Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Author Interview: Tor Seidler

Photo of Seidler by Charles Gold

Some of my favorite email exchanges are with the authors of the books I read and review on my blog. 

      Interview with Tor Seidler:
         author of: Firstborn, Toes, Brothers Below Zero, 
                Brainboy and theDeathmaster        

Tell us about your experience doing research for Firstborn. How long did you spend observing wolves? Where?

 Seidler: By my standards, I did a lot of research for Firstborn. Beyond the whimsical premise of the animals speaking in complete sentences, I wanted the story to be as close to nature as possible.  I read fictional and nonfiction accounts of wolves, but more importantly I had a friend who was a great source of information: Jean Craighead George, author of Julie of the Wolves, among many other books.  Best of all,I went wolf watching with Jean in and around Yellowstone Park in late May and early June, 2005.  The wolves had been reintroduced into the park in the mid 1990’s, and by the time of our visit they were pretty well established.  The pack we observed in the northeast corner of the park had twenty-six members.  We would arrive before sunrise and set up our viewing scopes on a hillside above a creek.  Often we got to see the alpha male lead the other hunters back from their night hunt on the other side ofthe creek and distribute food among the pack’s six new pups.  An amazing experience!  In more recent years I’ve also visited the wolf reserve in northern Westchester County.  But there’s nothing like seeing animals in the wild.

What did you find most challenging about writing your book?

 Seidler:There are always a lot of challenges for me in writing any novel, but in this one I think the biggest was figuring out how to tell the story.  I initially wrote it from an omniscient point of view, focusing solely on the wolves.  The story began with Blue Boy, the alpha male wolf, awaiting the birth of his pups.  But the story wasn’t quite lifting off.  When I hit on the idea of writing it from the point of view of a bird, a magpie who attaches herself to the pack, it seemed to give the material another dimension.

After writing a book about animals, do you have a favorite animal? Which one and why is it your favorite?

 Seidler: I’m a great believer in bio-diversity, so I like all animals.   But I must say in studying the wolves I gained a deep respect for them.   Their life is very hard.  Few live to see their first birthday.  But the way they learn to work together, both socially and in the hunt, is awe-inspiring.  I also have a soft spoke for coyotes, who lead much more individualistic lives than wolves.

Unlikely friendships develop in Firstborn. Did you observe any unlikely animal behavior or relationshipsin doing research? 

 Seidler: I’ve read about unlikely relationships developing between different species, but to be honest I didn’t observe any in my wolf watching.  I love the idea of multi-culturalism, though, and I’ve written about it before in the animal world, especially in a book called The Wainscott Weasel.

Your book involves conservation efforts for wildlife reintroduction. Are there any conservation efforts you would like to encourage in your young readers?

 Seidler: I’m a fan of all conservation efforts, be it joining the Sierra Club or encouraging your parents to recycle orminimizing your carbon footprint.  I have a particular fondness for the World Wildlife Fund.

 What made you want to become a writer?

 Seidler: Reading.  I enjoyed books so much as a kid that I thought, “Hey, maybe I can do that!”

What suggestions do you have for young readers who might like to become writers someday?

Read. And then read some more. And don’t accept what people tell you. Look at things with your own eyes and reach your own conclusions.

 Is there anything you would like to add about your writing and/or books?

 Seidler: Well, I hope some of you enjoy them!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Firstborn by Tor Seidler: Book Review

Life on the ranch becomes tedious for Maggie the magpie and she longs to spread her wings and see the world. When a fox just misses having her for dinner thanks to the intervention of a wolf, Maggie seizes her chance to fly away and leave her old life behind. She follows the big wolf named Blue Boy who is on his way to Canada to find his old pack. 

During the journey, Maggie finds food and Blue Boy hunts it down. She watches Blue Boy's heartache and frustration when finding the fate of his old pack. The blue wolf eventually finds a new pack, picks a mate and settles in Yellowstone. When Blue Boy fathers a litter of pups, Maggie observes his disappointment in his firstborn son, Lamar, who fails to live up to the alpha male role his father expects of him.

Seidler eloquently introduces an outdoor world of beauty and true to life wilderness danger while exploring the meaning of true friendship. A touching tribute to family togetherness, love, devotion and forever friends.

Rating:  ★★★★★

Publishing Information: 

Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (3/3/2015)
ISBN: 9781481410175
Ages: 9-14

This book can be purchased from the following retailers:

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FTC Disclosure: ARC received at no charge from publisher to facilitate my review.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Stanley The Builder Written & Illustrated by William Bee: Book Review

 Find for Stanley's pink nose and watch him work on his farm. 
After he plows the field his friends, his friends show up to help. Shamus helps him with the "smelly work" of spreading manure and planting seeds while Little Woo and Shamus help Stanley with the watering. The ensuing growth and harvest keep the friends busy

Simple but bright illustrations will capture the attention of the early reader who will have no trouble connecting to the likable characters. Straightforward text teaches the active mind agricultural vocabulary that will leave excited youngsters naming every machine on their next trip through farm country.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Publishing Information:
Peachtree Publishers (March 2015)
ISBN: 978-1-56145-803-5
Ages: 2-4

This book can be purchased from the following retailers:

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**I received an Advanced Readers Copy from the publisher to facilitate my review.**