illus. by Candace Whitman (Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2001).
I chose robins over other pretty birds not just because they live all around the country, but because I admire the way the moms and dads share nest-building and child-rearing chores. A bonus was that I didnt have to search for a plain but not-too-cute name. I would call my hero Robin.
I took notes about robins as I read and observed and chose a plot: Robin leaves nest. After gathering more details than I could use, I imagined my way into my characters, and wrote more notes about how the nest might feel and smell, and the sounds a baby might hear around him. Busy and patient as a robin parent flying back and forth with twigs, I tried one sentence here, another there, tossing aside words that stuck out, patting others into place.
Now the book is in the world. I can read it to kids who sit on floors or laps more often than in chairs, but, of course, its autobiography , too. What was hard and wonderful for me at three -- finding and keeping a safe place, taking risky jumps -- still makes up most of the drama in my life. Tell everything, save nothing, I exhort myself when I write, and once my words fit together as snugly as a small, round nest, I think Ive said everything I know. Okay, at least for now.
After my editor showed me some of the artists early sketches, we discussed some robin habits, such as how long fledglings stay in a nest and what they usually do when they first venture out. My editor was interested in things that had to be left out of a very short book and she suggested that I write an afterword. I laughed as I imagined four-year-olds taking notes for science reports, but, of course, it was a great suggestion. Theres a lot to know about robins, and curious readers can find some answers in the notes at the back of Robins Home. I hope theyll draw birds, sculpt birds, look for nests, and check out guide books.
Write and draw I love to think and write in a sort of nest I make by piling up pillows. Do you have a place where you feel safe and happy? Draw or write about your favorite nest.
Read Candace Whitman created some adorable robins and lovely landscapes with watercolors and torn paper. Her books, such as The Night is Like an Animal and Now it is Morning will entice young readers into gentle worlds. Even her web-site is as soothing as her palette! Youll find activities for the very young and more examples of her artwork at www.Candacewhitman.com
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