April Pulley Sayre's Blog
March 23, 2017
Full of Fall: Growing up in the foothills of the Appalachians, I came to a love of Autumn very early. I spent a lot of time wandering the woods of South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia. I loved studying fall leaves and leaf shapes.
My elementary school teacher, Barbara Murray Ottewell, loved America for its children and its trees. (She was from New Zealand and did not always embrace American culture.) She made sure we knew how lucky we were to live in a part of the world with such amazing plant diversity.
One fall, very recently, I was thinking about the trees and realized that Fall is when we really get to know them, because the overlapping green of the canopy suddenly changes. Each tree stands out from the crowd, with its particular leaf color. Suddenly we see the trees’ shapes. We meet the trees! That thought helped inspire the book.
The front cover leaf is a maple. Touch it! The special textures on this and many of my books are due to the brilliance of the art department, especially Elizabeth Blake-Linn, production manager, who finds a way to make these cover touches happen. This book, like all my books, is the result of a team effort of people pouring their talents into creating a hands-on, tactile experience for readers.
Inside front flap: oak leaves
One of my favorite inner title pages ever! This is the stump of a tree in my friend Barb’s yard. I looked down and saw its curves and patterns one fall, with all the leaves on it. The brilliance of the design is thanks to Lauren Rille. The leaves that fell on it were birch.
The slant of light through dried grasses and seed heads in the prairie always gives me that feeling of Fall. I photographed this on a joyous day at Potato Creek State Park as I walked into the forest to photograph for this book. It is part of a legacy of recently retired naturalist Tim Cordell, who helped plant so many prairies there. The grasses are Indiana grasses and the seed heads are mostly gray coneflower.
Squirrels and other creatures change their behavior as they sense the season progressing. They don’t just gather acorns. Squirrels such as this red squirrel in our yard, change the linens in their nests, refreshing them with leaves and grasses in Fall. They make their nests cosy and warm for winter. They also change the “leaf linens” when they are raising their babies. (Babies can be a mess.) We have seen young red squirrels emerge from the nests for the first time even as late as October.
The tree is an oak right outside my writing window.
Hickory. Part of a compound leaf.
Meet the trees.
These are mostly different types of maples. At Potato Creek State Park in Indiana.
These yellow leaves are maples in Michigan.
The gold ones are beech leaves, in southeast Virginia.
The orange leaves are maples.
The red are oak.
This maple tree is in Michigan, at Warren Dunes.
All the colors in the water, as ripples, are actually made by the reflection of fall trees in Indiana. I did nothing to alter those colors or accentuate them. If you’re out for a Fall walk, look in puddles and lakes and streams. The Fall reflections are amazing—but you have to walk around and check a few times because it depends a lot where you are standing. You may not see it at all from other angles.
The berries are high bush cranberries, a nonnative, but useful wildlife food for wildlife late in winter.
The squirrel in the bark photo is an American Red Squirrel.
The margins leaf is an oak.
The leaves ready to fall are maple. The leaves spinning are oak.
This tree is a maple.
These yellow leaves are maple. The curling leaves on the opposite side are at the base of a tree in St. Patrick’s County Park. This appears to be a tupelo tree, an ornamental. Not sure.
The floating and sinking leaves are maple. The snagging ones are predominately oak with a few maple mixed in.
I photographed this forest scene while in Connecticut at Talcott Mountain State Park. The leaves were mostly maples.
Maple leaves fading.
The browning leaf is an oak. Can you see the butterfly on it? I took this photo in the Midwest. The butterfly is called a comma. It is a great example of camouflage because it looks like a leaf.
It is a common butterfly but you can see why people do not always notice it!
The squarish leaf in “decompose” is a tulip. Pine needles are on the ground beneath it.
This ending of falls spread is a famous lookout view at Talcott Mountain State Park in Connecticut. You can see that Fall has progressed because some of the trees are already bare. The characteristic bright sugar maple trees have almost all dropped leaves yet the forests still have color remaining, provided by hickories and others.
A flock of geese flew past this huge maple in Indiana. By the way, this same tree is in the group that made reflections in the water earlier in the book. That feeling, of Fall ending, is in the air when I see the geese begin to migrate!
This tree is a marvel in my neighborhood. It always turns color weeks later than all the other trees. (Perhaps it is a European species of Maple; there are many kinds of maple.) It turns so late that its colors are often caught in the snow, creating an unusual beauty. (By the way, it makes a sneak peek appearance in Best in Snow, as background for snowflakes and also for red-winged blackbirds startled by an early snow.)
The plant in the background, still green, is a bushy kind of honeysuckle. Its success is partly due to how it greens up so quickly in Spring, and stays green so late in Fall. (It’s also helped along because the birds eat its berries and then the plant sprouts from the seeds in their droppings. But that’s another book, entirely!)
The squirrel on the back cover is a gray squirrel in Williamsburg, Virginia. I spent many a day photographing Fall and enjoying the trees on nearby James Island, one of my favorite places in the world.
