Hi Math is Everywhere Readers and Fall Writing Frenzy friends,
I’m so excited that fall is almost here and that our third annual Fall Writing Frenzy has been announced on Lydia Lukidis’s (my lovely co-host’s) blog! Can’t wait to read all your wonderful work! Before we begin, let’s please take a moment to reflect on 9/11 and have a moment of silence for those we tragically lost that day.
Now, today we get to celebrate a beautiful book by Rebecca E. Hirsch who has published over 80 nonfiction books for children and young adults! Today is all about her newest STEM picture book Night Creatures: Animals That Swoop, Crawl, and Creep While You Sleep, illustrated by Sonia Possentini.
Book description from Millbrook Press:
As the sun sets, night creatures awaken. In their rural backyard, a parent and child camp out, watching as fireflies flicker, bats flap, and rabbits race. Atmospheric illustrations bring the nocturnal world to life in this lyrical and informative picture book.
Kaitlyn: Hi, Rebecca, thanks so much for joining us today!
Rebecca: Hi Kaitlyn! I’m glad to be here. Thank you for having me.
Kaitlyn: I’m so excited to talk about this beautiful STEM book. First of all, what inspired you to write this story?
Rebecca: First, I grew up in the Pennsylvania countryside. On summer nights, I remember catching fireflies in old peanut butter jars, listening to green frogs call from the pond, and watching the Milky Way appear as bats fluttered past. I have been fascinated by night and the animals that come out at night since then.
But the spark for the book came to me as a parent, when I went on a night walk at a summer camp my children were attending. The camp counselors led the campers and their families on a walk through the woods in the dark. That was a new experience for me. I learned how to feel the ground with my feet, let my eyes adjust to the darkness, and listen for the sounds of animals awake in the forest. It was during that walk that I decided I had to write a book about night and night creatures.
Kaitlyn: That’s amazing! I remember that at our 6th grade camp too–the night hike was everyone’s favorite (and only one kid ran into a manzanita tree!) Can you share why this story is so important to share with children?
Rebecca: The night is an important time for many animals. These animals may lurk in darkness, but they aren’t scary. They are fascinating to watch, listen to, and learn about! We can help these animals by keeping the night dark. One way to do this is to only use outdoor lighting when and where you need it. And make sure outdoor lights are directing the light down instead of up into the sky.
Kaitlyn: Yes, so well said. The nightime can be mysterious (and even scary) for kids; it’s nice to show them the beauty of the unknown–and make it known! Something I hadn’t know was that a frog’s sound could be a “gaLUNG.” I love saying it! Can you share a bit about how you landed on that sound for this story?
Rebecca: I grew up with the sound of green frogs calling at night, so I knew I wanted to include them in the book. But it took a while for me to pin down that sound. People often compare it to the pluck of a banjo string. I took walks at dusk along the shores of lakes where green frogs live and listened to them calling. I also watched videos of green frogs calling. I kept writing down what I was hearing until I landed on gaLUNG.
Kaitlyn: Wow, I love that! What a wonderful self-study to make sure the sound was well portrayed. Do you mind sharing who your editor is for this story, and what you enjoy about working with this editor?
Rebecca: I was really fortunate to have Carol Hinz as my editor on this book. This is our second picture book together (Plants Can’t Sit Still, illustrated by Mia Posada, was our first). I love working with Carol! She really knows picture books, and she loves lyrical language. Plus she shares my fascination with the amazing living things that make this world such a remarkable place.
Kaitlyn: Carol is such an inspiring and intelligent person and editor; it sounds like you two make a fantastic team! If you have a literary agent, can you share who it is, how you landed this agent, and why you enjoy working with this agent?
Rebecca: I was not represented for Night Creatures, although I did sign with an agent this summer. I’m happy to say I’m represented by Sarah Stephens at Red Fox Literary. I chose Sarah because of her depth of kidlit knowledge—she’s a children’s author herself, and she came to agenting after working as an editor at several children’s publishers. Sarah shares my love of picture books, as well as my interest in connecting kids with nature. Sarah has been so kind and supportive of me, and I think she’s going to be a great advocate for my work!
Kaitlyn: That’s the best! Finding the agent that you really connect with is so important, and I can personally share the Red Fox Literary team is wonderful, so I’m betting you’re in great hands. Can you share a bit about what’s coming next?
Rebecca: Certainly! Sensational Senses: Amazing Ways Animals Perceive the World comes out in 2022. It’s on the incredible abilities of animal super-sensers. Also coming out in 2022 is Where Have All the Birds Gone? Nature in Crisis, a YA book on the alarming decline in North American birds and what we can all do to help. For 2023, I have another picture book on trees that I’m working on with Carol Hinz. And finally, Sarah Stephens and I have several more picture books we are working on together. I hope to be able to share news about those books soon!
Kaitlyn: Wow wow wow. You are such a powerhouse book writer. When we feature you next, we’ll have to pick your brain on how you find all your wonderful story ideas and keep creating such beautiful and important books. Finally, if you could spend a day with your favorite mathematician, author, or illustrator, would you sit by a fireside and chat or go out on an adventure together?
Rebecca: I think I’d choose a fireside chat with Cynthia Rylant. I love her novels and her picture books. She’s originally from the mountains of West Virginia, and I grew up right next door, in the Appalachian foothills in western Pennsylvania. So her picture books about Appalachian life really speak to me. In fact, her picture book Night in the Country definitely influenced me as I was writing Night Creatures. I’d love to get together with her and talk about growing up in the country and about writing.
Kaitlyn: That sounds like it would be a lovely time, with two great authors! Please count me in! Thanks so much again for joining us and sharing such wonderful insight today!
Rebecca: It was my pleasure, Kaitlyn. Thanks so much for having me!
Kaitlyn: I can’t wait to have you again and hope things go well for this beautiful book! I also can’t wait to pick up a copy of Plants Can’t Sit Still–it sounds fantastic, too!
After an early career as a laboratory biologist, Rebecca E. Hirsch hung up her lab coat, bought a laptop, and became a children’s writer. She has written more than 80 nonfiction books for kids of all ages, from preschool through young adult, although her passion is picture books that connect kids with nature. Her debut picture book, Plants Can’t Sit Still (Millbrook 2016), received multiple starred reviews, was selected by Chicago Public Library as one of the best books for children in 2016, and won the Maryland Blue Crab Young Reader Award. Night Creatures: Animals That Swoop, Crawl, and Creep while You Sleep (Millbrook 2021) is her newest picture book, and a third, The Tallest Trees, is forthcoming in 2023. Rebecca lives with her family in Pennsylvania, where she grows gardens and wrangles a small flock of chickens. You can connect with her at rebeccahirsch.com or find her on Twitter and Instagram as @rebeccaehirsch.
Kaitlyn’s review of Night Creatures: Animals That Swoop, Crawl, and Creep while You Sleep
Beautiful lyrical writing couple with gorgeous illustrations help kids appreciate and enjoy the fun of the nighttime through the sounds and sights of amazing creatures. A great STEM bedtime story for everyone, especially your future scientists and explorers while also being a fantastic addition to any classroom and library for students to learn about animals in a new and exciting setting.
Giveaway of a signed copy of Night Creatures (US only please) AND a picture book critique (worldwide!)
To enter the random drawing, do any/all of the following options, then come back and write all of the things you did in ONE blog comment. (If you forget something, feel free to reply to your first comment ;))
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Thank you all for supporting such amazing creators, and make sure to come back Monday because it’s finally here! We’re having our second Team Sanchez cover reveal for the first picture book we sold: Margaret Aitken’s OLD FRIENDS, illustrated by Lenny Wen.
Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez