Behind the Book: Dear Komodo Dragon

dragonsDid you know…A Komodo Dragon can be a playful lizard…they have poor hearing and ok eyesight, so they rely on their keen sense of smell to capture their meals…or that they can swallow a goat in one gulp!

These are fun little tidbits that author Nancy Kelly Allen didn’t quite fit into her newest DearKomodorelease Dear Komodo Dragon! Readers will find many more fun facts as they read the letters between Leslie, a wanna-be dragon hunter, and Komo, a wild Komodo dragon. But how did Nancy come up with this idea? It happened after a trip to the Louisville zoo where she marveled at their Komodo dragon “Big Man,” Then she talked with students, and one girl said how she loved receiving letters, but they hardly ever came in the mail. A book idea was born — letters from an unlikely friend.

With the story set, now it’s time for illustrations. Artist Laurie Allen Klein was selected to put images with the words, and here is her story:

Ordinarily, I have a couple months between receiving a manuscript and submitting rough sketches, but this was something of a rushed story. Because the original book I was scheduled to work on got pushed back to the Fall, I suddenly had some open time. And then Hurricane Matthew hit! That’s when I got the news about the new manuscript but had to go down to my local shipping store to access their computer to print out the story.

You also have to bear in mind this was early October, and because this was something of a rushed schedule, the rough sketches were due at the beginning of November, not the usual time frame I’m used to. Not to mention, I didn’t have access to all my usual technology. However, prior to the storm, I had become interested in an illustration style that was a bit different from my usual look. Still “realistic”-ish, this new look was more graphic and simple. Not as semi-realistic as my usual style AND it fit the nature of the story perfectly.  A girl being pen pals with a Komodo dragon allowed for a certain amount of illustrative whimsy. I wound up whipping out fully realized, book-sized pencil roughs in the fraction of the time it usually takes me. The look and images just fell right into place.

Komodo - Leslie - Outfit Ideas

It probably didn’t hurt that I also had an immediate source of inspiration literally across the street at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm who have 2 Komodo dragons. Not to mention a great source of reference book materials. The minute I printed out the manuscript (at the shipping store) I went right over to the St. Augustine Alligator Farm and checked out their exhibit, AND their books.

Then it was just a matter – as always – of letting the images come to me.  Aided in large part by a huge soft spot I have for dragons (not to mention a pretty extensive book collection of my own on the subject). I loved the opportunity to introduce images of dragons from mythology and other cultures with the real dragons across the street!

As for the character of Leslie, I made a determined decision NOT to base her on my own daughter (who is usually my Go-to Character Muse) but Jess still found her way into the illustrations by way of Leslie’s “Dragon Hunter” outfit, which I based on a long-ago Joan of Arc/Medieval Knight costume Jess wore for Halloween. I substituted the sword for a safer plunger-tipped “spear” but the medieval outfit is all Jesse.

Jesse - St Joan:Knight Inspiration

For the rest of the illustrations – I just had fun playing with textures and patterns.  And for the first time did not struggle with how to do the backgrounds – they just fell right into place. Not to mention, I have found a whole new style I can’t wait to explore some more.

Check out Dear Komodo Dragon and explore all of the educational extras that we have to offer!

Advertisements

Exploring the Earth with Landforms!

Are you looking for a fun family trip this summer? Don’t want to travel too far from home? This Land Is Your Land talks about many different landforms all over the United States. Read this book with your children to teach them about the diverse landscapes of our beautiful country, then pack up the car and head to the nearest (or farthest!) destination. Who says education has to stop in the summer?

FCM CoastCoastlines: Perhaps the easiest landform to reach for many, the United States coastline is over 95,000 miles long. Many people live on the coast – about 39% of the country’s population! The coast is a very popular tourist destination, and there are hundreds of beaches for people to travel to. Some of the best family beaches are located in the Outer Banks in North Carolina; Maui, Hawaii; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Destin, Florida; San Diego, California; and Ocean City, Maryland. There are beaches in every coastal state, though. Which beach is closest to you?

