LAURENCE PRINGLE'S BLOG
Artist Kate Garchinsky is almost done with the illustrations of our Secret Life of the Sloth. Artist Meryl Henderson is well-along in the illustrations for our Elephants! Strange and Wonderful. In early January I delivered the manuscript of Wolves! Strange and Wonderful. The expert who will check my text and the art (by Meryl) will be Dr. L. David Mech, a guy I met at Cornell University long ago. We were both "Wildlife" majors. Dave went on to do a pioneering study of the wolves and moose on Isle Royale National Park, and to become a world-famous wolf expert.
And now I await decisions from editors about future projects...
The artist Kate Garchinsky urged that we team up on the subject of sea otters, and I finished writing the text a few weeks ago. (Alas, because of a merging of two publishers I had no editor to send the ms. to until two days ago.) I probably don't have to tell you how appealing sea otters are. The "secret life" books are narrative nonfiction, usually centered on a story about one individual. In this book she is Lutris (part of the sea otter's scientific name, the word "Lutris" is Latin for "otter").
Here is the beginning I wrote: "Lutris takes a nap. She has been busy all morning, diving underwater to
hunt for food. Now she covers her eyes with her paws to shut out the light, and
falls asleep. Ocean waves rock her gently in her water bed."
Although here are many questions about my new, merged publisher, editor, etc. I'm hopeful about this book, partly because Kate will be the artist.
In schools I often give a quiz: can you name the titles of books by recognizing their great first sentence or paragraph-- one that makes readers eager to keep reading? Once such first sentence is, "Where's Poppa going with that axe?" Many kids, in grades 3 and up, know those are the first words in E. B. White's wonderful book, Charlotte's Web.
However, on a recent school visit one boy had a surprise answer. He said The Shining. This book, by Stephen King, is a scary drama for adult readers. It was made into a movie. Yes, there is a father with an axe in the book, but not at the beginning.
Earlier this fall I researched and wrote the text of THE SECRET LIFE OF THE SLOTH. An editor wondered why this manuscript had less action and drama than, say, my books about a woolly bear caterpillar, red fox, and little brown bat. I had to explain: it is a sloth! These mammals are the least-energetic and slowest of all mammals. So, in writing I could not use words like "leaped," "scampered," "raced," or many other action words. Nevertheless, readers will get to know, and become emotionally attached to, the female sloth and the young male she gives birth to. Artist Kate Garchinsky has started her research and sketches. This will lead, many months from now, to a gloriously illustrated book.
And speaking of bats, on October 24th a house painter removed our bat house from a wall of our home, and a bat fell out. I rescued it, putting it a nearby shed. The bat house was put back and on Halloween I looked in, seeing one sleeping bat. Perhaps it was the same one. This incident led me to watch for bats foraging in the sky, to see if they might still be out there hunting insects. They were--as long as the temperatures at dusk were about 60 degrees F. And I saw two sizes of bats, probably little browns and big browns. It never occurred to me to watch for bats so deep in the fall, so I thank the house painter for that. Read More
Curious about mange, I did some research--and learned that a wild fox can be cured of mange! This involves having the fox come for food frequently, and giving it meat or other food with anti-mite medication in it. Mangy foxes are not good hunters so I was able to start feeding "our" fox every night. On Feb. 2 it had its first dose of medicine. It has had 14 doses since, now only once a week because all mites (and those that hatched from eggs) are almost certainly dead by now.
We see new hair growth on its rear, and hints of hair growth on its tail. But a full fox tail has hair at least 6 inches long, so months may pass before the fox looks totally healthy. We hope he'll still be around, deep in the summer, and we can see the glorious banner of a full tail. Ever since I wrote The Secret Life of the Red Fox I have been very fox-conscious. You could say that I'm a fox-lover. Read More
prediction depends entirely on whether it is cloudy (no shadow), or sunny (shadow).
No groundhog is needed! With our own human eyes and brains we can detect whether we sense sunshine and see shadows. Then we alone make the meteorological forecast (which is also nonsense but that's another story).
Sorry, Punxsutawney, it is just SHADOW OR NO SHADOW DAY. Read More
The book is rich with details (and illustrations) of Lenape life, which appealed to my own nature-exploring adventures. However, I was especially drawn to its fictional narrator, an English boy (Dickon) who was swept overboard from a British ship in 1612 and lived with the Lenapes for two years. He has trouble with a bully but is lovingly accepted by others, and by a dog. At the book's end he makes a heart-wrenching decision. It made me cry when I was twelve, and probably can do so again now. Read More