A Conversation with Jean Heilprin Diehl, author of Three Little Beavers!

We are so excited to announce our final new release for the spring 2012 season Three Little Beavers! Written by Jean Heilprin Diehl and illustrated by Cathy Morrison, this book is a perfect fit for any classroom!

 Beatrix the beaver longs to be good at something. Her brother Bevan is an expert at repairing the lodge with mud and twigs. Her sister Beverly is a superb swimmer and underwater gymnast. What makes Beatrix stand out? One day, she runs away by swimming up the creek and finds some fresh garden plants to eat, and tasty trees to gnaw. When her siblings set off to find her, all Three Little Beavers wind up trapped! It takes some simple engineering on the part of the humans who set the traps, and Beatrix’s discovery of her special talents, for the people and beavers to finally find a way to live in harmony.
 

Q and A With Author Jean Heilprin Diehl

What kind of research do you do for your books?

I love research! I research online, in physical libraries and in the field. I also conduct  interviews. The research stage offers up so much  fascinating information, that it can be hard to pull away from.  Too much research can be a distraction from writing, so the trick is to do the right amount…whatever that is. For the novel I’m writing now, I studied fireflies and a rare pediatric neurological disorder. To characterize the protagonist’s best friend, I learned what virga is and who invented the paper clip and where the digit ‘one’ repeats three times in a row in the infinite number pi. For Three Little Beavers, I observed beavers swimming in a lake, kayaked up a stream where beavers live and visited a series of ponds dotted with old beaver lodges and dams. I interviewed a park service officer who had resolved an urban wildlife conflict involving beavers and also a professional trapper who had humanely trapped beavers with the square, box-like Hancock traps described in the story. I checked out books from libraries, read online articles and websites and watched video clips.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer?

When I was growing up, I loved to read, and I especially loved adventure books with maps of imaginary lands printed inside the front and back covers. Some kids put up posters of athletes or musicians or actors on their bedroom walls; I had the map of Middle Earth. I guess it was natural to want to do what I admired so much. In sixth grade I wrote a series of poems that a teacher suggested I pull together into a book.  After that, I knew I wanted to be a writer.

How do your own experiences shape your writing?

Experience is to writing like air is to lungs. Experience inevitably and perhaps inadvertently shapes what I’m drawn to write about and the process by which I go about writing.  I think the human imagination is piqued by non sequiturs. A random image, headline, anecdote or event I  read or hear about but haven’t personally witnessed can also get me thinking. Experience includes all five senses.  It also includes reading.

What inspired you to write Three Little Beavers?

Raising kids can mean a lot of time spent driving them around! I’d been thinking about how often young children, when riding in cars or on school buses, see dead animals along the road, which can be pretty upsetting. Then my local children’s librarian happened to mention that her collection lacked a book about urban wildlife conflicts, and she didn’t know if there were any books for kids on the subject.  I decided to write one. I went looking for stories with happy endings and found one about beavers. I learned that there is a lot humans can do to co-exist with North America’s largest rodent. Beaver families typically consist of multiple kits, so that got me thinking about siblings and a line I’d read once that had stuck in stuck in my head: ‘the goal of middle childhood is to differentiate the self.’ That’s how I got the idea to write about Bevan, Beverly and Beatrix.

What is your favorite aspect of writing?

I enjoy the research, as I mentioned, and I enjoy finding a word or set of words to fit an image or an insight or a moment in nature or an emotion or an interaction. I like voicing what it is I have to say to other people through written words, and I like being finished with writing, because writing is hard.

What is the most challenging part of writing a book? 

For me, the most challenging part of writing a picture book is to tell a complete story, with fully developed characters, with an economy of language.  The old adage is true:  it’s much easier to write long than short. I’m still learning how to leave enough space – and the right space – for an illustrator to tell the story visually. Images create the story’s visual complexity, which is delightfully true of Cathy Morrison’s wonderful illustrations for Three Little Beavers.

 

Visit Jean’s website at www.jeanheilprindiehl.com, or the Three Little Beavers homepage at http://www.sylvandellpublishing.com/bookpage.php?id=ThreeBeavers.

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