Science has always been significant in my life – as a child I roamed free, observing the world around me, and at 12, I found my first fossil. I married an earthquake scientist and our son is an Antarctic climate-change scientist-in-the-making. How could I not regard science as an integral part of life? And I know many teachers despair because there are so many constraints to teaching science (with wonder) in our schools nowadays.
That’s why it gives me much pleasure to welcome author and science educator, Catriona Hoy as she launches her new book, The Little Dinosaur, a book that recreates a truthful and poignant story of a little dinosaur that lived millions of years ago in a part of Gondwana – modern-day, coastal Victoria. The brilliant illustrations are by renown scientific illustrator, Andrew Plant.
Welcome, Cat. Both you and I have dinosaur connections, I’m wondering what made you write about dinosaurs?
It wasn’t when I began, it was rather a case of serendipity. I used to write articles for Pearson’s educational magazines and one of the themes many years ago was ‘Dinosaur Dig’. For that issue I interviewed Lesley Kool from the Monash Science Centre. She inspired me so much that I felt I just had to write about one special dinosaur bone. Lesley showed me how scientists use clues from fossils to recreate the past. Lesley has an animal named after her by the way…it’s a Koolasuchus and there is a picture of one lurking in the deeps in the book.
She also told about someone called Andrew Plant, who was a dinosaur artist. Later I booked him to speak to my year 9s…he had three classes of year 9s in our lecture theatre absolutely enthralled. It was a bit like love at first sight, lol! I knew he was the one I wanted to illustrate my book. I had some great experiences researching the book , visiting dinosaur digs and museums and talking to some real experts.
How much does being a science teacher influence your choice of subject?
I don’t consciously think…oh, I should write about this or that aspect of science. If I did, it wouldn’t work, not for fiction anyway as you still need to have a narrative and a story arc that works and make the reader care. Some of my books, such as My Grandad Marches on Anzac Day and Mummies Are Amazing have nothing to do with science. I write about things which I find interesting or funny or mean something to me personally.
As a science teacher however, I’m more exposed to those kinds of influences and I see the science potential of certain ideas. The idea and story have to come first. It was the same when I wrote Puggle. I met these terrific wildlife carers who introduced me to a baby echidna they were caring for. The subject and story came first and my science background helped me to give it added depth.
Catriona, this book has been a long time in the making…do you find that it’s difficult to ‘sell’ a book with science themes to publishers?
Yes, it has been a long time in the making! I submitted my book to Lothian just after they’d accepted your book, Secrets of Eromanga. At the time, Lothian was my main publisher, so it sat in my bottom drawer for a while as they weren’t interested in two dinosaur books. At the time I felt it was difficult to sell science themes but I think things have changed. The schools market is very important, which is why many trade publishers have moved into the traditional educational market with a number of cross over series now around. Happily, Jane Covernton from Working Title believed in both Puggle and The Little Dinosaur and has helped Andrew and I make them a reality.
You give talks to other teachers about science and literacy; do you think this is important?
I certainly do. At primary school, there is a big push for science to be taught, yet there is so much science that is there already…we just need to make it a bit more noticeable. Primary teachers are fantastic at taking an idea and building a whole unit around something, be it a book or something else. I’ve started showing them how they can address many of the science themes in the national curriculum by looking at picture books and using those as a starting point.
What books would be your favourites then?
Oh, I don’t like to pick favourites. There are many around which deal with Biology…Mark Wilson and Jill Morris spring to mind. But also Glenda Millard’s Isabella’s Garden for life cycles and Claire Saxby’s There Was an Old Sailor for food chains. There isn’t such a variety of books for other areas but some examples are The Three Little Pigs as an old favourite for looking at materials and The Box Boy by Mal Webster. … and of course your own, Sheryl!
What’s next for you, Cat?
Well, my next book is called ‘Isla Lu, Where Are You?’ and it has nothing to do with science! It’s about my littlest Scottish cousin and playing a game of hide and seek. No glossary required, lol! I’ve got some ideas I’m working on science-wise but trying to mesh that story line and science is taking a bit of time. Who knows!
Cat, I love your blog site that links literacy and primary science through using picture books as a starting point in enquiry learning. What a great idea! Little Stories Big Science. Have fun for the rest of your blog tour for The Little Dinosaur.
The Little Dinosaur recreates a truthful and poignant story of a little dinosaur that lived millions of years ago in the land called Gondwana. It was cold, even in summer in Gondwana, and dark all day and night during winter. The little dinosaur moved in a herd to protect her from other meat-eating dinosaurs. But after she fell and hurt her leg and she struggled to keep up, and one day, by the river, the herd was forced to leave her behind, and she soon died. Over the years the little dinosaurs’ bones were covered with mud and silt. The silt turned to stone, the bones dissolved, and minerals filled the spaces where the bones had been. The little dinosaur became a fossil.
Cut to 1989, when the lower leg bone of the little dinosaur was discovered by palaeontologists on the Otway coast of Victoria in 1989. Then follow the story of the slow, painstaking work of scientists, artists and sculptors as they prepare the bone and piece together the clues that tell the tale of the little dinosaur who lived all those years ago.
https://sherylgwyther.wordpress.com/Wednesday June 20, 2012
http://www.kids-bookreview.com/Wednesday June 27, 2012
http://spinningpearls.blogspot.com.au/Wednesday July 4, 2012
http://jackiehoskingpio.wordpress.com/The Little Dinosaur Launch Dates:Melbourne Sunday 17th June, 2012, Monash Science Centre
Sydney Saturday 30th June, 2012, SCBWI conference
Tasmania Saturday 14th July, 2012