FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
How long have you been writing children’s books?
For about eight years. Before then, I wrote books for adults about crafts and home improvement. Writing about animals and the way they behave is more fun than writing about dried flowers and
Where do your book ideas come from?
They come from the puzzles and patterns we see in every part of the natural world. Book ideas are everywhere.
Does it bother you when people assume you only write about silly, gross things?
Well, not everyone assumes that. You cannot fool librarians and teachers—they know real science
when they see it. Some parents listen when I say my books are science books, and pause to take
another look, but some do not. Luckily, kids usually decide for themselves whether a book is worth their time by reading it.
Why do you like books so much?
Reading a good book is like going on an field trip with a great tour guide: you see and learn things that you have overlooked many times. I also like the way books bond people together: you and I may live in different parts of the world and have very different interests, but if we have read the same book, we have something very special in common.
What kinds of children’s books do you like to read?
When I was reading books to my own children and to classroom reading groups, I always loved books
that helped me see the world in new ways. Years ago, my younger son and I read a book about a group
of primitive sharks called Sevengill: The Shark and Me by Don Reed. Many years later, I still count the gills every time I see a shark.
You write about some really gross things. Do you like puke and poop?
When I’m thinking about animal waste and regurgitation in a biological sense, it’s very interesting.
When I wake up to find cat puke on my kitchen floor, it grosses me out.
How long does it take to write a book?
It takes about a thousand hours to write a book, and that includes the time spent finding photographs.
Some people are surprised by that number. They see short paragraphs of text and assume each one could be written in ten minutes. Sometimes, I have to read many scientific journal articles to learn enough information to write one paragraph. It also takes time to translate scientific information into everyday words.
How do you know when a book is done?
Well, part of that decision comes from the publisher. If they want an 80-page book, it needs to be "done" much sooner than a longer book. Another part of that decision comes from asking myself questions. Is there enough new and fun information in the book? Is there enough range in organisms and geography? Mammals, reptiles, birds, amphibians, and fish are great, but there's a world of amazing invertebrate animals, fungi, and plants that is often ignored in children's books.