Meadows are wonderful places and this year, more than ever, people are visiting them to see the Superblooms. Don’t know what that is? Read on!
The weather has been so weird this winter, hasn’t it? We’ve seen record snowfalls in lots of places, but California experienced flooding. With every negative weather trait nature throws at us, there is sometimes a positive like a Superbloom. I learned about this on Instagram, not too long ago, from one of the National Geographic channels I follow. I just think about a “sea of flowers” and my mind boggles. But then again, I saw something very similar on a car trip a couple of summers ago when Fireweed (a local flower) covered an entire area devastated from a fire. It was glorious and stunning. A Superbloom is a rare phenomenon and many places will get to see them this year.
Why mention this? Well, today’s board book is all about meadows and how to care for them. What perfect timing! Terry Pierce and Nadja Sarell teamed up on a previous board book (EAT UP, BEAR!) and visited my blog to talk about it back in 2021. They teamed up again to create the board book we will see today.
HELLO, MEADOW! is an adorable board book that teaches the youngest readers how to care for nature. It’s brief lyrical text and colorful illustrations show the variety of wildlife that can be found in meadows. It’s informational and yet somehow manages to resist the urge to become preachy. This is a perfect companion to EAT UP, BEAR! also published by the Yosemite Conservancy.
Terry Pierce is the author of twenty-five children’s books, including Eat Up, Bear!, Mama Loves You So, Mother Earth’s Lullaby, and My Busy Green Garden. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts and teaches for UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. Terry is an outdoor enthusiast, enjoying backpacking, hiking, rock climbing, and, of course, bear sightings near her home in Mammoth Lakes, California. You can learn more about her at her website.
Welcome back Terry!
Me: This is the second board book you have done with the Yosemite Conservancy about helping nature for the youngest of readers. Was this pitched together with EAT UP, BEAR! (your previous YC book) or how was this book marketed after the publication of the first one?
Terry: This book came after EAT UP, BEAR! was on the market. I hadn’t thought about pitching a series, but after the success of EAT UP, BEAR!, the publishers at Yosemite Conservancy approached me about writing a book about meadow conservation. I happily agreed!
Me: Can we hope for a series of board books similar to these two? Or are there any other future books we can hope for from you and Nadja?
Terry: I’m thrilled to say we are currently in the early stages of working on a third title. Unfortunately, it’s too soon to share any details! What I will say is that Yosemite Conservancy strives to publish books that help create young stewards of the environment and nature, so the next book will certainly align with that goal.
Me: This board book will help teach the very young about plants and animals around Yosemite, as well as meadow safety. What gave you the idea?
Terry: The idea came from the publishers! I was working on a different manuscript for them, when my fabulous editor, Nicole Geiger, asked me if I’d be willing to switch gears and write a book about meadow conservation similar in style to EAT UP, BEAR! Meadows are fragile ecosystems and park visitors sometimes walk out onto them, not knowing that they’re actually harming them. Our goal was to create a book that will educate very young children and their families to treat meadows with respect and care.
I’d also like to note that while HELLO, MEADOW! is published by Yosemite Conservancy and sold in the park (and elsewhere), the book will appeal to any young readers who visit meadows, wherever they are. We hope that families from all over the country will enjoy the book, learn about meadow conservation, and respect meadows in their own neck of the woods.
Me: Why is keeping meadows safe a topic you want to share with younger children?
Terry: As I mentioned above, meadows are fragile ecosystems that play an important role as wildlife habitats, crucial water filters, places of peace and beauty, and they help with climate change by capturing carbon from the atmosphere. Their quiet beauty can lull us into thinking they’re passive places, but as the opening line of the book says
“Meadows are such busy places,
Grasses, creatures, open spaces.
But meadows can get hurt, you see,
Let’s do our part to let them be.”
Conservation starts at an early age when children’s minds are like sponges, taking in everything around them. We believe that both HELLO, MEADOW! and EAT UP, BEAR! give power to small children to enact real environmental change. They don’t know it’s change, of course, but in the bigger picture of environmental education, it truly is. With HELLO, MEADOW!, if a toddler or preschooler tells mom to keep on the path as they’re hiking near a meadow, that’s a win for everyone!
Me: Your writing in this book is wonderful! It has a rhythm, it has a great circular beginning and end, and it educates. Was it always this tight? Were there many revisions?
Terry: Thank you! There were a few rounds of revisions, partly because I got carried away at first. I dove deeply into researching meadows and wrote an initial draft that wasn’t anywhere close to the final text. Once I realized that I needed to use a similar structure as EAT UP, BEAR! things fell more into place.
That said, it took a few revisions to nail down the exact words. That’s the hard thing about writing board books—you have such little “real estate” to tell the story that every single word choice must be made with purpose. I still recall at one point, feeling like I would never nail the text down, and Nicole reminded me that we went through the same process with EAT UP, BEAR! I suppose, as time passed, I had glorified it in my mind, and it didn’t seem to have taken as many revisions as it did!
Me: The illustrations by Nadja Sarell are both sweet and educational as well. I wish there was back matter to help identify all the plants and animals! How did you get paired with her again? Were there any illustration surprises for you?
Terry: Yes, we’re back to the issue of little “real estate” in a board book. The beautiful and scientifically accurate illustrations certainly leave curious minds wanting more. Yosemite National Park does have information on flora and fauna on this page.
