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Lunch with an Author: Jean Craighead George PDF Print E-mail

by Linda Redding

School Librarian at Silver Lake Regional High SchoolJean Craighead George

For a few summers, Halifax Elementary School utilized a “One School, One Author, One Grade, One Book” reading program for students in Kindergarten through grade six.  The challenge in starting a program like this is finding an author with a range of books to cover each grade level.  Nature author Jean Craighead George was an obvious first choice.  She even took time from her busy schedule to do a Boston Globe Fun Pages with students, which was a great experience for the students.  I recently contacted Jean via email to catch up.

Your early writing career included writing for the Washington Post and being a member of the White House Press Corp. What was that experience like?

I was thrilled with my life writing for the Washington Post, as I was covering Capitol Hill and FDR who was then in the White House. I got the assignments because the men reporters had been drafted and I had had a college degree. My first boss had tears in his eyes when he hired me. It was the end of journalism to him -- hiring a woman.

An Owl in the Shower is one of my favorite books to read to children. Do the animals in your life inspire the animal stories you write?

Owl in the ShowerMy kids and I had a screech owl, Yammer, from whom we learned owl behavior. He did take showers with us. We put him by the radiator to dry off. My son Luke, was teaching at Humboldt State University when I was writing that book -- (and still is.)The spotted owl is on the Endangered Species List and one lived near Luke at the time -- Enrique. We went to the forest where he lived and camped out with him. I learned what a beautiful life he lived, but also that he had been isolated too far away from a possible mate by the lumbering activities going on there. The lumberjacks had left several acres of untouched virgin forests for the owl, but the lots proved to be too far apart for the owls to hear each other call to mates. Enrique died alone with no offspring.

Children's author, Twig George is your daughter and your son Craig is featured in the new book, Whaling Season: A Year in the Life of an Aortic Whale Scientist. What advice, if any, did you offer them on being involved in children's literature?

I never offered my children advice about children's literature, but they saw that the animals we raised had great stories and were heroes in my children's books. They brought wild-orphaned animals to me -- even bugs and spiders -- and began telling their stories. They loved our animal home and studied nature and biology in school.

What are you working on now?

I am working of a book entitled Ice Whale, a story of a bowhead whale, the whale of the Arctic Ocean and polar ice cap. It is the one that Craig, who lives in Barrow, Alaska at the top of the world, protects and studied for his Ph.D.  It is also the one that the Yankee whalers nearly brought to extinction. It is on the Endangered Species List, too. I absolutely love writing about nature that my parents led me to, that I led my children to and that they have opened to my grandchildren. We can't learn too much about the natural world around us. It is our life.

Complete list of books by Jean Craighead and information on the author:

Boston Globe Fun Pages featuring Jean Craighead George:

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 17 February 2010 )

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