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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Earth Week Extravaganza, Day 4: Author/Illustrator Susan Stockdale

Welcome back everyone!
Today is day four in Peachtree Publishers 'Fins, Wings, and Other Things' tour stop here at Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers.  Hopefully you are having as much fun with the special guest posts as I are, right?  *tap*tap* Is this thing on?  Anywho...

Today we continue the Earth WEEK Extravaganza fun with a post from another fantastic Peachtree Publishers author and illustrator!  That's right.  She not only wrote the story, but provided the fun and colorful pictures that go along with it.  Today she joins us to reveal just where the 'inspiration and ideas' for her work comes from and what she hopes to accomplish in sharing them.

Please and illustrator, Susan Stockdale!


Guest Post:  Susan Stockdale
Inspiration and Ideas:

Creating Nature Books for Young Children
Author and Illustrator of Bring On the Birds

I love writing and illustrating picture books about nature for young children. People often ask me: what inspired you to enjoy nature so much, and how do you come up with the topics for your books?

My childhood experiences influenced me tremendously. I grew up in sunny Miami, Florida, playing outside every second that I wasn’t in school. I rode my bike and skateboard, climbed trees, and chased lizards. The subtropical flora and fauna of my surroundings were lush and inviting. I visited a place called the Parrot Jungle frequently, and was amazed at the birds’ brilliant, bold colors. Then my family moved to Ireland for a few years. This was a different environment entirely:  misty and magical. The landscape was hilly and dotted with sheep and cows, animals I’d never seen in Miami. These two environments – subtropical Miami and the enchanting countryside of Ireland – effected me deeply. I developed my passion for animals and colorful, fanciful imagery as a result of these early experiences.

I learned my love of words from my mother, a published poet and author. She rhymed words together throughout the day, just for fun.  She taught me that words could be playful and joyful. My mother’s influence is evident, as I now write books in rhyme! I love the comfort that comes with repetition and rhythm, and I have found that kids do, too. When I read my books during school presentations, the children clap spontaneously.
I’ve drawn and painted my entire life. When I was in my 20s, I began to create intricate, colorful patterns. This led me to freelance as a textile designer for the apparel industry, designing detailed patterns for fabric. Now it’s instinctive for me to find patterns in everything I paint.

After having a family, I was always taking my young children to the library to check out picture books. I became interested in writing and illustrating a book of my own, but I needed an idea. Then, while once visiting the zoo, my children were amazed to see a flamingo standing on one leg - sound asleep. This was just the idea I was hoping to find.  It inspired my first book, Some Sleep Standing Up, which explores the surprising ways in which animals sleep.

A katydid that I saw on a branch in my backyard spurred the idea for my next book, Nature’s Paintbrush. Katydids are green insects that are shaped like leaves, so that they are camouflaged from birds and other animals that might like to eat them. I began thinking about how their color and shape protected them. The idea evolved into this book, which examines the myriad ways in which colors and patterns in nature help living things survive.

An article I read about animal behavior resulted in my next picture book. I learned that beavers pick up their babies with their front arms outstretched, similar to the way that people do. This is unusual behavior for a mammal, and made me curious about how other animals carried their young. Once I began researching the topic, I was hooked – and created Carry Me! Animal Babies on the Move.

My husband and I went snorkeling some years ago, and I was astounded by the diversity, shape and color of the fishes I saw beneath the water. I knew immediately that I had to create a book about them, as they are so spectacular looking! I came home, sat at my computer and began writing:

“Round fish, clownfish, fish that like to hide.
Striped fish, spiked fish, fish that leap and glide.”

The outcome was Fabulous Fishes, my first book written in rhyme, which introduces children to 21 exotic and familiar fishes around the world.

My most recent book, Bring On the Birds, was inspired closer to home. A robin built a nest on the ledge above my front door. Because there is a glass pane above the ledge, I was able to stand on a ladder and peer into the nest every day. My whole family got involved! It was exciting to see the turquoise eggs appear, one by one. We marveled at the patience of the mother robin as she sat on them day after day. Then the nestlings hatched, grew by leaps and bounds every day, and finally flew from the nest. This beautiful spectacle was behind the creation of Bring On the Birds, which introduces children to 21 distinctive birds around the world.

It’s a joy for me to share my passion with children through my books, and I hope I inspire them!