Mountains and hills: Mountains are also another popular place for tourists, especially those who enjoy activities such as hiking and TLIYL-spread-3camping. Some states have more to offer than others when it comes to mountains. For example, the highest point in Florida is only 345 feet above sea level, whereas Alaska’s Mt. McKinley towers 20,320 feet above sea level. However, all 50 states have some sort of forest, lake, or other natural area where camping and nature walks are possible, so even those of you in the flatter states don’t have to miss out!

Plateaus and canyons: In the United States, plateaus are found mainly in the western states, where the Colorado Plateau is. Plateaus provide opportunities for hiking and climbing, and the Colorado Plateau contains the famous Colorado River and Grand Canyon. Many national parks are also in this area, including Zion and Mesa Verde, where you can find smaller plateaus and canyons.

Valleys: A valley is simply a place between mountains or hills, so even states such as Kansas, with very few hills, have some areas that lie lower than others. Beautiful valleys in the United States include the Sedona Verde Valley in Arizona, Napa Valley in California, the Waipi’o Valley in Hawaii, and the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia.

FCM PlainsPlains: The plain region of the United States is called the Great Plains, which runs from Texas north to Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, the Dakotas, and eastern Montana. The Great Plains are known for their extensive flat lands covered in tall grass, cattle ranches, and bison. Be careful here in the spring and summer – the Great Plains are located in Tornado Alley, where tornadoes happen most frequently!

Peninsulas: Arbordale Publishing is located near a well-known peninsula –Charleston, South Carolina! Many of the first towns settled in the United States are located on peninsulas, as they provide easy access by water to ships delivering people and supplies. Jamestown, Virginia and Boston, Massachusetts were first built on peninsulas. The entire state of Florida is a big peninsula!

Volcanoes: The west coast of the United States is located in what is FCM Volcanoknown as the “Ring of Fire,” an area where many volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur due to the movement of the Earth’s tectonic plates. Active, potentially dangerous volcanoes in the United States include Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, Mount St. Helens in Washington, Mount Hood in Oregon, Mount Shasta in California. While some of these volcanoes haven’t erupted in years, they are not considered dormant, meaning they could erupt at any time. A volcanic eruption would be an exciting sight to see, but be sure to keep your distance!

Islands and archipelagos: The most famous example of an island chain in the United States is Hawaii. Another is the Aleutian Islands in FCM archipelagoAlaska. Since neither of these are especially accessible to the average Mackinac, Michigan; Whidbey Island, Washington; Mount Desert, Maine; Amelia Island, Florida; and Assateague Island, Virginia. Did you know that part of the biggest city in the United States is located on an island? Manhattan is surrounded by the Hudson River, the East River, and the Harlem River!

Learn more about these landforms in Catherine Ciocchi’s book This Land is Your Land!

ThisLand_187

An Intern’s Experience

blog picGoing into this summer, I did not have much of an idea of what I wanted to do with my life. As a rising senior English major at Washington & Lee University, I knew I had options, but having too many options gives me a headache, so I tended to push them all to the side and ignore the looming presence of adulthood. After a month of interning here at Arbordale Publishing, I am still at a loss as to what I want to do with my future, but now it’s not because I haven’t thought about it – it’s because I love everything I have been exposed to here!

I have always loved books. I could read my collection of Dr. Seuss books alone by the age of three, devoured the first Harry Potter book in kindergarten, and tried my hand at writing a few (now embarrassing) short stories throughout my elementary school years. Imagine my delight when I eventually discovered that there is a whole industry dedicated to reading, editing, and publishing new books! I started looking more deeply into the publishing industry during high school, and entered college knowing I wanted to be an English major. When I got the opportunity to intern at Arbordale Publishing this summer, I was excited to be one step closer to a job I have dreamed about for years.

Working with children’s books for the past month has been a fun summer activity, as well as a great introduction into the world of publishing. I have done everything from the typical reading submitted manuscripts and editing those that are accepted to the more creative designing activities in the books’ For Creative Minds sections and choosing photographs to go into a book currently in production. I have seen the schedule of a book’s journey from manuscript submission to eBook design to final printing, and learned of the hundreds of tiny steps that must happen in between to make for a successful story. More recently, I have witnessed all the work that goes into the publicity side of things, from getting stories reviewed to working with authors as they attend events to promote their book. Even with children’s books, the amount of work is no joke!