Nadja’s illustrations are perfect for the book. When Nicole asked her if she would be interested in illustrating it, and she agreed, I wanted to do cartwheels; I was so excited! Her boldly colored (and accurate) artwork contributes so much to the book. She’s amazing!
Nadja did surprise me with one illustration. On the back cover of the book, she included a headshot of me with some children and animals. Later, when I saw the interior artwork, I appeared again on the final spread, hiking on a path (complete with my tan hat, and single hiking pole I always use!). I was so flattered when I saw them! I live in the Sierra Nevada mountains, only a 45-minute drive from Yosemite National Park, so I spend a lot of my time in the summers and falls hiking in the mountains. I’ve never had an illustrator do something like this, so it meant a lot to me.
Me: How wonderful! There are a variety of people and creatures in this book. Yet the mouse on the cover wanders through the book. Was that your idea or Nadja’s? Did you include any art notes about any of the flora or fauna in the illustrations?
Terry: The team decided early on to include the mouse on each page spread. We loved how the bear book had a cast of bears that appeared throughout the story, and we wanted to include an animal for the meadow book, too. Very young children love to seek out tiny details in a book, and they identify with small creatures (being small creatures themselves), so the mouse was a perfect choice. Plus, it’s adorable, and so inviting on the cover!
I did provide art notes with the manuscript but only to give a general idea of how I saw each page spread. I don’t usually include art notes with a manuscript (unless it’s necessary for the editor to understand what’s happening due to a sparse text) but because I had worked with Yosemite Conservancy before, I felt comfortable including some notes.
Regarding the specific species, Nicole and I had a phone conversation one day, determining a list of species to give Nadja. We consulted our books on Sierra Nevada plants and animals, then chose the species we thought would work well. It was quite fun to name some of my favorite wildflowers and animals! And then, when I saw the finished art—wow! I loved seeing the extensive variety of wildlife, including a fox hunting in a meadow in the background on one spread. As with EAT UP, BEAR!, Nadja showed a diverse cast of humans, including a boy with a prosthetic leg in HELLO, MEADOW! The people who visit our national parks and the outdoors are as diverse as the wildlife, and we wanted to show that.
I love that. Thank you for stopping by my blog again Terry.
But wait, dear readers, there’s more! I also got to chat with illustrator Nadja Sorrell about this latest creation.
Nadja Sarell has a degree in illustration from the North Wales School of Art and Design as well as an MA in dance from Theatre Academy Helsinki. She is the illustrator behind Eat Up, Bear! and The One and Only Wolfgang, written by Instagram sensation Steve Greig aka @wolfgang2242 and author Mary Rand Hess, and the Frankie Sparks, Third Grade Inventor series. She lives in Helsinki, Finland. You can learn more about her at her website.
Welcome back Nadja!
Me: This is the second board book you have done with Terry Pierce for the Yosemite Conservancy. What was it about this project that drew you to it?
Nadja: I had really enjoyed working on Terry’s previous board book “Eat Up, Bear!”, so when I was offered to illustrate a new board book for Yosemite Conservancy, I was thrilled!
Me: Can you talk about your illustration process for this book? What medium did you use? Was it a mix of traditional and digital like last time?
Nadja: I started by doing a lot of research about the meadow flora and fauna in Sierra Nevada area specifically. The client wanted the flowers, birds and other animals to be accurately illustrated, so we focused on this from the start. I created the final illustrations digitally using scanned, handpainted meadow textures. The process was very similar to our previous book.
Me: I’m astounded by the amount of plants and animals in this book. Did you have to do a lot of research to find real flora and fauna from Yosemite for this book? What led you to pick the ones you did?
Nadja: Yes, this was the trickiest part! We discussed the flora and fauna a lot, making sure that it was in line with the particular time of the year in the book (early summer). I learned so much in the process! My editor Nicole Geiger helped a lot, she’s marvellous to work with. Everything was double-checked by the client and the NPS.
Me: In the last book you had a variety of bears and campers. Where did the idea of the one mouse main character that runs through this book come from?
Nadja: It felt like we needed a character that would appear throughout the book, as we didn’t have similar main characters as we did in “Eat Up, Bear!”. It was really fun for me to add that extra narrative to the book through the little mouse.
Me: Do you have a favorite scene that you illustrated for this book? If yes, which one?
Nadja: My favourite scene would have to be the cover closeup of the little mouse. And also the spread with the child and grandfather drawing the surrounding nature. I love skeching outdoors when I have a chance, and it’s warm enough!
Me: What is one thing that surprised you in illustrating this story?
Nadja: Creating all those lush meadows in different greens was so inspiring! I usually enjoy illustrating characters, but for this particular book it was the meadow greens and flowers.
Me: When we last talked, you had hopes of writing and illustrating your own story. Have you been able to do so yet? If not, any plans for your own stories in the near future?
Nadja: Unfortunately not yet! I’ve been too busy with commissioned work, which has been wonderful too. But I have just started on something that I hope will become my first own book one day. Fingers crossed!
Good luck Nadja and thank you for stopping by my blog again!
But wait, dear readers, there’s more! Terry and Nadja are giving away a copy of the board book to one lucky winner. You can enter the rafflecopter here. Good luck!