I have the third in the series scheduled for release in the next month or so, just in time for planting natives and hosting pollinators. The first book, The Queen Who Banished Bugs, is about a queen who realizes bugs are responsible for pollinating all the foods she loves most, and she is not happy without coffee or chocolate! The second book, The Queen Who Accidentally Banished BIRDS, is about a queen who finally understands insects are important to wildlife, and the third book, Call Me Arthropod, will explain the coolness of the insect and how important this these little creatures are, which is the theme of this series.
How did you come up with the story in The Queen Who Accidentally Banished BIRDS?
I am so concerned with the state of our planet, and its future. Our wildlife is disappearing and trophic cascade is so scary – if we lose enough in a species, everything gets terribly out of whack. We NEED our wildlife for lots of reasons, and every animal class is important. Without humans, Earth would rock along just fine. But without insects, for example, it would not. Our food supply would become scarce, nothing would decompose, we’d lose our birds … I wanted to illustrate how important it is for us to be good stewards of our wildlife in an educational and fun way, without being as preachy and over-the-top as I sound in this interview. So I hoped a funny rhyming series would get the message across to the youngest stewards of our planet.
What age group is the book for?
Children from age 3-8, roughly. And anyone reading aloud to them!
What inspired you when writing the series?
Doug Tallamy’s book Bringing Nature Home inspired me to write this series. It changed the way I view the outdoors, actually. Instead of looking at a tree or a bush or a flower and thinking how exotic or beautiful it is, I consider how useful it is to wildlife. If its leaves or bark or blossom are pristine and untouched, I am not impressed. However, if they are nibbled and bored and chewed, I think, “That’s a useful plant!” And useful equals good! I wanted to share his important message with little ones, and with anyone reading to them.
My mother, artist Mary Ferris Kelly, agreed to come out of “retirement” and sketch a few drawings for the first book, and this 2nd book. And she’s also finished them for the third book in this series, which is coming out this spring. She used to always mail me funny self-portraits of my father and herself when I was away at camp, and I wanted her to capture that same edgy, hilarious cartoon style for the book. And she did! It was so much fun working together. She is very accomplished, with works in private collections all over the world, as well as the Hunter Museum in Chattanooga and the Whitney. But she’s also a killer children’s book illustrator, as well! Who knew?
When did you decide to become a writer?
I’ve always loved expressing my ideas on paper – it’s much easier than speaking for me! And I love to describe things. I’ve written a novel and published a few collections of essays and two cookbooks, but I only recently started on children’s books. They are definitely the most fun!
When writing The Queen Who Accidentally Banished BIRDS, did anything stand out as particularly challenging?
It was hard to make the rhyme work for every line. Each line needed to make sense, be funny and have the exact right number of beats! My friend Alice Smith, a very talented poet, helped me figure out cadence and was very patient and encouraging.
I tried to tell the story in paragraphs at first, but it kept sounding better as a rhyme – or at least sounding like it could sound better as a rhyme. And it was challenging to state the facts of a dire situation – we need to revere our wildlife or we are in big trouble – without terrifying children at bedtime. Hopefully little readers/listeners will grow up knowing how to make their yards welcoming to wildlife, and will delight in all the little creatures busily and productively buzzing around outside.
What do you like to do when not writing?
When I’m not at work at the Lookout Mountain Mirror and Signal Mountain Mirror, I love to putter about in the yard, propagating plants or trying to anyway. And I’m trying to get rid of a bunch of invasives in the woods behind my house and replace them with native plants. And I love hiking the trails near my house with my little dog.
Where can readers find out more about your work?
My website, www.ferrisrobinson.com, has links to my books, as well as a link for a free pollinator poster that explains how to welcome important pollinators to your corner of the world. My books are on Amazon, and The Queen Who Accidentally Banished BIRDS is available everywhere (almost) that ebooks are sold, with the print versions on Amazon.