Author Bio

Susan Stockdale is an award-winning author and illustrator of children's picture books, including BRING ON THE BIRDS; FABULOUS FISHES; CARRY ME! ANIMAL BABIES ON THE MOVE; NATURE'S PAINTBRUSH; and SOME SLEEP STANDING UP. Her books celebrate nature with grace and cleverness and have won awards from Parents' Choice, the National Science Teachers Association, Bank Street College of Education and the Smithsonian Institution. Her expressive words and images elicit praise. The Washington Post noted, "If the paintings are the feast, Stockdale's words are the dessert. And she selects them carefully." Her book illustrations have been twice selected for the Society of Illustrators "Original Art Exhibition" in New York City.

 She began her art career in 1976 as a painter of fantasy landscapes, which she exhibited in galleries and juried shows. Her paintings won prizes including Southern Home Magazine's "Visual Arts for the Home" Award and were reproduced as magazine and notecard covers. From the beginning, her love of pattern and color was a distinctive feature of her artwork.

Her children's book career began in 1996 with the publication of SOME SLEEP STANDING UP, followed by NATURE'S PAINTBRUSH. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution called NATURE'S PAINTBRUSH "a stunning work that goes far beyond celebrating patterns in nature" and the National Science Teachers Association selected it as an "Outstanding Science Trade Book for Children."

Stockdale researches her books extensively. For her 2011 book, BRING ON THE BIRDS, she traveled to the Galapagos Islands to watch Blue-footed Boobies perform their lively mating dance and the Great Frigatebird puff out its crimson chest. The Wall Street Journal wrote that "young naturalists will appreciate the variety of avian life rendered in Susan Stockdale's gently rhyming picture book, Bring On the Birds." And Kirkus Reviews exclaimed that "the images are often mesmerizing in their abstraction, inviting readers to pause and admire." 


What a delightful post!
Thank you Ms. Stockdale for allowing us to look behind the book cover and glimpse the inspiration at its source.  Sounds like your books to date have had a fascinating journey.

Alright readers, it's YOUR turn.
Time to get another chance to win the FIVE BOOK prize pack from Peachtree Publishers that will be drawn for at week's end.  So, get your thinking caps on because today's entry is a little different and a whole lot of fun.

You know those fun and fabulous JUMBLE puzzles they use to (and some still do, I'm sure) print in the newspaper?  Well today you get the chance to complete one of these puzzles made exclusively for this contest.  IF YOU ARE SUCCESSFUL, you will unlock a key phrase that will gain you another entry for the prize pack.  Sound good?  Alrighty then.  Here we go.

Complete the JUMBLE-type puzzle and uncover the mystery phrase.
All the answers can be found in today's post and/or via the links provided.


1. __ __ __ __ __ __ __'    __ __ __ __ __ __
2. __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __    __ __ __ __ __ __ __           
__ __ __ __ __ __ __ __    __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __

3.  __ __ __ __ __    __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __

4.  __ __ __ __ __   __ __   __ __ __   __ __ __ __ __

5.  __ __ __   __ __ __ __   __ __ __ __ __ __   __ __ __ __

6.  __ __ __ - __ __ __ __ __ __    __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __

7.  __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __
8.  __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __   __ __ __ __ __ __

FINAL ANSWER:  Mystery phrase and a call to action.

__ __ __ __ __ __ __   __ __ __   __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __

1. One group the author has won awards from for her books celebrating nature.
2. The second group that gave her awards for her nature friendly books.
3. Author's name
4. Title of the book featured today being added to the prize pack.
5. Which publication noted her "words are the dessert"?
6. According to the synopsis on the publisher's site, the book covers birds ranging from the Blue-footed Booby to THIS bird....
7. Those that study birds are called this.
8. The author has penned several different books, one of which dealt with our scaly friends under the sea. Name that book.

The mystery phrase can be filled solved by filling in the letters that correspond to the colored spaces in sequence.  As you solve them, just plug in the letters to reveal the phrase and unlock your chance to win.

So...think you got it right?
Let's hope on to...

Fill out THIS FORM.


That's it!
Presto-change-o you've gained another entry for the prize pack of Peachtree Publisher titles.

Check back tomorrow for the final post in this series and yet another chance to get your name into the drawing.  In the mean time, be sure to check out the other stop on the tour over at Archimedes Notebook where they'll be featuring an interview with Melissa Stewart, author of A Place for Fish!

Until next time...happy reading!


Misha said...

I love the author's description of Ireland - I have always wanted to visit it.
It's great ti read about the author's inspiration for her picture books :)

Liz @ Cleverly Inked said...

I have found so many children books from your blog, that I have gotten for my son, THANKS, I actually fins it harder to search for fabulous children books then adult books. So as I said Thanks!

GMR said...

Misha: Definitely agree. ^_^

Liz: Why thank you...I'm glad he enjoys them. I certainly understand your plight. Often times new children's titles slip under the radar. Happy reading!

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