About the Moonbeam Award
Presented by Jenkins Group and Independent Publisher Online, the Moonbeam Childrenâ€™s Book Awards are designed to bring increased recognition to exemplary childrenâ€™s books and their creators, and to support childhood literacy and life-long reading. Awards will be given in 30 categories covering the full range of subjects, styles and age groups that childrenâ€™s books are written and published in today.
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Archive for the ‘Reviews & News’ Category
About the Moonbeam Award
“When Peter arrives in Costa Rica, heâ€™s greeted by the biggest butterfly heâ€™s ever seen: a blue morpho, with shiny turquoise wings. Itâ€™s just one of a variety of creatures he encounters during his first trip to the Childrenâ€™s Eternal Rainforest, a real tropical preserve in Monteverde that kids in 44 countries, and counting, have raised money to protect. The Forever Forestâ€™s expressive dialogue will enthrall readers, many of whom will identify with Peterâ€™s excitement about spotting animals and plants heâ€™s never seen before. Upon inspecting what appears to be a tangle of moss hanging from a tree, he exclaims, â€œHey! The moss has arms!â€ only to learn that itâ€™s the camouflaged hair of a two-toed sloth. Pratt-Serafiniâ€™s playful, vibrant watercolor and mixed-media illustrations capture the essence of each forest denizen Peter spies, including saucer-eyed kinkajous (members of the raccoon family) that feast on bananas against a starry sky. Descriptions of species that accompany each picture will further educate kids about cloudforest biodiversity. An informative epilogue tracks the progress of the Childrenâ€™s Eternal Rainforest projectâ€”proof that to protect something you love, age doesnâ€™t matter.”
The Forever Forest: Kids Save a Tropical Treasure was recently recognized as a 2008 Outstanding Product in the Book category by iParenting.com, a Disney Internet Group media property. iParenting Mediaâ€™s Award Program provides a credible and objective method of determining the best products and recognizes those products with their iParenting Media Award. They are dedicated to informing, inspiring and uniting the parenting community we serve via their multiple media platforms of the Internet, syndicated newspaper column, radio show and video. Thanks, IPMA!
This weekend, my husband Gabriel, and our good friend Michael Booth, drove out to Marthasville, MO. Our 9th grade biology teacher, Ted Munnecke, and his wife Martha, were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Gabriel took this picture of me, Ted Munnecke, and Michael. It was a great evening, even if it was raining like crazy.
Every teacher wants their students to learn and succeed. But here and there, the academic universe glimmers with educators who inspire their students to think big, to be curious, and to actually love learning. Ted Munnecke (who retired in 1997 and now enjoys exploring the world and restoring historic log cabins) was that kind of teacher. Mr. Munnecke, or “Munn” as we call him, taught 9th grade biology, as well as more advanced classes like Marine Ecology, at Principia Upper School. He had already been teaching for a generation by the time I walked into his class as a freshman in 1990. In fact, Gabriel’s mom, Anna Lisa, was one of his students. Yet he still started each lesson with a look on his face that suggested he was about to tell us the most exciting secrets ever.
At least once a week, Munn sent us out into the woods with journal and pencil for solo time, showing us that our own observations were valid and worth recording. He also taught us about rainforests. First we learned about biodiversity, and then we learned about deforestation. On the back of the test for that unit, I sketched a tree falling over. Munn stopped by my desk and whispered, “it doesn’t have to be that way.” That simple thought helped inspire me to create my first book, A Walk in the Rainforest.
He also started the Teton Trip, which is an annual epic “field trip” to the Teton Science School in Kelly, Wyoming – during the last week in January. Principia has been sending juniors and seniors on this adventure since 1982. The idea is to make connections between art, science, and writing, as well as to connect the students to themselves, each other, and their environment. I started to ask big questions out there as a kid. (I love that I get to teach art on this program now that I am out of school and “all grown up”. Michael Booth, who got his Ph.D. in forest ecology from Yale, teaches the writing workshops. This year we co-wrote Wide-Eyed Weasels as a text book for this awesome program.)
My senior year, 1994, I took Munn’s Marine Ecology class. He let me paint an enormous coral reef mural down both sides of the hallway outside his classroom for my senior project. Now you can see how I was inspired to write my second book, A Swim through the Sea. He taught us about Jacques Cousteau, (who I eventually got to meet in person) and made us construct 3D models of imaginary filter feeder species.
I hope every kid gets at least one teacher like this.
I moved to St. Louis, Missouri from Michigan in the summer of 1988. I don’t get to go “up north” as much as I’d like, these days. Lake Michigan has become the secret place I visit in my imagination before I start making art. The Mississippi River , this enormous, powerful, muddy spine of America, runs right past St. Louis. This is not the pristine, inspirational north country. It is a real-life city, where things are easy for some people and hard for lots of other people. It’s not a big city like Chicago, or a small town like Alton. It’s just in the middle of everything. Accordingly, you can’t see two inches into the governing body of water that drives this town.
A hundred years ago, it was a different story. St. Louis threw the biggest party the Euro-centered world had ever seen – the 1904 World’s Fair. For a brief moment in history, people came from all over the world to St. Louis to see the latest technology, the coolest new toys and the most famous art. At the 1904 World’s Fair, ice cream cones, cotton candy, iced tea, Dr. Pepper, hot dogs, and air conditioning were introduced for the first time.
