Mysteries that Matter
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.
This week I’m kicking off a hopefully weekly series on the blog, featuring my “weekend reads.” These are books I’m hoping to dig into over the weekend or am currently reading. Or just plain excited about.
Lately, I am excited about brave people saving the world, for probably obvious reasons. That’s why I love Rebecca Caprara’s Mission Multiverse books so much, as they feature middle grade marching band misfits, a.k.a. the Space Cadets, saving not just our world but many worlds: the multiverse. I loved Book One for its fabulous ensemble cast of unlikely heroes, as well as some of the most creatively rendered extraterrestrials I’ve ever met in fiction. Book 2 came out this week, Mission Multiverse: Doppelgänger Danger, in which our intrepid Space Cadets are now trapped on an alternate version of earth and learn that a doppelgänger is among them. In full disclosure, Rebecca is a dear friend and critique partner, so I’ve been in on the multiverse from its earliest inception, when it was more space dust ideas then book. It’s been such a fun ride to see both of these books take shape.
Publishing takes a long time, and while her stories are familiar to me, I have forgotten some details. (Or maybe I am somewhere in the Multiverse still reading some other version?!) Also, i know Rebecca has revised over time, with her editor. Also, I love doppelgänger and double stories, so there’s no harm in reading this twice.
And I am eager to see how the final version turned out. It is always such a joy to hold a friend’s finished book in my hand and know the journey it’s been on . . . in Rebecca’s case, an interplanetary, intra-dimensional one! I’m happy to have been a part of that ride in some small way and was honored to read her earliest pages.
I highly recommend this book and series for kids who love Space adventures, band culture, friendship stories, and adventurous kids with lots of heart.
Click here to order a SIGNED copy of the Mission Multiverse series at Silver Unicorn Books!
increasing the odds that each turtle cared for will survive to adulthood. At the same time, students collect and analyze data on hatchlings’ growth while learning about the ecology and importance of our freshwater wetlands. By helping protect native biodiversity and restoring healthy wetlands in their communities, students learn that they can be agents of change in a small but significant way.”
I loved chatting with Sheela Chari, Elaine Dimopoulos, and Author’s Note bookstore owner Julie Berry — who is also an award-winning children’s book author!
You can find the playback link here if you’d still like to tune in.
Meet Cody Herrmann!
Cody Herrmann (she/her) is a New York City based artist and community organizer. She combines socially engaged art, politi
cal advocacy, and community science to create participatory art works and public programs. Since 2014 her work has focused on her hometown of Flushing, Queens, NYC, creating projects critiquing policy related to land use and environmental planning in areas surrounding Flushing Bay and Flushing
Creek. She frequently hosts both on-land and on-water tours of the area, while creating artworks such as beach towels and temporary tattoos that allow viewers to visualize water quality test results. Cody is a board member of Guardians of Flushing Bay, and a long time volunteer sampler for the Citizens Water Quality Testing program in NYC. Visit Cody’s website to view her work. Click here to learn more about Guardian’s of Flushing Bay!
Trouble at Turtle Pond has been in the world for over a week! I’m so grateful to everyone who came out to the launch at Silver Unicorn, including Loree Griffin Burns, and the team from Zoo New England.
Trouble at Turtle Pond has also been featured on WBUR Radio Boston! I loved chatting with Zoo New England’s Field Conservation Program Manager Emilie Wilder about the HATCH program, and how it helped inspire the book. Listen to the full interview here.
In other audio news, Fitzroy Books / Regal House publisher Jaynie Royal (also my editor!) sat down with me and two fellow Fitzroy authors, Frank Morelli and Ginger Park, to talk about middle grade fiction, gatekeepers, balancing research with story, and broccoli books! (You’ll have to listen to find out what that is!) Jaynie wears many hats, and podcast host is definitely one of them! Check out the full recording on Conspiracy of Lemurs here.
I’ve also been busy pumping out various Trouble at Turtle Pond related blog post through the lens of teaching, publishing, and middle grade writing. Thanks Teaching Books, Middle Grade Book Village, and Smack Dab in the Middle for featuring my words.
THANK YOU to Regal House and Fitzroy Books for believing in this story. The paperbacks are beautiful and high quality as well, and available through the publisher and through retail stores, but what I love about Regal house is they make the hard cover available for those who want it. Click here to order.
Lastly: what can you, lovely readers, do to continue supporting this project? First, you can grab a copy from my favorite local indie bookstore, Silver Unicorn! You can then head over to Goodreads and Amazon to leave a review. These reviews make a huge difference in making sure the book gets seen. You can also request it at your local bookstore.
Thanks, everyone! Go #teamturtle!
Meet Maribel Pregnall Mueller!
Maribel grew up in northern Vermont, Oregon, and the coast of Maine. She was the kind of kid who never could stay inside too long. Her adventures outside gave her an appreciation for nature that shaped her life and career. It led her to whale research, then to outdoor education, and then to a long career teaching public high school science. She is now a retired science teacher from Arlington High School in LaGrangeville, NY, where she taught for 30 years. During her career she integrated hands-on science and outdoor adventure into her teaching whenever she could. Fortunately for her, that made her career lots of fun and brought her to some really cool places. She brought her students to Alaska, Hawaii, Costa Rica and Key Largo, Florida to study the flora and fauna in super diverse ecosystems. They climbed mountains in Denali National Park and went SCUBA diving on coral reefs in Marine sanctuaries. She also worked with her students to battle invasive species in a local park, to work with college professors on endocrine disrupters in our personal care products, and to build an Aquaponics laboratory in her classroom.
The most rewarding project in her career, however, was working to save a species that lived in the wetlands behind her school. For most of her career, she worked with hundreds of students to save a New York threatened species, the Blanding’s turtles, from local extinction. In her retirement, she is still working on the Blanding’s turtle project and working with student interns during nesting season. She is also on the Board of The Wetland Trust where they purchase valuable wetland habitat and mitigate when there is damage to wetland habitats during development. She is also on the Board of The Friends of Peach Hill where she is working on creating pollinator meadows and building an outdoor education classroom in a local town park they saved from becoming a housing development. In her career and now in retirement, she will always be a champion for the earth. Her life and mission to help and study the environment are intertwined.