The Next Big Thing Is…..

Urban wildlife! I’ve been tagged by Shennen Bersani on this blog tour, which originated in Australia and has been surfing its way around the intertubes. I’m blogging today about my forthcoming book, out this fall from the Twenty-First Century Books imprint of Lerner Publishing Group.

What is the working title of your new book?


Where did the idea come from for the book? 

From my previous book, Elephant Talk: The Surprising Science of Elephant Communication. I was drawn in to the problem of human-wildlife conflict, detailed in the “Gods and Monsters” chapter of that book. Elephants come into conflict with people as humans encroach on their habitat. In Kenya, there is violent conflict between farmers and elephants. In Thailand, out-of-work mahouts and their elephants end up begging on the streets of Bangkok. I wanted to explore urban wildlife beyond the species that first come to mind (raccoons), to think of all the ways our modern way of life poses challenges for wildlife.

What genre does your book fall under?

Nonfiction for 10-18 year olds.

Which actors would you choose to play in your movie rendition?

The PBS program Nature has already aired two great documentaries about two of the animals featured in the book, crows and raccoons. Both are by Canadian director Susan Fleming and originally aired on the CBC program The Nature of Things. I highly recommend those. But for the animated version, if Pixar is doing the movie and Brad Bird is directing:

Black Bear = Jack Black

Mountain Lions = Leonardo DiCaprio, Angela Bassett

Raccoon = Ellen DeGeneris

Coyote = Lou Diamond Philips

Jungle Crow = Ken Watanabe

Gray-headed Flying Foxes =  Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman

Loggerhead Turtle = Owen Wilson

Alligator = Tommy Lee Jones

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Ours is an urban planet, and we have to learn to share it with our wild neighbors.

Who is publishing your book?

The Twenty-First Century Books imprint of Lerner Publishing Group.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

The initial research and writing took about a year.

What other books would you compare this story to within your own genre?

I’d hope it rises to the level of Sandra Markle’s The Case of the Vanishing Yellow Frogs: A Scientific Mystery (Millbrook Press, 2012), also from Lerner, in its presentation of science and the way scientists study wild animals. It’s less like Julie Feinstein’s fine book, A Field Guide to Urban Wildlife: Common Animals of Cities & Suburbs and How They Thrive (Stackpole 2011). Wild Animal Neighbors is more global in its scope. In each chapter of my book, I cover the challenges faced by one species in a particular  city, highlighting one issue, such as habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, or light pollution. I think Julie’s book and mine complement each other. Better together, as a certain online bookseller says.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

In my former life as a science editor at a university press, I signed up biologist Stephen DeStefano to write a book on urban wildlife for adults, called Coyote at the Kitchen Door: Living with Wildlife in Suburbia. That book, and learning about human-wildlife conflict in Asia and Africa, inspired me to write about the many varied ways wildlife can be urban. My own childhood included some years in Southeast Asia, where urban and suburban wildlife included reptiles like geckos and tokay lizards. I once found an ant’s nest inside my bedroom curtains!

What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

Urban wildlife might summon up images of familiar city species such as cockroaches, rats, pigeons, and raccoons. But in other parts of the U.S., urban wildlife can mean sea turtles, alligators, even mountain lions. And in Australia, giant bats!

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You can follow Wild Animal Neighbors on Facebook, and Citycritter on Twitter.

Teachers, are you looking for ways to use nonfiction in your classroom to meet the new Common Core standards? Want high-interest nonfiction to improve students’ nonfiction literacy? Check the book’s page on the Lerner website later this fall for free eSource materials for use in the classroom.

Now it’s time for me to tag two more people, both author-illustrators and amazing people!  First up is writer and doodler and experimenter extraordinaire Karen Romano Young, who will blog July 4 (or thereabouts) about her latest book, Stuck in the Middle (of Middle School): A Novel in Doodles. It’s a sequel to her 2010 book, Doodlebug.

Stuck HC cover

On July 11,  Grace Lin will blog about her latest book, Starry River of the Sky, already garnering rave reviews. It’s the sequel to her Newbery honor book, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.

Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin