Mysteries that Matter
It was such a joy to attend the Massachusetts Book Awards ceremony at the Statehouse last week, where Trouble at Turtle Pond was honored as a 2023 “Must Read” in the middle grade / young adult category! This means the book was long listed for the award, and copies will live in the Statehouse library! My YA novel Blue Voyage was similarly honored back in 2016, so this is my second visit there for this event . . . but it felt extra special because of the strong ties this particular story has to Massachusetts. Even though my setting, a small town called Marsh Hollow, is fictitious, it’s very closely modeled after Concord, Acton, Belmont, Lowell, and other towns in my area. It’s inspired by the very real work that turtle helpers do to ensure the longevity of the endangered Blanding’s turtles and other types of turtles. These incredible turtle helpers can be found in Zoo New England’s HATCH program, which inspired the book, and in schools and neighborhoods throughout Massachusetts. I’m so grateful to the Massachusetts Book Awards committee for honoring this book and raising the visibility of threatened turtles and those who help them.
We got to hear wonderful speeches by the award winners and honorees. We also heard from some of our state Representatives who are passionate about protecting our freedom to read, and who are proposing legislation right now that would prevent book bans in public libraries. It was truly an honor just to be in the room. I felt very proud of Massachusetts and our strong book community!
The Backyard Rangers are busy! More happy news for Trouble at Turtle Pond . . . it’s been long listed for the Massachusetts Book Awards and named a Mass Book Awards 2023 “Must-Read” title in the children’s and YA fiction category! Winners will be announced in September. I’m deeply honored for my eco-mystery to be recognized on this list, and in such amazing company. I’m also very grateful to the judges at Massachusetts Center for the Book, for seeing this book and helping to make it – and the endangered freshwater turtles I wrote about – more visible!
Not only that, Trouble at Turtle Pond was a category finalist (middle reader fiction) for the Eric Hoffer Award and Children’s Book Council Librarian Favorites winner for grades 6-8!
The Nature Generation has announced the 2023 Green Earth Book Awards today – Earth Day – and I am so thrilled to announce that TROUBLE AT TURTLE POND was named an Honor Book!
I’m also so very happy for my friend Elaine Dimopoulos, whose incredilbe middle grade novel in verse TURN THE TIDE was the winner in the Children’s Fiction category! TURN THE TIDE is about a grassroots, kid-led movement to ban plastic bags in one Florida town, and was inspired by the real-life Indonesian climate activists Melati Wijsen and Isabel Wijsen, the cofounders of Bye, Bye, Plastic Bags.
The covers of this year’s winners and honors titles are below, and you can click here for the full list, including the 2023 Recommend Reads. Congratulations to everyone who was recognized! This whole list of environmentally-themed reads for children and young adults represents only a portion of the growing body of work that addresses climate and conservation issues. Together, these books offer so many paths to understanding and working for our planet; they offer young readers relatable characters grappling with real-life issues, actionable plans, accessible science, creative conservation, and – most importantly – inspiration and hope.
The Nature Generation is running a special Earth Day fundraiser for climate action. A $30 donation will contribute to the goal of donating 100 copies of CLIMATE ACTION, a GEBA award-winning title, into classrooms nationwide. You can read more about this initiative and make a donation here!
I am delighted to announce that I have signed the contract for a follow-up to Trouble at Turtle Pond! Miles and his friends the Backyard Rangers – as well as some NEW friends – will move on to another adventure in Marsh Hollow . . . this one involving owls!
Here’s this week’s announcement in Publisher’s Marketplace!
The announcement says Spring 2025, but actually it’s just been moved up . . . it’s coming out in late summer 2024!!
As some of you may have deduced from my website, which has owls hidden everywhere, I am a big owl fan. (I like small owls too – and those are in the book as well!) Miles and his friends will be encountering three types of owls that we have in Massachusetts, and learning about others. The research for this book has been incredibly fun: I’ve taken owl classes with the Massachusetts Audubon Society and elsewhere (one of them involved actually handling an owl!), gone on owl prowls, spent countless hours gazing into and listening in the woods near my house, dissected owl pellets (ew! but fun!) and even joined an owl bander and her team to track migrating saw-whet owls. I’ve learned so much about owls and their habitats! I’ve also enjoyed writing about Miles and his friends at school – this is actually the first novel I’ve set during the school year. So that setting is bringing them fresh opportunities, as well as fresh challenges, especially when they learn about some rival wildlife rangers on the other side of the woods.
