have been several events in Brazil to launch the Portuguese version of ABAYOMI, THE BRAZILIAN PUMA: The True Story of an Orphaned Cub.
    la_abayomi500x500-150


    Here’s the report from Kitty Harvill, the illustrator, who is a half-time resident of Brazil:
    The launching of ABAYOMI, um Encontro Feliz in Campinas, in the São Paulo state (Campinas – SP), Brazil and its environs was a great success. Beginning with a program in Vinhedo-SP, sponsored by the mayor’s office, with more than 400 teachers in attendance and including a slideshow presentation and reading of the book.

    The following day we held an art workshop at the Casa da Criança Paraítica de Campinas, a school for handicapped children. I began with a large canvas and quickly painted an outline of ABAYOMI, inviting the children to create a “Floresta Feliz” or happy forest for him. There was much excitement in the crowd, both with the activity of painting and with the story of ABAYOMI, having been read by the Communications Director of FMC, our sponsor of the book here in Brazil as a project of the Brazilian Ministry of Culture.

    We held our second workshop on Wednesday, with equally wonderful results, involving all the students at the private school, Escola Ativa. Many thanks to all who helped in the organization of these events, but most especially to my husband, Christoph Hrdina, who is not only the administrator of the project through the Ministry, but more than an assistant in our workshops, involving the children and serving as occasional translator for me, when my Portuguese wasn’t quite up to the task. Darcy and I have collaborated on a project that is not only timely but critical to the environmental issues that are pressing on these urban areas at this time on our planet.

    For more, see this article in the Brazilian press; or read the same article as a Google Translated document.

    A special thanks to Márcia Rodrigues, Ph.D. and Sergio Ferreira, the puma scientists who are responsible for taking care of Abayomi and bringing his story to their community.

    Watch Kids Paint a Puma

    This is what children’s books can do: bring together a community around kids.

    If you can’t see this video, click here.

    Photos from the Brazilian Launch of Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma

    Click on the photo to see if full size.

    Today, we feature art from illustrator Kitty Harvill and her friends. Last January, she started a Facebook group devoted to creating a weekly nature art challenge. Each week, Kitty posts a photograph and challenges the artists to do an original painting based on the photo. Week 51, late in December 2014, the artists were challenged by photos of the puma named Abayomi. Here’s what Kitty says about the group and the challenge.

    Week 51 Challenge: Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma

    We are an international art group on Facebook, www.facebook.com/groups/natureartchallenge/ and we work from a new photo from nature each week. Many weeks are dedicated to the causes of endangered species and partnering with the organizations or biologists that work on their behalf. Our membership spans 4 continents and we have partnered for causes around the world, including Brazil, Morocco, Indonesia, the Philippines and Madagasgar. Here is my introduction to WEEK 51 (ABAYOMI’s) :

    WEEK 51 – Merry Christmas week !! ABAYOMI is our subject this week as a special Christmas present to two very special people, biologist Márcia Rodrigues and her husband Sérgio Ferreira. These two work tirelessly in the rescue and rehabilitation of wild pumas. This past year they achieved the opening of the Wildlife Rehabilitation & Training Center, where Abayomi and other young pumas undergo special training in order to be able to return to the wild. Another special thank you to writer, Darcy Pattison, who helped us bring Abayomí’s story to the world – and now our group has a chance to bring more awareness to the problems these pumas are facing today by providing our paintings to raise awareness of their plight.

    Visit the Abayomi Project here (in English) :http://www.icmbio.gov.br/corredordasoncas/en/abayomi-project

    And in Portuguese :http://www.icmbio.gov.br/corredordasoncas/pt/projeto-abayomi

    Happy Painting & MERRY CHRISTMAS !!!

    Abayomi Paintings

    by Christoph Hrdina
    by Christoph Hrdina
    by Kitty Harvill
    by Kitty Harvill
    by Charith Pelpola
    by Charith Pelpola
    by Teri Jordan
    by Teri Jordan
    Collage of illustrations from Week 51 Nature Art Challenge. Click to see full size.
    Collage of illustrations from Week 51 Nature Art Challenge. Click to see full size.

    Read more about Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma

    2015 National Science Teacher's Association - Outstanding Science Trade Book
    2015 National Science Teacher’s Association – Outstanding Science Trade Book
    ‘s story.

    Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma by Darcy Pattison, illustrated by Kitty Harvill
    March, 2014
    With the publication of ABAYOMI, THE BRAZILIAN PUMA: The True Story of an Orphaned Cub, the UNICA (Union of the Sugar Cane Industry) has published a nice article about the book. The article is in Portuguese. To read in English, go to google.com/translate and input this URL: http://www.unica.com.br/noticia/21209732920334398749/resgate-de-filhote-de-onca-no-brasil-vira-livro-nos-eua/

    Illustrator Kitty Harvill lives half the year in Brazil and half the year in the US. She is involved in the environmental conservation movements in Brazil and was pleased to work on a book about her adopted country.

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