THE SECRET LIFE OF THE SLOTH
The Story Behind the Book
My life has been full of skunks, though I've never come close to being sprayed with a skunk's powerful defensive musk. (This book explains how skunks usually "play fair," giving plenty of warnings before they unleash their smelly weapon.) I once helped lift a few young skunks out of a kind of pit they couldn't climb out of. One evening I saw one of our house cats approach a skunk family, but not close enough to cause the mother to do any sprayng. And, of course, there has been many a morning when the lawn has some fresh skunk-digging, and a whiff of that distinctive odor. Both my wife and I actually love that wild musky aroma.
For this book, the expert who checked my text and the art of Kate Garchinsky was Luanne Johnson, who now leads BiodiversityWorks on Martha's Vineyard. I met her on that island on an August night in 2004. I was fishing alone, under the stars, and saw a person walking along the beach. Another fisherman, striding along with a rod slung over his shoulder? No, Luanne had a radio antenna slung over her shoulder, and she was headed down the shore to locate one of many skunks that wore radio transmitters. That research led her to earn a Ph.D for her findings about skunks that live in an ocean coast environment (including their impact on nesting shore birds).
We met and talked on that August night, and have stayed in touch ever since; we got together twice this year on the Vineyard.
That island has a big, thriving skunk population. On August nights I've had delightful encounters with young skunks foraging along the shore. Sadly, I've also seen many skunks, mostly young, killed by vehicles on roads. Cars are the most dangerous predators of these delightful mammals.
Male skunks do not take part in caring for the young, so mother skunks try to do it all. That is one reason I wrote this dedication for this book: "For my wife Susan, who shares my affection for skunks and their musky scent. Like a mother skunk, she is smart, brave, generous, and nurturing."
The Story Behind the Book
I've been lucky enough to see dolphins along the shores of Florida, but the highlights of my dolphin encounters involve my son Jesse, and also Dr. Randall Wells, who studies dolphins at the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota. When Jesse was in 4th grade he accompanied me on a visit to Florida. We spent parts of two days with Randy Wells, and learned a lot about wild bottlenose dolphins he was studying (and had given names). This led to my book about Dr. Wells: Dolphin Man: Exploring the World of Dolphins. And he was the obvious and very helpful choice when I needed an expert to check my writing and the art for this book.
Review from Booklist:
"A stealthy predator, downy companion, or astute mascot? Owls, Pringle contends, are as multifaceted as they are abundant. Through a series of photographic watercolors and pithy paragraphs, Pringle and Henderson illumine the history of the owl, its many forms, and its varied habitats—from church steeples to the frozen tundra. The text helpfully breaks down a discussion of species into a handful of fun facts (you won’t find a screech owl screeching) and popular favorites (Harry Potter’s Hedwig is a snowy owl, of course!). Physiological details about skeletal structure and digestion are paired with precise illustrations of bones, owl pellets, and telling cutaway views. Side-by-side sketches of the owl with other birds, such as the pigeon and robin, underscore informative tidbits about the owl’s wide-ranging binocular vision, its flexible talons, and its 14-boned neck. Complete with a glossary of terms, index, and suggested-reading list, this book—true to its swooping subject matter—is swift, exacting, and sure to hook any reader."
Review from SLJ:
"Pringle and Henderson successfully pair up again for the newest installment in this series. Employing a conversational tone, the author thoroughly covers the basics of these nocturnal birds, shedding light on habitat, life cycle, and biology. A large variety of owls are expertly compared to one another, as well as to other birds and even humans. The book includes aspects often missed in similar titles, such as the shape of the feet, the placement of the eyes, and the number of vertebrae: all are explained and made exciting. Hunting habits are also described and clearly depicted; the illustrations often show unlucky mice and fish caught in an owl's talons or mouths, but the images, though realistic, are never graphic. Information about the variations in owl pellets and how to sterilize them will inspire students to look for ways to get some hands-on experience for themselves. Back matter will lead young researchers to learn more, and the glossary is especially informative. VERDICT: A great purchase for report writers, budding ornithologists, and generally curious readers. author visits to elementary schools
Click on the title to see "the story behind the book." And here is the closing quote of the Booklist review: "Celebrating the Octopus as a master of adaptive survival, Pringle and Henderson offer a picture book of beautiful illustrations that are rivaled only by its fascinating content about one of nature's most unusual creatures."
