The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Maria Gianferrari, Review of Bobcat Prowling, and Giveaways

Maria Gianferrari is a community scientist, self-taught naturalist, and bird nerd who holds an M.A. in Creative Writing and a Ph.D. in English. She is the author of narrative nonfiction picture books which celebrate urban ecosystems, the natural world and our wild neighbors. She also writes engaging expository nonfiction. And as a lover of dogs, Maria’s fiction picture books star dogs as main characters and explore the human-canine bond. She writes from her light-filled, book-lined study in Massachusetts with rescue dog, Maple at her side.


Maria’s the author of Be A Tree (2021), Whoo-Ku Haiku (2020), Play Like an Animal (2020), Terrific Tongues (2018), Hawk Rising (2018), Operation Rescue Dog (2018), Hello Goodbye Dog (2017), Penny & Jelly: Slumber Under the Stars (2016), Penny & Jelly: The School Show (2015), Officer Katz and Houndini (2016),and Coyote Moon (2016).

For additional information see our earlier interview (here).


Her newest picture books are Bobcat Prowling (3/22) and Being a Dog (4/5).

Maria, thank you so much for stopping back by to talk about Bobcat Prowling and Being a Dog and your writing.


Thanks so much for having me here, Maria!


Did you find anything particularly helpful in keeping you inspired and writing these past couple of years?


Nature! Things like walking in the woods, observing birds and other critters always inspires me with wonder and curiosity and brings joy. It’s re-recognizing that the little things, those moments, keep us going. Other things like reading stories about random acts of kindness during these dark days are inspiring and heartening too.


Nature is so rejuvenative. What was the inspiration for Bobcat Prowling? How about for Being a Dog?

Bobcat Prowling was inspired by a conversation with Emily Feinberg, my editor at Roaring Brook Press. After both Coyote Moon and Hawk Rising we were brainstorming about what other backyard predators I might be able to write about and came up with bobcats—such fascinating creatures. I love seeing your own backyard bobcats too, Maria.

I was deeply depressed for a couple of months after losing my beloved rescue dog, Becca. I missed her so much—her absence was so palpable. I wrote Being a Dog to try to reclaim the joy I felt in her presence, and in being present, so it was healing and empowering for me to feel that joy again. She inspired so very many of my books—I still miss her very much.


Your deep connections to both stories is evident in the books. Did your experience writing, revising, and/or publishing, either or both, Bobcat Prowling and/or Being a Dog differ from your previous books? What was the toughest aspect of writing each of these books?


I loved researching and learning about bobcats, since I knew so little of them. Perhaps the most difficult thing was with respect to publishing. Bagram delivered his art to Roaring Brook in March 2020—just as the pandemic hit, so it sat in their offices for almost a year before it could be scanned, so that delayed its publication.


Being a Dog was one of those gift books—the words just flowed out, so there was very little editing to do, just some paring and re-arranging. Pete Oswald’s art brings out the joy so much—I just love it! Wouldn’t it be nice if that happened every time?!


No kidding! How hard is it for you to switch between fiction and nonfiction picture books? Do you have a favorite genre?


I LOVE nonfiction, especially nature and STEM kinds of subject matter. I love to read the same things I love to write about unsurprisingly, and generally speaking, it comes more easily to me. Perhaps because I’m a bit more relaxed and playful about it, and because it fits in with my poetic sensibility. There are certain structures like time: Coyote Moon is a night-time story; Hawk Rising is a day-time story and Whoo-Ku Haiku has a longer, seasonal focus as does Bobcat Prowling that removes that aspect from the initial creation equation. It’s often more challenging to me to find the write narrative structure for a work of fiction.


Interesting. When you first saw Bagram Ibatoulline’s illustrations in Bobcat Prowling, did anything surprise, amaze, or delight you? Which is your favorite spread?

Text © Maria Gianferrari, 2022. Image © Bagram Ibatoulline, 2022.


