Science Book a Day Interviews Rita Gray


Special thanks to Rita Gray for answering 5 questions about her recently featured book – Have You Heard the Nesting Bird?

I grew up in Southern California with three younger sisters, a collie, and a lemon tree. When I moved north to Berkeley, I ran an after-school program where we read lots of great children’s books. I migrated east to New York City to study Psychology (BS) and Social Work (MSW), and I now work as a teacher and therapist with very young children. One of the reasons I love books is that they hold an experience for a child, one that can be visited again and again. – Adapted from Rita’s Homepage

Rita’s Homepage:

#1 – What was the impetus for Have you Heard the Nesting Bird?

It was summertime, and I was staying in the country with my family and our new puppy. Rosie was learning how to go the the bathroom outside, so I was spending a lot of time outside. One morning, when we were up before anyone else, I noticed a robin sitting on a nest. The robin was perfectly silent and still. In fact, no mater how many times I checked on the nest, I never saw the bird leave. Day after day, and night after night, this bird just sat. It endured cramped quarters, hot sun and fierce rainstorms. I had no idea incubating a clutch of eggs required such devotion.

#2 – Reviews compliment you on your ability to translate the birds calls into text. Was this hard to do?

Translating the bird calls into text was easy. I just checked with a few sources that provide bird song mnemonics. These are catchy phrases or phonetics that help us to hear the rhythm, quality, pitch and tempo of a bird call or song. Birders have been using these mnemonics for a long time, to help them figure out which birds they are hearing. We often hear a bird song, long before we ever see the bird that made the song. Bird song mnemonics are simply a way to organize what we hear.

#3 – Why did you decide to include the Q&A section at the back of the book?

I wanted the reader to directly enter the world of the nesting bird, so I reserved relevant factual material for the end section. The whole point of the story is that the mother bird must remain quiet while nesting. Only after the chicks have hatched is she then free to explain her previous prolonged silence. I wanted to share with families some of the interesting information I discovered while researching this book. I especially wanted to dispel the myth that birds live in nests. They only use nests to incubate eggs and raise young. Nest building is distinct from shelters birds find for protection from cold weather.

#4 – Have you had feedback from kids and parents that have read the book? Ornithologists?

A scientist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology assured me of the accuracy of my facts, and a directer of a nature center helped to fine tune my thinking concerning people and pre-flight fledgelings. If you find a fully feathered fledling, leave it alone. The parents will care for it.

#5 – Are you working on any new books/projects you can tell us about?

My next book is titled, Flowers Are Calling, (HMH, spring 2015), illustrated by Kenard Pak, who also illustrated Have You Heard the Nesting Bird? It is absolutely gorgeous and will forever change the way you look at a flower!

[Image Credit: ]


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