I’ll be sharing more updates about THE OWL PROWL MYSTERY very soon, from the full summary to the book cover and more, so watch this space! Or better yet, please sign up for my mostly monthly newsletter, which will have behind the scenes tales of the publication process, in addition to my usual hopefully not-boring content: recent reads, conservation tips for creatives, writing and productivity hacks, and pictures of my dog! (Who is training to become a therapy dog who will read with kids in libraries – I sometimes have progress updates about that in the newsletter too! And if you liked the dog in Trouble at Turtle Pond, you’ll be seeing more a lot more of Chance the Dog in book 2!)
Trouble at Turtle Pond has moved to the short list for The Nature Generation’s 2023 Green Earth Book Award! Ahhh! I’m very proud to see this title here among five incredible eco-themed novels for kids.
The tiny Blanding’s turtle hatchlings that started as a classroom and community science project with my son, and then turned into a book idea, and then turned into a book, have come a long, long way. I am grateful for all the people – and turtles – who have contributed to this book along its journey so far!
Book cover collage courtesy of The Nature Generation. For the complete short list, please visit their website!
Exciting news! I am thrilled to announce that TROUBLE AT TURTLE POND has made the long list for the Nature Generation’s 2023 Green Earth Book Award in the category of Children’s Fiction!!
I’m familiar with many of the titles on this year’s list, across categories, and feel so honored to be among them. A few of the authors on here are friends. Some are authors I do not know personally, but they are people whose work I deeply admire. Some are new to me, and their titles are immediately going on to my TBR list!
I often refer friends, colleagues and clients to the Green Earth Book Awards website. The long list — as well as the short list and the winners — offer so much inspiration for how we can represent nature and environmental issues in a hopeful way for young readers. The Nature Generation also does a wonderful job selecting titles from both large and smaller publishers, which is great to see.
Please visit the Nature Generation’s website to see the full long list for 2023 and lists of past long listers, honor books, and winners, and to learn more about what this great organization does to promote environmental literacy, including providing resources to teachers and STEM seed grants.
[Book cover collage below is from The Nature Generation website]
I had such a wonderful time celebrating World Read Aloud Day with students and educators this week. What a delight to meet so many energetic students and their teachers. I was struck by how many young people are genuinely excited about reading, and prepared thoughtful, fascinating questions for these events. I was also moved by how many of these students care deeply about animals and the environment. I had as many questions about turtles and how to help them as I did about books and writing.
I met a class of fifth graders who are headstarting turtle hatchlings in their classrooms, in the same Zoo New England conservation program that inspired the writing of Trouble at Turtle Pond. (I had to chuckle at this picture of tiny me next to the ginormous turtle slides — a complete reversal of real-life scale!) That was an especially fun visit since these students knew a lot about Blanding’s turtles (the stars of my book) and are having some of the same experiences as the characters in Trouble at Turtle Pond – minus the poachers and the peril!
After the visits, I had to marvel at technology and how far we have come. It’s incredible be able to zoom into another state, to talk to multiple classrooms across a school district on Google Meet, while still feeling a personal connection to every individual student who comes up to their camera to ask a question or offer a comment.
I’m also in awe of the logistics of hosting WRAD at schools. I am grateful to the teachers and librarians who put these events together. Whether they’re organizing one classroom or fifteen, it takes time and effort to reach out to authors, pace out the visits, get kids into classrooms and into listening mode, facilitate Q&A sessions.
World Read Aloud Day doesn’t just have to be on February 2! It occurred to me that I tend to inhale books these days, making my way through a large reading list and across devices. I listen to audiobooks at faster speeds, and note my percentage progress on my kindle. But reading aloud forces me to slow down, to savor, to experience the words and ideas differently. So I plan to make time to read some passages aloud this year, especially when I’m reading poetry and essays, and carry some of the spirit of World Read Aloud Day into my regular reading life.