elementary school author visits
Plus, part of the review in School Library Journal: "Pringle conpresses a surprising amount of information of factual material into this informational picture book. His writing style flows well, with details smoothly woven into a cohesive read."
Also, from the March/April issue of The Horn Book:
Octopuses! Strange and Wonderful
Pringle (Scorpions!, rev. 1/14) introduces readers to another utterly amazing animal: the octopus. The text’s thorough descriptions present scientific information about these mollusks, including impressive facts about their versatile bodies and “smart” behaviors (e.g., shooting a decoy cloud of octopus-shaped ink to fool predators; solving mazes) along with the basics about physiology, reproduction, and habitat. How cool is it that an octopus can fit its entire body through any space that can accommodate its relatively small beak, or change its skin color and texture in the blink of an eye? These and other adaptations are carefully explained to showcase octopus survival in the face of their many predators, as well as the techniques they use to feast on prey, including fellow mollusks. Henderson’s illustrations feature a colorful range of octopus species, deftly conveying the beauty, flexibility, and motion of the octopuses and their squishy, tentacled bodies as they navigate their watery environments. The book ends with a paragraph that considers some unanswered questions about octopuses. A reading list and websites, glossary, and index are appended. danielle j. ford
"Amazing! Pringle's text is clear, informative and very child-friendly...And it is no mystery that this is a book that will find an eager audience in classrooms and libraries everywhere!" --Booklist's Best of Mysterynewsletter (May 2014)
"Naming but not otherwise anthropomorphizing this stealthy survivor, Pringle follows Bella the woolly bear through a "jungle of grasses, clovers, and wild flowers," weaving in information about her food and feeding, body parts, and life stages...Pringle refutes the myth that woolly bear caterpillars predict the severity of the coming winter."
--Kirkusschool author visits
"Pringle's careful research and Henderson's painterly eye are clearly in evidence as they explore the world of scorpions...Pringle does an excellent job..."--SLJ
"A solid choice for science collections."--Booklist
"Pringle delivers another stinging success with this fascinating look at the similarities and differences among the many varied species of these much feared but mostly misunderstood arachnids."--Kirkus
"A must-have addition to science collections." --Booklist
Click here to learn the story behind this book.
author in classrooms or library in schools
Published in 2010--by far the most complete, comprehensive book for kids about these noisy, harmless, and fascinating insects. Just in time for the spring 2011 emergence of Brood XIX of 13-year cicadas, which appeared in parts of fifteen states! And it was a treasury of information about the populations that emerged in 2013 and 2014. It will continue to be useful, and fun, in 2015, when a brood of 17-year cicadas emerges in parts of six states, and a brood of 13-year cicadas emerges in parts of eight states!
From the Booklist review: "The latest entry in the excellent Strange and Wonderful series provides an attractive introduction...Illustrating the book, Henderson's watercolor paintings are precisely delineated, informative, and sometimes lovely as well."
From the School Library Journal review: "This title examines of the most remarkable life cycles in nature...This smoothly written, beautifully illustrated title will fill a gap in most collections."
From the STARRED Library Media Connection review: "This attractive, solid book provides excellent information...Even though the format is aimed toward younger readers, the depth of information would make it appropriate for older readers in search of research material. The beautiful illustrations would also make this book feasible as an information read-aloud. Collections located in cicada brood locations during emergent years would see heavy use of this book, plus it would serve as an interesting and attractive volume for the curious. Highly recommended."
