Part of my weekend and the first few days of this week were spent with my young nieces and their parents, who were visiting us in Minnesota. They live in South Dakota, where the girls will be returning to school next week. We did some back-to-school shopping for supplies, gym shoes, new book bags, and the like. But we also spent a beautiful Sunday afternoon at the Minnesota Zoo. After a blazingly hot summer, the cooler air felt fantastic. Kids were running everywhere. Animals were actually active instead of resting in the shade of their enclosures. Everything seemed to hint a bit at autumn.
Not surprisingly, a trip to the zoo means lots of questions: What kind of horse is that? What do those birds eat? Which one is the mama monkey? Can that fish kill people? What stinks? One of the reasons I so greatly enjoy what I do is that I can readily answer a lot of these. (It’s a Mongolian horse. Those birds eat fish. It’s the monkey screeching at the other monkeys. Yes, that fish can kill people. That smell is the Komodo dragon…I think. No, wait. It’s your baby sister’s diaper.)
I selfishly enjoyed this visit for another reason, however. My soon-to-be-a-second-grader niece sat with me after the zoo trip and asked me a number of questions about my job. What kind of books do you make? Do you write the books? Do you get to decide what to write about? How do you help other people make books? How do you know what I’m supposed to read at school? (Not to brag, but I thought that was an extremely astute question for an almost 8 year old.) Is your job fun?
So, what did I tell her? In short: I make books that help you find answers to questions you might ask at the zoo. Did you want to know more about Komodo dragons or funky smells or what might be dangerous to pet? My kind of books help with that. Yes, sometimes I write them (and decide what to write), but I mostly help authors make their writing a bit better and easier to understand. I know what you’re studying in school because I research what your teachers and librarians are planning to teach and I think about what books might help them help you. And yes, my job can be lots of fun because I get to learn things all the time, just like you do in school!
The school year is almost upon us, and it was so energizing to spend time with young minds that are eager to explore, inquire, and grow. I hope that as you ready yourself for the wrap-up of summer and the start of fall, you are able to take some time to open your eyes, ears, and nose to the wonders of the world around us.