While there are plenty of good things about St. Louis today, I can’t say that it has hung on to that reputation for cutting-edge wonderfulness. You just have to know where to look, I guess.
Imagine my surprise at discovering Kayak’s Coffee, having seemingly sprung out of nowhere – overnight. Perfectly. It was as if someone had used a giant pair of scissors and snipped this place right out of Jackson Hole, Wyoming or Glen Arbor, Michigan and pasted it here in St. Louis, Missouri. This place does NOT have the look of a business that just opened a month ago. I am totally astounded.
Located at 276 North Skinker Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63130, Kayak’s became an instant hit with the Washington University crowd. The fleece-clad students seem to have it as a goal to cover every rustic table in the place with books, papers and backpacks. (I forgot – the world, like, belongs to you when you’re in college. Duh.)
My husband Gabriel and I had a slightly different reaction to Kayak’s when we first walked in. Right off, we needed to confirm its independence. No, Kayak’s is not secretly owned by Starbucks. Yes, it is an independent coffee house. Next, we marveled at the branding. (Art nerds that we are.) The gold lettered sign and the exploration-themed display window drew us in to the well-thought out, perfectly detailed snowboarding-lodge of happiness that is Kayak’s. Nothing was under construction. Actual used snowboards and kayaks hang from the ceiling. We ordered drinks at the counter. The Chocolate Coyote became my instant favorite. It’s your basic mocha, with chili powder. (Two kicks in the seat of the pants in one mug!) Gabriel is a big fan of the classic latte.
The barista started a KayakRewards Card for us. No paper card with stamps for these guys, though. You get what looks like a credit card with a magnetic strip that keeps track of your purchases and rewards you accordingly. Mine has a dog-sledding scene on the front and instructs me to “Explore our national parks” on the back.
I also ordered a dark chocolate-dipped macaroon. We are not talking about a silly little holiday cookie here. We are talking about a macaroon almost the size of a baseball dipped in dark chocolate. It took both of us to eat it.
Next, we moved down the line past the Habitat for Humanity donation box and the espresso machine covered with snowboarding stickers to wait for our drinks. The “pick up your drinks here” counter is, of course, made out of another snowboard. Our drinks arrived in beautifully printed paper cups sporting the Kayak’s slogan: Everything for the journey. These guys are good. And tasty. We’ve only visited 3 times, and we already have “favorite chairs”: the 2 super-comfy ones right next to the fireplace with the tree stump table between them where you can set your drinks. I swear, the chili powder is the only thing that got me out of that chair when it was time to leave. I sat there wondering who was responsible for Kayak’s excellent branding, where they got the money, when I could go wakeboarding next, and if I was really still in St. Louis.
Did I mention that Kayak’s has free wireless internet access?
Finally! After lots of waiting, it is now possible to purchase autographed copies of my books online. Special thanks to my husband, Gabriel Serafini, for setting up the Pay Pal system that handles the orders. We now accept credit cards and will be shipping orders via UPS.
Presenting the Rainforest Romper, the first in a new line of products featuring illustrations and text from my books! I hope this will make the reading experience even more engaging and fun. You can purchase XyzAnt merchandise at www.cafeshops.com/xyzant.
Saturday was beautiful here in St. Louis. The oppressive summer heat and humidity – the kind that makes a person think the big muddy Mississippi River has somehow made the air part of its floodplain – is gone. The days are cool and sunny. The best tanning weather St. Louis has to offer, and it’s nearly October. Imagine that. A perfect day for a balloon race, an annual event here in Forest Park. Yes, the sky really was that blue. Needless to say, not a lot of work got done on Saturday.
What a busy summer!
When I visit schools to talk about my books, I am sometimes asked if I do any art that isn’t published. Here’s a chance to see what happens when I’m not illustrating or writing.
This summer I finished a huge “extra-curricular activity.”
I began the Caribbean Coral Reef Mural at the Principia Upper School in the when I was a high school senior in the spring of 1994. It covers an entire hallway in the Biology Department. My Biology and Marine Ecology teacher, Ted Munnecke helped me get approval for the project. By the end of the summer, I finished the mural and went off to college.
During the summer of 2001, Principia renovated the Upper School’s entire science department. To comply with a new school building code, a fire door was installed partway down the hall – in the middle of the mural. Some lockers were also removed, and the remaining space walled over. The current head of the Biology Department, Preston Larimer, invited me to come back and fill in the blank spaces and fix some damaged areas. It was an exciting opportunity, since painting that mural my senior year was one of my favorite parts of high school. Well, I thought I could get version 2.0 finished before school started in the fall of 2001, but here it is, a week before school starts in the fall of 2003. Oops. Took a little longer than I expected. Check out these photos of the finished mural! I added scientific and common names next to all the species, so the mural can function as a giant field guide for the students. I also added a few new animals and plants, although I did not change the composition of the original mural at all. There was some research involved, too. I wanted to make sure that I planted each animal and plant in its appropriate habitat. So an animal that lives in a cave or crevice would be shown hiding in such a location. The update took about 200 hours. I had a great time.