"An amazing nonfiction children's book packed cover to cover with information. Realistic color illustrations add the perfect touch to this excellent giftbook for young...reptile lovers. Highly recommended for public library young adult reptile shelves as well."--Midwest Book Review
visiting author in elementary schools
"These illustrations are drawn and colored in such clear, concise detail that young students may prefer them to the photographs in...similar titles."--Booklist
"It provides a good introduction to dragon myths in world literature. The pictures...are strong and powerful...The book will be a great addition to any collection whose users are into the current dragon stories."
--Library Media Connection
"An especial treat for young dragon lovers, though the abundance of text makes Imagine a Dragon ideal for readers who are just about ready to move beyond picturebooks."
--Midwest Book Review
Some quotes from reviews:
"This handsome tribute to Clark's near-lifelong companion and slave...Rich in eye-opening observations."
"Pringle tells the story well, describing York's contributions to this specific expedition while setting a much broader context. -- School Library Journal
Some quotes from reviews:
"Pringle's straightforward writing packs in an impressive amount of scientifically rich information about penguin species, habitats, where on earth they can be found, how they move, and the fascinating details of reproduction."
-- The Hornbook
"Enthusiastic and wonderfully informative, this will grab readers and listeners alike." -- Kirkus
"From the opening series of questions (Can you climb a tree without using arms or legs? Snakes can") to the final page on "Snakes and People" throughout history, this fascinating book offers an excellent introduction to the subject. Well-researched and vividly written...Even children who think they know all about snakes will probably learn something new here."--Booklist
"If you were a bat, you could stay up all night." So begins Pringle's child-friendly introduction to bats. Carefully crafted to overcome misconceptions and fears concerning bats, the text also provides basic information about the variety and habits of the flying mammals as well as their importance in the ecosystem...The text never descends to a "gee-whiz" tone, and the book is stronger for it...Presented with respect for the subject and for the audience, this is one of the best of the many bat books, especially for a somewhat younger audience." --Booklist
"Sharks have been a much-maligned creature in popular culture over the years but, as Laurence Pringle points out in this reasoned introduction, humans are a much greater threat to sharks than sharks are to humans. Once again, Pringle shows his mastery at meeting young children where they are and then expanding on the knowledge they are already likely to have...No matter what attitude about sharks young readers bring to this book, they are likely to come away with a deeper respect for these creatures." --Kathleen Horning, Cooperative Children's Book Center
Mom goes out for the evening, leaving Dad at home with two grumpy kids. But Dad knows how to get them out of that mood, with warm and wonderful physical play that is sometimes called roughhousing. One thing leads to another, and another, and the one child awake when Mom comes home has a exciting list of games to report, including a strange way to give a hug.
Octopus Hug led to Bear Hug, in which Dad takes Jesse and Becky on their very first camping trip, to wild Black Bear Lake.
This is the story of a green darner dragonfly named Anax. He is hatched in a swamp in western New York, grows up, and migrates hundreds of miles to Florida. Each stage of Anax's development--from embryo, to nymph, and finally to mature dragonfly--is chronicled, as are the threats from predators that Anax faces along the way.
"Pringle closely follows ..the adventures of Seaman as they appeared in the journals of Lewis and Clark, and the loyalty and devotion he exhibited as he risked his life many times… Intriguing sidebars, maps, historical illustrations, and original art make this a treasure trove of information about the expedition, and the dog that was its most unusual participant."
"A poetic text and beautifully composed watercolor paintings describe coastal creatures and their habitat. Beginning at dawn, when "fog's wet breath hides the seashore" and gulls take flight, "their shadowy forms like ghosts in the mist," Pringle takes readers through a 24-hour period…A wonderful choice to share with children before a summer vacation or to use as an introduction to an ecology unit."
An Extraordinary Life won the Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children. The award committee of the National Council of Teachers of English judged it to be the best nonfiction children's book published in 1997.