Maria Gianferrari’s Coyote Moon is one of my favorite nature picture books of the past few years. This month, Maria’s newest suburban nature picture book will be released and it’s another great one. Hawk Rising follows a male red-tail hawk as he hunt prey for his family in a suburban neighborhood. I am excited to share with you an interview with Maria about her new book. Read about Hawk Rising and learn about how you can win a free copy of the book below.
- I love that you chose to have the story unfold through the eyes of two young birdwatchers. Were you a birdwatcher as a child or teen? Did you or do you have a favorite bird species?
Thank you, Sarah! I actually only proposed one girl observer in my art notes—the sibling story was Brian’s brilliant addition! It adds another layer of drama to the story which I love.
I’ve always loved animals, but my bird nerd days did not truly begin until I was introduced to the Great Backyard Bird Count by my 7th grade science teacher, Mr. LeFebvre.
It’s too hard to pick a favorite—I love whistling peter-peter-peter and having tufted titmouses answer back. Here’s a photo, courtesy of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology:
I also love to watch swallows swoop, vultures soar, herons wade …
- It’s obvious in your picture books that you think people, especially children, need to pay more attention to nature in our suburban and urban neighborhoods. Why is this important to you?
I love the wild creatures that co-exist and live in close quarters to humans, and to observe how they’ve adapted—it’s so fascinating! I want to celebrate creatures who are seemingly ordinary and common—those that we can see every day. They’re extraordinary and interesting and worthy of observation. I think this helps us to step out of our busy lives—to watch and reflect be mindful of the beauty all around us.
I also love writing about the kinds of creatures that kids can possibly see no matter where they might be living whether it be Minnesota or Maine; Nebraska or New Mexico, Texas or Tennessee—the ones that have widespread ranges, and who live in a variety of habits have captivated my attention.
- I’d love to hear about how your researched red-tailed hawks for this story. I am assuming you didn’t adopt a hawk family. 🙂
Not directly! I began the traditional way, by reading books on hawks and raptors, and by watching movies/videos online, and by hawk-watching in my neighborhood. This is a banded red-tailed hawk I used to see nearly every morning while driving my daughter to school when I lived in Massachusetts.
However, the main way I learned about hawks is via Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s amazing bird cam where I observed Cornell Hawks, Big Red, and her then mate, Ezra. Cornell’s All About Birds is the premier site for all things bird—you can conduct field research right from your living room! I spent many hours, year after year, watching Big Red and Ezra raise their clutches of eyasses. I was devastated when I learned last March that Ezra had to be euthanized— he felt like an old friend. He was a wonderful father hawk and Hawk Rising is dedicated in his memory. Here’s a photo of Ezra from the Cornell Chronicle:
This year, Big Red has a new mate named Arthur; together they are raising three chicks. Here are a few photos courtesy of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, first of Big Red and Arthur:
And here are a few of the chicks:
They grow so quickly! You can watch them live here!
Scroll back to see Big Red and Arthur readying the nest, laying the eggs, and feeding their very hungry chicks!
- What other suburban/urban species fascinate you? Are you mulling over any future picture book ideas?
I’m always usually mulling over something or other. My next book with Roaring Brook is on bobcats. I’m delighted to be partnering again with Coyote Moon illustrator, Bagram Ibatoulline, on a story called A Home For Bobcat, about a juvenile bobcat searching for his home territory. I can’t wait to see Bagram’s art for the book!
The bobcat’s range extends across the United States from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast, and from southern Canada into Central Mexico. I live in suburban northern Virginia, and earlier this year we caught footage on our outdoor camera of a bobcat trotting through our front yard! So exciting!!
In 2020 G.P. Putnam’s Sons will be publishing my book on another common raptor species, the great horned owl. Whooo-Ku is written in a series of haiku poems and will be illustrated by Jonathan D. Voss. Here’s a photo of a great horned owl taken by kidlit author, bird-lover and photographer, Jennifer Ward:
Here’s a sketch from Jonathan’s website:
I also have a manuscript on river otters—another wide-ranging creature who has made a great come-back since the 1970s when their population plummeted due to water pollution and over-building. I adore otters! They are so playful and curious. I hope this manuscript will some day be a book!
I am musing about books on black bears, wild turkeys, vultures, groundhogs, squirrels and white-tailed deer—so prevalent here in northern Virginia, but haven’t yet begun working on any. I’m also a fan of tree frogs and toads, and I know so little about them that I think some research is in order!!
Thanks for allowing me to blab about birds and urban ecology here, Sarah!
Roaring Brook Press has generously donated a copy of Hawk Rising for one of Sarah’s US readers—good luck!
If you are interested in winning a copy of Hawk Rising, leave a comment on this post. Tell us about the species you’d most like to see chronicled in a nature picture book! (Winners must live in the US. The winner will receive a copy of the book directly from the publisher.)
Maria Gianferrari’s favorite pastime is searching for perching red-tailed hawks while driving down the highway. When she’s not driving, she loves watching birdcams. Her favorite feathered stars are Cornell hawk Big Red and her late mate, Ezra, who together raised fifteen chicks since they began nesting in 2012. Maria is also the author of Hello Goodbye Dogand Coyote Moon, both published by Roaring Brook Press as well as the Penny & Jelly Books (HMH), Officer Katz & Houndini (Aladdin), Terrific Tongues (Boyds Mills Press) and the forthcoming Operation Rescue Dog (Little Bee). She lives in Virginia with her scientist husband, artist daughter, and rescue dog, Becca. Visit her at mariagianferrari.com, on Facebookor Instagram.