In the past 16 years, accomplished children’s book author, Melissa Stewart, has written over 180 books, each one crafted to inspire kids to get outdoors and engage with nature. Pick up one of her many books, and I guarantee that you will learn something, too.
In my recent interview with Stewart, I learned that she trained as a biologist in college, then earned a Masters in Journalism with a specialization in science writing. Her first job was editor of children’s books, eventually leading her to write her first book, Life Without Light: A Journey to the Earth’s Dark Ecosystems. Still one of her favorite books, it is an exploration of creatures that live in little known habitats like caves, the deep sea, hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor, underground aquifers, and rock deep below Earth’s surface. An impressive start to an impressive career.
Stewart has been repeatedly recognized by the National Science Teachers Association, and has been honored with many book awards including the prestigious Green Earth Book Award. Originally writing for teens, Stewart changed her focus to elementary school children, believing that the sooner kids can connect with nature, the better.
Often writing a group of similarly themed books, one wonderful collection by Stewart is her “A Place for…” books, including the titles: A Place for Birds, A Place for Butterflies, A Place for Frogs, A Place for Bats, A Place for Turtles, and A Place for Fish. Each of these books examines 12 different species, including their habitats, and perhaps most importantly – how we humans can help them. A passage from A Place for Frogs provides one of these many lessons:
“Some frogs have trouble surviving when people introduce new plants to a natural habitat.” When people grow native plants to feed their horses and cattle, frogs can live and grow.” What a lovely way to encourage children to respect nature and grow my favorite things – native plants!
Another intriguing Stewart collection includes: How Do Plants Grow? How Does a Seed Sprout? How Do Bees Make Honey, How Do Birds Fly, How Do Spiders Make Webs, How Do Fish Breathe Underwater, and more. I suspect that very few adults can answer these questions, much less their children. We can pick up a few interesting facts while reading these books with our kids.
Under the Snow is a book that Stewart was inspired to write during a hike on a snowy, windy day. Taking her usual route, she noticed red spotted newts moving under the ice of a frozen pond. Surprised that newts stayed active through the winter, Stewart started researching other creatures that are active during the winter as well as creatures that hibernate. A sample passage from Under the Snow:
“Under the snow in a forest… a mourning cloak butterfly takes cover in a pile of brush. Inside a rotting log, a centipede and a bumblebee queen remain silent and still until spring.” This book won the prestigious Charlotte Zolotow Award, among other honors.
One of Stewart’s latest and highly awarded books is Feathers: Not Just for Flying. Admitting that even she learns while doing research for her books, Stewart shared the little known fact that birds have 6 different kinds of feathers, including their eyelashes – which are true feathers. Who knew?
If you have young children or grandchildren, know a child, or sometimes feel like a child, pick up some of the terrific books written by author Melissa Stewart. I have already started my own collection.
And, make sure to enter the EcoBeneficial! book giveaway of the books featured below, generously donated by Peachtree Publishers.
from Kim Eierman at EcoBeneficial!
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