Thankfully, I have one more year to figure out what I’m going to be when I grow up. Do I want to go into editing or publicity? Should I write on the side? What am I going to enjoy the most? I am grateful to be here at Arbordale Publishing this summer, where I can explore so many different options and decide which aspect of publishing fits me best. Working with children’s books has been a wonderful way to learn the basics of story editing, fact checking, and appealing to specific markets without being overwhelmed by lengthy novels or heavy facts. Will I eventually wander into the world of books for adults? Probably, but this internship is the ideal jumping-off point for that journey. Now I just have to figure out where it’s going to take me.

–Cara Scott, Intern

Celebrate Pollination!

Achoo-spread-11Where would the world be, if Baby Bear’s wish came true and all the pollen was to disappear? Well, many of his forest friends would be without food, and the bees and butterflies would have no reason to hop from flower to flower. That is why this week is pollinator week!

Why do we celebrate pollinators? These insects and animals are a vital part of our shaping our diet. Without pollinators many of the fruits and vegetables that we eat would not grow, not to mention… honey! The services of pollinators cannot be easily replicated by human farming practices and some plants, like almonds which are entirely dependent on honeybees would not be around anymore for us to enjoy.

In recent history, scientists have seen a drastic decline in the numbers of honeybees, monarchs and bats. Each of these species plays an important role in our lives. Whether it is the pollination of flowers by the monarch, bananas by bats, or blueberries by honeybees, humans are very reliant on pollinators and there are many things we can do to conserve these important creatures.

On Friday June 19th the Pollinator Week Festival is being held by the USDA on 12th Street in Washington DC! If you can’t make it to the nation’s capital, but would like to learn more, visit the pollinator site, and also read a few of Arbordale’s books about pollinators.

Behind the Book with Jennifer Keats Curtis

JenniferCurtisHave you ever wondered what sparks an idea for a book?

Author Jennifer Keats Curtis talks with us about the process of writing Primate School and how one idea lead her to a deep study in animal behavior, feelings and thinking.

When I learned that orangutans were using iPads, my first thought was, Oh good, there’s hope for my mother. Ok, I’m kidding. My real thought was that despite extraordinary study and learning, there is so much about animals that we still don’t know.

As I set off to learn about orangutans and other primates for the nonfiction Primate School, I thought about how much I PrimateSchool_187love animals and want to understand them. I thought about my own connections with animals and my personal belief that animals have feelings and emotions. I believe that they feel joy and sadness, perhaps not in the same way that we do, but that they are conscious, sentient beings and I wish I could better relate and communicate with them. I think that we have missed a lot with animals in the past for fear of anthropomorphizing them.

I joyfully learned about how primates communicate with each other through verbal cues and behavior and how they express themselves, show happiness and love, and learn from each other and keepers. I loved learning about how primates connect to each other and to humans. I was fascinated to learn about aunting behavior among langurs and saddened to learn about the gibbons who had been raised as pets and had trouble relating to other gibbons.

EN-gibbonI wrote Primate School ecstatic to use what I’d learned from cognitive ethologists. Ethologists study animals in their natural settings and cognitive ethologists get to focus on the thinking process, including communication, culture, and learning. I embrace this concept and cannot get enough of what these scientists have to say. Even though that book is complete, I never want to stop learning about what primates and other animals think and feel, how they learn from us, and how we can learn from them. That is one of the main reasons that I write about animals for children.

Award-winning nature author Jennifer Keats Curtis is frequently found among students and teachers, talking about literacy or conservation. In addition to Primate School, Salamander Season, the Animal Helpers series, Baby Owl’s Rescue, Kali’s Story, and Turtles In My Sandbox  for Arbordale, some of her other recent titles include Osprey Adventure, Saving Squeak: A River Otter’s Tale, and Seahorses. Jennifer resides in Maryland, with her family and a wide variety of pets. Visit her website at www.jenniferkeatscurtis.com

Learn more about Primate School and Jennifer’s other Arbordale books here!

Read a Book Day: Arbordale staff picks for young and old!

Saturday September 6th is National Read a Book day, and as you may guess we don’t need an excuse to pick up a good book. So we asked some of the staff at Arbordale what they are reading this week and what they would pick from the Arbordale Collection to read to young ones!

Heather, Public Relations Coordinator

HeatherWilliamsFur and Feathers is my Arbordale pick. I have been flipping through the new fashion magazines and who doesn’t love a book about dressing up. Kids even learn what kind of fur, shell, feathers or scales an animal should have.

I am reading The Sleepwalkers Guide to Dancing. I was initially intrigued by the cover and I love books that explore give insight into different cultures and have twists and turns throughout the story.

Tyler, Digital Content Manager

TylerStoeMy pick is Where Should Turtle Be? by Susan Ring and illustrated by Laurie Allen Klein. Sea turtles are my favorite animal and I love the artwork in this book.

I will be rereading the Harry Potter series this fall because I am getting ready for a trip to Universal and Harry Potter World. I am really excited!

Emily, Education Programs Manager

EmilyGoochAnimalogy by Marianne Berkes is my Arbordale pick the simple text and illustrations flow so well together.

I’m re-reading my favorite book Mr. Palomar by my all time favorite author, Italo Calvino, after I stumbled upon an article written by his daughter. Palomar is hilariously thought-provoking as he contemplates nature, society, and the universe.

Donna, Editor

DonnaGermanI am reading Death Without Company: A Walt Longmire Mystery by Craig Johnson as a total escape.

And for kids I would read Kali’s Story: An Orphaned Polar Bear Rescue by Jennifer Keats Curtis. I think that children can identify with the bear cub especially when he is sucking his paw.

Jordan, School and Library Sales

JordanFredricksonZ: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler As an English major, I’m required to love the works of the great American authors of the 1920’s but recently I think I’ve come to love their wives even more. “Z” gives you a glimpse in the not always bright and shiny but incredibly interesting lives of the Fitzgerald’s as they write books and travel the world, and I just can’t put it down.

The Giraffe who was Afraid of Heights, is my Arbordale pick because it is a cute story about friends getting over their fears together!

 

Happy reading this weekend, and please share with us what you are reading, we love to discover new books!

If you want to learn more about our suggested titles go to Goodreads!

Hooray, it’s Independence Day!

Fourth-of-JulyToday is a day to celebrate our great country and the wonderfully unique heritage and history that makes up the United States.

Many of us will celebrate with picnics and fireworks, outdoor games, festivals and other celebrations, but it is also a great day to learn a little more about the country you live in…so here is a fun little activity to learn more about the states and their symbols.

Fill in the blanks with either the state name or the plant or animal. Helpful hint: Visit Arbordalepublishing.com to find the animals in each of the books listed.

It took a magpie to help Maine’s state animal (___________)  to learn to tell jokes in Moose and Magpie.

Ohio’s state bird the _______________ fills the apple tree planted by Nicholas and Grandpa Santos in Christmas Even Blizzard.

12-t Felina is Florida’s state animal and when she meets Felix; this ____________ learns that she is very special and rare.

In North Carolina the state flower___________________ may attract a bear just like in The Tree that Bear Climbed.

Mandy __________ (Washington’s state land mammal) joins Peter Pika to find the Mountain Monarch in The Glaicers are Melting!.

New York’s state animal, the _____________, won’t be found watching fireworks from the empire state building, but you can read about their incredible building ability in The Beaver’s Busy Year.

If you visit Texas, be sure to try the state snack ___________________. You can even get a recipe to make your1-t own from Burro’s Tortillas.

In Prairie Storms, Kansas’s state animal the _____________ stands strong in the cold wind and snow.

Maggie’s sandbox was not the ideal spot for Maryland’s state the ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­______________________ to lay her eggs in Turtles in my Sandbox.

If a Dolphin were a Fish star Delfina would swim over to this state (_____________), that has named the bottlenose dolphin as their state marine mammal.

If you visit Alabama be sure to try the state fruit, blackberries all of the animals in this book _____________________ love them too!

If you are in Minnesota, follow Hope’s lead and raise this state insect ________________ in your own garden.

The national bird and a symbol of liberty, ____________; this bird tries to help Marcel find food in Whistling Wings.

fireworkWe hope you enjoyed this fun Fourth of July activity and learned a little too! For more information on state symbols we did our research at State Symbols USA. Or learn more about the books mentioned here at Arbordale Publishing.