Log In

Reset Password

New kids’ book explores country’s national parks

Local author releases first children’s book

Durango author Kate Siber has recently published her first children’s book, National Parks of the U.S.A. This book is beautifully executed with wonderful illustrations by Los Angeles artist Chris Turhnam.

Siber is a correspondent for Outside magazine and a freelance journalist and has traveled extensively, including to 30 of our 59 national parks.

It was her extensive writing of articles about national parks that brought Siber to the attention of an editor at Quarto publishing.

They had the idea and an illustrator already lined up and thought she would be a great addition for the project. Siber loved the idea of reaching children and sharing the magic of nature with them.

Because Siber had already been to more than half of the parks, she had personal experience to bring this book to life. She did additional research and talked to park rangers and others who had worked with children in the parks. Through these dialogues, she grew to know what things excited the children in each park.

With so many fascinating and wonderful things that populate each park, it was hard to choose what to include.

Siber decided to include iconic species that are easily recognized from each park, like grizzlies in Glacier Bay, alligators in the Everglades and wild turkeys in Mesa Verde.

She also included little-known species like the Linus tree snail, which slides on trails of its very own snot. This is one fact that’s sure to thrill or gross out many a young reader.

Siber fills the pages with fun facts and bizarre animals. Included also are special flora and key features from each park. Siber’s extensive research is evident throughout the book.

The book is organized geographically: mainland U.S., including east, central, Rocky Mountains, southwest and west. Also included are Alaska and the tropics, which include American Samoa, Hawaii and the Virgin Islands.

The illustrations by Turnham are reminiscent of the classic vintage national park silk-screened posters of the 1930s and ’40s. They are colorful and enhance the appeal of this book.

National Parks of the U.S.A. is a finely crafted book of high quality that will endure years of enthusiastic reading.

This book is a treasure for parents because it entertains and educates by arousing children’s curiosity and interest. This book should be a must-have for all the families who love to travel around our country while enjoying shared adventures with their children.

Leslie Doran is a retired teacher, freelance writer and former New Mexican who claims Durango as her forever home.

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.