I have lived in Rockbridge County Virginia for 22 years. Being born in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, and not to parents very outdoor minded, I somehow managed to spend every allowable moment outside exploring and dreaming of wilder spaces. Our property in Virginia covers 14 acres that we allowed to grow back from what can best be termed ‘excessive mowing’. The wildlife has followed, and I could easily spend the rest of my days exploring here; there is much to discover. In education this kind of focus is called place-based learning. Place-based learning is valued as a way to insure children have a grounded sense of awe and the ecological knowledge about local spaces in order to extrapolate, as adults, similar feelings towards far-flung places of the globe. Three of my picture books have local roots – either because the organism featured is local or because my work with local students inspired the idea – and the other two were inspired or nurtured by travel. I am lucky to have both possibilities for inspirational sources in my life.
So, with that long preamble, I am pleased to share the news that my fourth picture book, The Hidden Life in Streams, has won a local award – first place in the book category of the Virginia Outdoor Writers Association’s Excellence in Craft Contest. The main star in The Hidden Life in Streams is a local stream near (on our property) and dear (full of place-based learning) to my heart. It also stars my daughter Mauri, who loves saving individual critters lives (including stink bugs) and who has helped me sample for Save Our Streams for years. In the book she is as empathetic as in real life. Also featured as characters are our dear friends, Steve and Wendy Richards, who trained me when I first joined the Maury River Save Our Streams chapter. This is the first book I illustrated myself, using photos and digital magic.
I have taught stream sampling to hundreds of Rockbridge County students over the last 20 years in my volunteer work with Boxerwood Nature Center’s education programs. This summer I got to read The Hidden Life in Streams and share its story to campers through one of Boxerwood’s programs. The local connections keep flowing. Now with this award, I hope the connections will ripple further to include even more young readers. If you’re interested in a copy, you can find one here. And if you’re local and would like a signed copy, you can find my email here.
Also, in helping promote the local nature of this book and its message, partial proceeds from its sale are donated to Boxerwood Nature Center to assist with their amazing educational programs. I will end with the lovely review from Elise Sheffield, the Education Director at Boxerwood, which is found on the back of the book:
“From small packages come great things: a water penny becomes a beetle, a tiny stream becomes a laboratory, and a child becomes a citizen scientist. Turn the pages of The Hidden Life in Streams to follow the adventures from land to stream to net. Guided by young Mauri, we meet the macroinvertebrates whose tiny bodies tell big stories about the stream and its health. A book about families for families (both human and aquatic), this gentle work offers a simple, scientific introduction to the flowing wonder just a stepping stone away. A whole new world awaits go and fetch that net.”