New kids’ book explores country’s national parks

Arts & Entertainment

New kids’ book explores country’s national parks

Local author releases first children’s book
Local author Kate Siber’s new book, National Parks of the U.S.A., is available at Maria’s Bookshop in Durango.

New kids’ book explores country’s national parks

Local author Kate Siber’s new book, National Parks of the U.S.A., is available at Maria’s Bookshop in Durango.
An interview with Kate Siber

Local author Kate Siber has recently released her new book, National parks of the U.S.A. We caught up with her to talk about the book, national parks and how she researched the subject.
Q: What made you decide to write a book for children?
A: Actually, it never would have occurred to me to write a children’s book! An editor from the publisher, Quarto, reached out to me out of the blue and offered me the project. She had seen my magazine articles on national parks and thought I would be a good fit. (They already had the illustrator on board.) While I wouldn’t have thought of it on my own, I’m so glad I had the opportunity. It was such a delight to use my skills in this way – and it makes me so happy to see kids enjoying it.
Q: How did you do your research for this book?
A: I have been to more than half of the national parks, so I drew from my own experience for many of these. I also spoke with park rangers and education specialists who specifically work with children. They helped me understand what kids find cool and fascinating about each park. (Those were incredibly fun conversations … Sledding down sand dunes! Finding salamanders! Hanging out with sled dogs!) I also relied on wildlife field guides and the parks’ official websites for details about animals, plants and features.
Q: How many of the 59 parks did you visit?
A: 30.
Q: How did you decide what flora and fauna to include for each park?
A: I tried to go with a mix of iconic species, the species you’d be most likely see, and a few obscure ones for good measure. I like to see my favorite animals in books, but I also like to learn about things I have never heard about. The liguus tree snail, for example, which slides around on trails of its own snot. Or the Devils Hole pupfish, the rarest fish in the world, which lives only in a singular watery cave in Death Valley, the driest place in North America …
Q: Do you have a favorite park?
A: I’m not sure I have a favorite exactly, but if I must choose, I’d go with Grand Canyon. It was the site of my first big backpacking trip at age 10. I went on an 18-day private raft trip down the Colorado River in 2009 – one of my most memorable trips ever – and have done several backpacking forays since then. It seems I can access a part of myself in that wild, harsh, spectacular landscape that is hard to access anywhere else. You might call it a deep – maybe even sacred – sense of perspective.
Q: What are the most surprising facts you discovered while writing the book?
A: Some of the crazy things wildlife do! Short-horned lizards shoot blood out of their eyes when they’re threatened. Ringtails can do cartwheels and turn their hind legs around 180 degrees. Parrotfish bite off chunks of coral reef, digest it, and poop it out as sand – which means that much of the sand around reefs is actually parrotfish poop! There’s so much cool stuff to learn about wildlife in the parks.
Q: How did you collaborate with the illustrator, who lives a long distance from you?
A: Here’s basically how it worked: I came up with lists of all of the plants, animals and features I wanted to write about for each of the parks we feature. The publisher, Quarto, approved them and sent them to Chris, the illustrator, who then started his magical art-making process, which I actually don’t know much about. An in-house designer at Quarto then mocked up the layouts. Once Chris and I were done with our work, the designer spliced the art and the words into the layouts. Group effort!
Q: What is the target age group for your book?
A: About 5 to 10 years old..
Q: What was your goal in writing the book?
A: My goal in writing the book was to offer kids an opportunity to fall in love with the natural world, to inspire them to go outside and to impart to them some sense of the miraculous wonder of this planet we live on.
The national parks protect some of our most iconic landscapes, and they’re a gateway for many people who might not otherwise be drawn to wild places. But my hope is that kids gain a sense of excitement about nature well beyond the parks, too. After all, they can find it in their own backyards and neighborhood parks and even in the flowers growing through the cracks in sidewalks. The marvel of the natural world is all around us – and it can be a constant, lifelong source of wonder and solace, peace and adventure.
Last, I have to say that I have four nieces and nephews that I absolutely adore and I wrote this book with them in mind. I hope they grow up to love the natural world as much as I do. So far so good – yesterday I spent mucking around tidepools with my nephews.

If you go

What: Local author Kate Siber will present an interactive story time for children as a celebration of her new book, National Parks of the U.S.A.

When: 10 a.m. Tuesday.

Where: Maria’s Bookshop, 960 Main Ave.

More information: Visit or call 247-1438.

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