FTFC: the Story Behind the Story

(I thought it would be interesting to hear about the development of the Follow That Food Chain series from the authors’ perspective. Here’s the story of the series’ genesis from Becky Wojahn. –Ann Kerns)

Don and I first got the idea for Follow That Food Chain from our boys. They’re two animal-loving guys who, as a toddler and a preschooler, peppered us with endless questions.

“What do eagles eat, Mom?”

“Could they scoop a fish out of Nana’s lake?”

“What do you think the fish ate before the eagle caught it?”

“Do fish ever pull ducklings under the water and eat them?”

And so on, and on…and on.

Eventually—after our ten gazillionth trip to the library to find out some obscure fact, like what capybaras eat (aquatic plants, grains, and fruit)—all their strings of questions tangled into an idea for Don and me. What if we wrote a habitat book that not only told about an animal, but gave readers choices about what that animal ate “last night for dinner”? Then, what if you could flip to that creature’s page and learn about it and choose what it ate? Wouldn’t that be a fun way to show how interconnected a food web in a habitat can be?

We pulled together a proposal and named our series Last Night for Dinner. (Get it? Our kids like puns, too. Alas, this series title eventually changed to make it more obvious that the books were about food chains.) And after some back and forth, Lerner expressed interest. We were delighted. So were our boys—it meant we’d be bringing home more animal books from the library.

Then the writing process began. For two and half years, we were immersed in who ate what and who got eaten by whom. Do you know how many animals you have to research to write 12 books featuring 24 animals each? A lot. A real lot. (Please, let us know if there is ever an animal-fact game show with big cash prizes. We’d so clean up!) But we also learned a lot of really cool facts and answers to our boys’ questions. They’re in second and fifth grade now, and the questions haven’t slowed down one bit. They’ve only gotten more complicated!

One thought on “FTFC: the Story Behind the Story

  1. Eeva Kariniemi

    Great library tourism! We took our children there when the library was new a few years ago, and were impressed also by how well the library building fits in the urban landscape, making a stop there a natural part of a stroll downtown.

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