LAURENCE PRINGLE'S BLOG
April 6, 2017
Sometimes, authors make mistakes in their books. And, often the error is
discovered by a kid reading the book!
That happened to me. I wrote a book called the Scholastic Encyclopedia of
Animals. (You might have a copy in your school library.) It has information about 138 animals, and all of the research and writing took most of a whole year. I know that I sometimes make mistakes, so I asked an animal expert to check my work. She found a few errors. I fixed them, and the book was published. It was my 96th book, and I thought it was perfect. Yeah!
A few weeks later I received a letter from North Carolina. It was from a 6-year old boy named Sebastian, and he had found a big mistake in my book. Here is what he wrote: "I was reading about my favorite animals with my mom and we read on page 62 that Lions are the biggest cats on Earth. But, tigers are bigger than lions! We turned to the Tiger page (page 111) and you wrote "The tiger is Earth's biggest cat." Did you know you wrote that?"
Oops! I had somehow written that two different cats were the biggest. Everybody, including the animal expert, had missed this BIG UGLY error. Quickly, I talked with the book's editor about fixing the mistake when new copies of the book were printed. And I wrote to Sebastian. I congratulated him, thanked him, and promised him a new, corrected copy of the animal encyclopedia when it was printed. When I mailed that new book, I wrote to Sebastian, "No other reader or book reviewer has let me know about this mistake. Hurray for you!"
When I visit schools, I am sometimes asked to autograph a copy of my animal
encyclopedia. When this happens, I always turn to page 62 and see what it says about
Lions. If it is a really old copy, the error is there. I sign the book, and also write, "Beware of the mistake on page 62. Tigers are bigger than lions!"
When I write, I try to do good research, and I ask experts to check my work. Mistakes are rare in my books. But I know that, if I mess up, some school kid--maybe even a 6-year-old--will probably tell me about it.
January 10, 2017
Yesterday I submitted a manuscript of a book--Elephants! Strange and Wonderful--that will be published a long time from now, 2019. I'm excited about it, about the process so far, which includes research on these extraordinary animals, and the writing just ended. The rest of the long process includes comments from my editor and an elephant scientist, both of whom will help make the book better. Then artist Meryl Henderson will devote several months creating her usual wonderful illustrations.
In all writing, and maybe especially in writing nonfiction, a lot has to be left out. That seemed particularly true on this subject. I felt I could write much more about one elephant body part: the trunk. There is no other animal part quite like it. (It can be used to sniff odors, spray water, hug, grab food, and much more.) And so much can be written about the awful reality of wild elephants today, with great loss of their natural habitats, and being killed so that people can have jewelry, trinkets, and other objects carved from the ivory of their tusks. Fortunately, my writing ended on a slightly hopeful note as the Chinese government just vowed to end the whole ivory business in that nation (where more than half of all ivory-made products are sold). Say No to Ivory!