Saturday, November 28, 2020

TRAPPED IN TAR at SCBWI BOOKSTOP, Now extended to Dec 15

BlackFriday and CyberMonday are almost here. Check out my book TRAPPED IN TAR on SCBWIBookStop for the perfect holiday gift.
SCBWIBookStop has over 1300 books for readers who enjoy curling up with a good picture book, a middle grade or YA novel, or any other of the nonfiction, graphic novels, audiobooks, chapter books and others that can make great holiday gifts. Or buy and keep one for yourself. My book can be found at

BookStop has been extended to December 15. Hurry and check it out!

Wednesday, November 25, 2020


Best wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving, whereever you are celebrating! Even animals at the zoo will enjoy special treats. Instead of pumpkin pie, the orangutan on the cover of my book, Mealtime for Animals, is enjoying his pumpkin as a fresh vegetable.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020


Screen shot of the set-up in my home office for my Zoom visit to Cerritos School

On November 17, I did a Zoom author visit with kindergarten, first and second grade children at Cerritos Elementary School in Glendale, California. For my first ever virtual Authors and Illustrators Day school visit, I thought it went surprisingly well! The teachers and children were excited and responsive in my presentations. I had a bit of a bumpy start to my first session due to internet problems on my end, but luckily they were quickly solved. The other three sessions went very smoothly.
The teachers were the key to making my visits work, as they are the ones managing the technology. By making me a co-host it was easy for me to use the share-screen mode to do my slide show and to show images from the books so the kids could see them easily as I read the stories. The teachers were also very helpful in calling on the children as they raised their hands to respond to my questions or to ask their own. I am impressed by how well both teachers and students are managing in this virtual world–especially the youngest children in TK and K.
Many, many thanks to the Glendale Assistance League for making this Authors and Illustrators Day possible. And thanks to the teachers and the school principal for working to make it such a success.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

68th BREAKFAST WITH THE AUTHORS, Santa Barbara, CA, Pajama Party Zoom Edition

Screen shot of authors and participants at the Santa Barbara 68th Breakfast with the Authors

On Saturday, November 14, I and eighteen other authors participated in the first ever Zoom Breakfast With the Authors in Santa Barbara. There were two sessions. The first was a set of three 20 minute workshops, with authors and illustrators sharing tips with participants. In my session, I worked with students to create a pyramid poem inspired by a photo of an animal. This is a writing project I have often done as a writer's workshop when I do author visits at schools. Using a photo of a mother bear and her cubs as our inspiration, we created the following poem:


Mother bear

Mother brown bear 

Mother brown bear drinks slowly

Mother brown bear drinks slowly in Alaska.

Mother brown bear looks like a vacuum cleaner as she drinks slowly in Alaska.

If I were a brown bear I would eat all the fish in the river.

In the second half of the mornng, I and each author gave a 3 minute presentation, followed by an informal question and answer session in small groups.

Many thanks to Scott Spector, Rachel Lawton, Matt Zuchowicz and Fred Borchers at the Santa Barbara County Office of Education for organizing the event!

Wednesday, November 11, 2020


Virginia Buckley, 2005
Amid all the momentous events of the past days, I learned that Virginia Buckley, my editor for more than ten years at Clarion Books, passed away on October 21, 2020, at the age of 91. Virginia had a distinguished career as a children’s book editor and I was proud to work with her. As one of Virginia's colleagues described her, she was “an old school editor.” She took a deep personal involvement in all the books she edited–from working with the author on revisions, to final editing and the production of the finished book. My years with Virginia were before the current age of online editing programs. My manuscripts were submitted on paper and came back peppered with corrections marked in red pencil. Comments were attached on yellow post-it notes to the side of the page. If a question arose, sometimes it was easier to discuss it over the phone. Together we made changes to make sure that the final product was the best that it could be.
Virginia’s  career in publishing began at Thomas Y. Crowell in 1971 and in 1980 she moved to Dutton to be editorial director of Lodestar Books. In 1997 she went to Clarion Books where she became my editor after Dorothy Briley, the editor I had worked with previously, died suddenly. Over the next thirteen years Virginia and I worked together on eight books.
Because Virginia lived on the East Coast and I in California, we did not meet in person very often. Occasionally I made a trip to New York, or I saw her at a national conference. The last time I saw Virginia was in 2005, when I received the Washington Post/Children’s Book Guild Award for Nonfiction for my body of work and she was invited to give my introduction at the award luncheon. (Unfortunately, my only photo of her is from that event and the picture is fuzzy because my camera did not work well in low light.)