May 31, 2016
Happy to announce four books for 2016. Go, Go, Grapes board book debuted in the Little Simon Classic Board Book line in Feb. The Slowest Book Ever, (Boyds Mills Press) came out in April. In October get ready for Best In Snow (Beach Lane/S&S) a photographic sister for Raindrops Roll. In November, my next work with Steve Jenkins/Holt, Squirrels Leap, Squirrels Sleep will jump onto bookstore and library shelves.
February 1, 2016
“The Antidote for a Hurried Childhood” was what the Huffington Post called my middle grade nonfiction book, The Slowest Book Ever (Boyds Mills Press, release in April, 2016) in a sneak peek article late by Vicki Cobb last year. This book has line drawings by the fabulous Kelly Murphy. It’s reviewed by the esteemed School Library Journal in their upcoming (February) issue. The wonderful Junior Library Guild will be sharing it with their subscribers in July, 2016.
Raindrops Roll and Woodpecker Wham were both named ALA Notables! So thankful to the folks who put time and energy into serving on the ALA Notable Committee and also those on the NCTE Orbus Pictus committee, which recognized Raindrops Roll. This means a lot, encourages my work (and Steve Jenkins’ work on Woodpecker Wham), and hopefully helps readers find these books. There are lots of yummy books on the Notable List this year, check it out: http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/notalists/ncb.
November 23, 2015
An Orbis Pictus Recommended Book by NCTE, the National Council of Teachers of English. This award for the best nonfiction of 2015 considers ALL the nonfiction books, K-8. They choose a winner, five honor books, and eight recommended books. (Bronze award sticker for recommended.)
An Outstanding Science Trade Book for 2015 by NSTA, the National Science Teachers Association. I’m so excited that folks are loving not only the words but also the photos I took. I work hard to make sure my photos bring wonder and science content so their approval means a lot.
One of the 12 Best Informational Picture Books of the year according to Kirkus. It’s also honored in what is my favorite award category name ever: The Best Picture Books For the Sense-of-Wonder Shelf, again by Kirkus. Doesn’t every library and classroom and home need a “Sense-of-Wonder” shelf? Isn’t that what’s it all about? I’m going to rush out and read the other titles, fiction and nonfiction. As many of you know, even when I was college I identified my goal in life as “helping people feel a sense of wonder in nature.” Feels like life moment achieved that my book fit in such a category.
October 18, 2015
I am updating my website this week so things may look a little wacky. Don’t worry. The content is still here but the formatting is definitely going to be wild during the remodel.Thanks for your patience.
May 12, 2015
Woodpecker Wham! was released today by Henry Holt. So excited to have this third collaboration with illustrator Steve Jenkins, thanks to Holt. (You can support our work to share nature and science with kids via our other two titles, as well: Vulture View and Eat Like a Bear.)
Hope to see some of you at School Library Journal’s Day of Dialog in NYC where I’ll be on a nature books panel with Paul Fleischman, Wendell Minor, Louis Sachar, and Anita Silvey.
February 16, 2015
Book love! A great review in Bookpage and a third star for Raindrops Roll (Beach Lane/S&S), this time in Publisher’s Weekly. Woodpecker Wham, with Steve Jenkins, will be released May 15 and was recently reviewed by Kirkus. I’m just back from three weeks photographing creatures in FL beaches and wetlands. Can hardly wait to share the FL photos with you, readers. This year I’m going to update my website to make it more interactive. In the meantime, “Like” my facebook author page April Pulley Sayreand from there I’ll keep you updated on when the new interactive site is ready. Other recent blog reviews and interviews on Richie’s Picks, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, and Think Quick Interview.
Illustrated by Steve Jenkins, Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, May 12, 2014.
“Repetitive onomatopoeic sounds such as ‘CHOP, CHIP, CHOP’ and ‘BONK-BONK-BONK’ combine with plentiful alliteration to make the simple verses come alive . . . Attractive and surprisingly informative, this should join the duo’s Eat Like a Bear (2013) on every preschool and primary nature shelf.”
Text and photos by April Pulley Sayre. Beach Lane Books/S&S, January, 2015. Ages 3-8.
“With lyrical words and striking images, a poet, photographer, and veteran natural history writer celebrates rain . . . Preschoolers can appreciate the poem and pictures, but middle graders will want the facts in the concluding ‘Splash of Science’ . . . Wonder-full in every way. -Starred Review, Kirkus
“In playful rhymes and breathtaking nature photography, Sayre offers a dramatic examination of a rain shower as droplets soak birds, roll down pumpkins, dot the backs of insects, and muddy the forest floor.”
-Starred Review, Publisher’s Weekly
“This attractive work is also ideal for read-alouds and an easy entry for students delving into nonfiction reading, especially in poetry or science units.”
-Starred Review, School Library Journal
“For over three decades, I’ve been immersed in an ocean of children’s picture books, reading and reading aloud countless numbers of them. With all that, I’m astounded by the quality of the photographs in RAINDROPS ROLL . . . When we talk about exposing children to nonfiction at an early age, this is the kind of book we should be advocating.”