Bagram is such an amazing artist—I am always wowed by his art. His so-called sketches are absolutely stunning. I am in awe of the way that he is able to render things in such intricate and photo-realistic detail—the bobcat’s spots, shadows on snow, light and shade. It’s so hard to pick a favorite spread, but since I am a fan of snow, I’d have to say the spread with the bobcat hunting the hare. I love the intensity of the bobcat’s stealthy pose, the blue shadows on the snow, the way the snow’s clinging to the trees. It’s so beautiful!


I totally agree with you. And how about when you first saw Pete Oswald’s illustrations in Being a Dog, did anything surprise, amaze, or delight you? Which is your favorite spread?

Text © Maria Gianferrari, 2022. Image © Pete Oswald, 2022.


I am so fascinated by his process—of doing his signature cut-out collages. I love the way that he’s able to convey so much joy and humor. Again, it’s difficult to pick a favorite, but the one in the car cracks me up. I also love the one where they’re making snow angels—so cute!


It is amazing what he can do with paper cut-outs! Since Whoo-Ku Haiku, have you written any other rhyming picture books?


I haven’t written anything expressly in rhyme per se, but I do have my first book of poems releasing later this year from Lerner Publishing: Icecycle: Poems about the Life of Ice, with illustrations by artist Jieting Chen.


Ooh, that sounds intriguing. Are there any other projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?


Lately I’ve mostly been working on edits for books releasing in 2023:


· Being a Cat: A Tail of Curiosity (a follow up to Being a Dog, also illustrated by Pete) and from HarperCollins.


· Two books from Roaring Brook Press, You and the Bowerbird, illustrated by Maris Wicks and To Dogs with Love, illustrated by Ishaa Lobo.


· Fungi Grow, with illustrations by Diana Sudyka, coming from Beach Lane Books.


I’ve also revised a bunch of picture books with new angles or themes.


WOW! I can't wait to see these books. And what you come up with next. Last question, what is your favorite National Park or Forest, regional park, or city park? Or the one you’re longing to visit. Why?


Another difficult question! We drove cross-country to spend a year in San Diego for my husband’s year-long sabbatical (2011-2012) and we were so fortunate to have visited many national parks along the way. I love trees and temperate rainforests and was in such awe of the ancient redwoods when we visited Redwood National Park on our way to SD.

I’d LOVE to visit Saguaro National Park. We were supposed to go on our trip home back in June 2012, but it was a sweltering 118 degrees, so we had to pass. I have a picture book manuscript on saguaros and am captivated by the desert landscape and its many creatures. I hope it will soon find a home somewhere!


I can definitely tell you that summer's not the best time to visit. Spring is glorious though. Thank you, Maria for stopping by and sharing with us. It was truly wonderful to chat with you.


Many thanks to you for letting me share my work, Maria!


To find out more about Maria Gianferrari, or contact her:

Website: https://mariagianferrari.com/

Penny & Jelly Website: http://www.pennyandjelly.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Maria-Gianferrari-800629079959897/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/pennyandjelly/


Sneak Peek Review of Bobcat Prowling


As Maria mentioned above, I've enjoyed watching bobcats prowl and stroll through my yard. This beautiful one came through just a few months ago.

So, you can well imagine how excited I was by Maria Gianferrari's new picture book Bobcat Prowling. And delighted that I get to offer you all a sneak peek at the book, releasing next Tuesday!

Bobcat Prowling


Author: Maria Gianferrari


Illustrator: Bagram Ibatoulline


Publisher: Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan Children's Publishing Group (2022)


Ages: 4-8


Nonfiction


Themes:

Bobcats, nature, growing up, and finding a home.


Synopsis:

In this companion to Coyote Moon and Hawk Rising, a young bobcat searches a suburban landscape for a territory to call home.


As the day breaks,

feline eyes blink open,

and yowls disrupt the still morning air.


A young bobcat leaves tracks in the snow as he sets out to find a home range of his own. Amidst the harsh winds and icy chill of winter, Yearling travels between the deep wilderness and suburbia, hunting for prey as he goes. He tracks hare, squirrel, pheasant…


Watching.


Waiting.


