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Sunday, December 14, 2014


I love receiving letters from young readers. Yesterday, I received a wonderful letter from a third grader in Mrs. Akason's class in Brookview Elementary School in West Des Moines, Iowa.  I was so impressed with her thoughtful questions I'd like to share her letter with you. And my answers.

NOTE: Child's name purposefully deleted


I liked receiving your letter and finding out that you too like exploring outdoors. In fact, I was impressed with how well you write for being 8 years old. SMILE!

And you’ve also asked me some of the most interesting questions I’ve ever been asked: Why did I want to be an author? How did I find all that out about animals? What did I do when I was little? These are such interesting questions because all of the answers go together.

I was an only child so I didn’t have any brothers and sisters. Plus there were few children to play with in my neighborhood. So I read lots of books and spent a lot of time at my grandparent’s house. That I loved because it was just outside the little town I grew up in, Fostoria, Ohio, in the middle of a farming area. There were fields and forests and streams around. Best of all, my grandfather loved the outdoors and was happy to share all the “treasures” I found on my journeys into this just wild enough world. One summer, I rescued a young fox squirrel with fur as red as my hair that liked to ride on my shoulder until it was ready to go off on its own. So was born my fascination with animals and my desire to really understand them and how they live in their world.
I wandered.
I wondered.
I watched and loved what I saw.

No surprise that when I went to college I majored in biology, which is the study of animal life. Summers, during college, I worked at a girl’s camp in Vermont, taking groups on trips to hike, canoe, and explore the forests, lakes, and rivers in that area. When I started teaching school fulltime, I mainly taught science from fifth through eighth grades and always did a lot of outdoor investigating. My classes made rock collections, leaf collections, insect collections, and bird feeders to draw the local birds close enough to study. We also set up nature trails and planted vegetable gardens on the school grounds.

In those years, it seemed to me there were never enough really interesting—fun—books for children about animals and nature. That’s why I began writing my own. These were first for my students and my own son and daughter. Then, once I was published, for lots of young readers, like you. SMILE. And one of the biggest things I worked to change was to have my nonfiction books be in full color. It may be hard to believe now but when I first starting publishing all of the photos and even the art in nonfiction books were always black and white. I was thrilled when my publishers finally agreed to have my books be in full color. Now, they always are.

I’ve now published well over 200 different books but I’m not done. There are so many interesting animals and parts of the world to investigate and share. I love finding out about all the animals. Sometimes, like my three trips to Antarctica to live with 60,000 Adelie penguins while they raised their chicks, I learn for myself. Just as exciting is that I’m able to connect with experts around the world who have spent their lives studying animals. And they kindly share their research adventures with me.

So I hope this answers your questions.  You make me wonder some of my own, like what do you like about the outdoors? What are your favorite animals to read about? And do you sometimes write stories of your own about animals? Writing books about animals for children is a wonderful career. I know I love it! As well as you write already, this could be something to think about for your future.

With Very Best Wishes!
Sandra Markle

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