Guest Post: Susan StockdaleInspiration and Ideas:
Creating Nature Books for Young ChildrenAuthor 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 BioSusan 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."
QUICK NOTE...Update: 9/7/19
First of all, my heart goes out to all those affected by the recent heinous weather outbreaks, most recently being Hurricane Dorian. We were right in the path of Hurricane Michael (like so many others), and we're still trying to get back in our home. Things are very slow to progress towards normalcy...and every day presents a new headache/nightmare to deal with. Hopefully by month's end, we'll be back in there to start the next leg of recovery. Thanks for stopping by and sharing my bookish adventures. It helps remind me I'm not alone in this crazy journey called life.