Award from the Washington Post/Children's Book Guild
Many of the books Virginia and I worked on were illustrated with beautiful watercolor illustrations by Laurie Caple. Laurie put as much effort into researching her artwork as I did in researching my text. Virginia told a story about how Laurie had purchased a giant fossil tooth as a model for her illustrations for my book Giant Shark: Megalodon, Prehistoric Super Predator.

The last book I worked on with Virginia was Global Warming and the Dinosaurs, published in 2009, about dinosaurs that had lived in Earth’s polar regions. Virginia retired from Clarion in 2010 and I lost contact with her. I often think of her when I share my dinosaur and fossil books with children at my school visits. I was sad to hear of her passing. Her work will live on in the many books she edited, both mine and those of many other authors.
For more about Virginia Buckley and her work with other authors and editors, see her Obituary in Publishers Weekly.

My Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin) edited by Virginia Buckley:
Giant Shark: Megalodon, Prehistoric Super Predator (2000)
Easter Island: giant Stone Statues Tell of a Rich and Tragic Past (2000)
Dinosaurs With Feathers: The Ancestors of Modern Birds (2001)
When Mammoths Walked the Earth (2002)
Uluru, Australia’s Aboriginal Heart (2003)
Pterosaurs, Rulers of the Skies in the Dinosaur Age (2007)
Giant Sea Reptiles of the Dinosaur Age (2004)
Giant Sea Reptiles of the Dinosaur Age (2007)
Global Warming and the Dinosaurs (2009)

Sunday, November 8, 2020

CLCSC Virtual Fall Gala and Award Ceremony: Nonfiction Award for Butterflies in Room 6

Caroline with CLCSC Award for a Notable Work of Non-Fiction for Butterflies in Room 6

Yesterday, November 7, 2020, the Children's Literature Council of Southern California held their Fall Gala and celebrated this year's children's literature awardees at a virtual ceremony. I am proud to have received the award for a Notable Work of Juvenile Non-Fiction for my book
Butterflies in Room 6. Other award winners this year are Laura Taylor Namey, Margaret Dilloway, Roseanne Greenfield Thong, Rebecca Constantino. Following an inspiring keynote address by author Deborah Heiligman, the award winners was introduced, and then we each gave a short acceptance speech. My award was presented with a lovely introduction by Annalisa Engh. Here are my remarks:

It is indeed an honor to be receiving this year's nonfiction award for my book Butterflies in Room 6. Thank you. 

I have been writing books for a long time, and pleased that a number of them have been honored by Children’s Literature Council in the past. For this book, Butterflies in Room 6, it is the first time as both author and photographer. A challenge in taking photographs of children and animals is that neither stay still for long! For many years I worked on books with photographer Richard Hewett, now passed away. I learned a lot about photography from him—a key being patient and willing to take LOTS of photos to get just the right one. I have also learned from my husband Art, my in-house tech guru, who is an excellent photographer and who helped me with the close-up pictures in this book

The idea for Butterflies in Room 6 began with an author visit several years ago at Haynes School in Los Angeles where I met Jennifer Best, a kindergarten teacher, who told me how she hatches eggs every year with her students as they learn about life cycles. The following spring, I embedded myself in her classroom, which enabled me to follow the process and get the photos I needed for my book Hatching Chicks in Room 6. At the time, I noticed that the children were also raising Painted Lady butterflies--watching the caterpillars grow in a jar, turn into chrysalises, and, after a week or so, emerge as beautiful butterflies. It seemed like the perfect sequel to Hatching Chicks. So, two years later, I was back in Room 6, learning about caterpillars and butterflies.

But this time, I wanted to do the project myself at home first so I could anticipate the pictures I would need and get some practice taking pictures of butterflies.  Most people who raise butterflies start with caterpillars. But I wanted my book to show the whole butterfly life-cycle, from egg to adult. So, I ordered Painted Lady butterfly eggs from a scientific supply house. The tiny blue eggs, no bigger than a grain of salt, came in a small vial. A note with the package said there were 35 eggs, with a few extra, in case some didn’t hatch. In fact, there were 100 eggs in the vial and every single one of them hatched! I soon had 100 very hungry caterpillars in containers all over my house! I had also ordered special caterpillar food to feed them, and within a few weeks, I had 100 beautiful butterflies.

Mrs. Best also ordered butterfly eggs, and I followed the students in Room 6 as they raised their butterflies, documenting the children’s excitement at each step of the process—looking through magnifying glasses, watching the caterpillars grow, and letting the butterflies rest on their hands for a moment before thy flapped their wings and flew away into the neighborhood. 

I couldn’t have written Butterflies in Room 6 without the help of Jennifer Best and her kindergarten students. I thank them for welcoming me into their classroom and for sharing the wonder of metamorphosis with me. I am also grateful to the children’s parents and the school principal, Barbara Meade, for their enthusiastic support. And I thank everyone at Charlesbridge Publishing, especially my wonderful editor Alyssa Pusey, who contributed to making this such a special book.

I want to express my gratitude to the Children’s Literature Council for choosing Butterflies in Room 6 for this very special honor today, especially Charmetria Marshall and everyone on the award committee.  And to President Jennifer Driscoll and all the people who worked so hard to make the arrangements for this special virtual celebration—Thank You!  

And here is my beautiful plaque!


Wednesday, November 4, 2020

PHOTO TIP #5 for Illustrating Your Next Book: THINK ON YOUR FEET

For many years I worked with professional photographers who illustrated my books with their photos. We worked as a team--I wrote the text and the photographer took the pictures. I learned a great deal about photography from them. Recently, I have been both author and photographer for several of my books, including Hatching Chicks in Room 6 and Butterflies in Room 6.
As I was cleaning out files recently I found a list of photo tips from my friend and fellow Grinnellian, Martha Cooper, a professional photographer best known for her photographs of subway art in New York City. She is also the illustrator of three children's books, My Two Worlds, Lion Dancer and Anthony Reynoso: Born to Rope

At a class we taught together some years ago she handed out a list of photo tips. Today, almost everyone is a photographer--we carry cameras in our pockets in our phones. Whether you are illustrating a children's book, creating a magazine story, or assembling a slide show or family album, or even just sharing a favorite photo with a friend, I think you will find her advice useful. She says:

LOOK and THINK before you shoot. A good eye is more important than a good camera.
Tip #5:  Be prepared with all equipment you will need and ideas for shooting. Many subjects have little time or patience for photography. However, be ready to think on your feet. If your pre-planned ideas are not working, be open to other options. You may not have a chance to come back. It's up to you to make the best of the existing situation. Editors aren't interested in hearing excuses about why you couldn't get the shot. (Martha Cooper)

Example: My 100th published book, African Animals, an overview of African wildlife, is illustrated with a single photo of each animal. As the author of the book, I was responsible for obtaining all the photos. Many of them were taken by me or my husband Art when we spent four months in Africa in 197l. But there were some animals for which we did not have good pictures. So, my solution was to get the photos from other sources. Most are from our good friend Owen Floody, who had traveled to Africa several times and has a special interest in animal photography. Here is his picture of two ostriches battling one another. He had the luck and patience to be at the right place and the right time to get this amazing photo.