LEAP!


But each time, he is foiled by the resident predator. Will Yearling find a territory to call his own?


Opening Lines:

Beyond our house,

behind tall pines,

under paling stars,

Mother Bobcat wakes.


Bobcat yearling,

from last year's litter,

stretches and yawns.


What I LOVED about this book:

Maria Gianferrari is a master at lyrically exploring animals who share our suburban neighborhoods, weaving their lives and adventures around watching kids. Check out her previous books Coyote Moon illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline and Hawk Rising illustrated by Brian Floca. Once again, she teams up with Bagram Ibatoulline whose realistic watercolor images capture the beauty, danger, and adventure of a yearling bobcat's search for a territory to call his own.

Text © Maria Gianferrari, 2022. Image © Bagram Ibatoulline, 2022.


Interspersing a second person narration, on the second spread - "you touch their tracks in the snow" - and throughout the book, Maria immediately draws the reader into Yearling's journey as he searches for a place to call home. Then she and Bagram surround the reader with magical, majestic illustrations and wonderful lyrical language - "He shelters under spruces/shawled with snow."

Text © Maria Gianferrari, 2022. Image © Bagram Ibatoulline, 2022.


As Yearling travels for days through crisp winter scenes and glorious sunsets, hunting for food and avoiding fellow predators (Canada Lynx, coyotes,...), he traverses through beech and maple groves, past beaver ponds, and through a backyard. Where once again the reader is placed into his journey, as "you watch from your window."

Text © Maria Gianferrari, 2022. Image © Bagram Ibatoulline, 2022.


Time is marked by the passage of constellations, the arrival of spring, and Yearling's transformation into an adult Bobcat. The ending is both melancholy, happy, and rewarding as it subtly echoes the beginning. This is a wonderful story to increase our empathy for, and awareness of, the wildlife we share our neighborhoods with and spark interest in knowing more about bobcats. Information on a bobcat's physical characteristics, method of hunting, escape, and prey is scattered throughout the book. And wonderfully expanded upon in the engaging back matter. Overall, this is a stunning nonfiction picture book offering a thrilling and emotional glimpse into the life of a bobcat.


Resources:

- make your own bobcat mask and then follow the directions at the end of the book to "hunt like a bobcat."

- make a list or draw a picture of the animals you've seen around your home or in nearby parks.

- can you tell the difference between the footprints of cats and dogs? Check out Nature Notes: Feline vs Canine Tracks. Now look outside around your home, at the park, or at your school, what tracks can you find?


Bonus Extra Review


Although I currently have a cat, my childhood dog still holds a very special place in my heart. So I thoroughly enjoyed Maria Gianferrari's Being a Dog . So, I am including a quick peek into this special book, too. Look for it to sit on shelves on April 5th.

Being a Dog: A Tail of Mindfulness, by Maria Gianferrari, illustrated by Pete Oswald (Harper Collins, April 5, 2022) - Look at that cover! This adorable dog, created by Pete Oswald with colorful cutout paper and scanned watercolor textures, invites kids to approach life like a dog. Inviting them to revel living in the minute enjoying all that their emotions, senses, and surroundings offer.

And "like a dog, feel what you're feeling: Bark if you're worried. Yowl if you're sad. Growl if you're angry.” It's lots of fun to watch this cute pair romp through the seasons and end welcoming the night.


Using a fun diagram presentation, the last two spreads invite the reader to sniff, hear, see, feel, or taste “like a dog.” Providing examples for the reader to consider and try throughout the seasons.

This is augmented by those wonderful sign posts which provide excellent comparisons between canine and human abilities to smell, hear, see color, and taste.


The final page offers a mindful breathing exercise and suggests ways for dealing with uncomfortable feelings. This will be a hit for dog lovers and anyone wanting to bring a little more mindfulness into their lives.


Hope you enjoyed this post. NOW, as a super special treat -


A Double Giveaway


One lucky reader will win a copy of Bobcat Prowling AND a second lucky winner will win a copy of Being a Dog!


- Simply comment below to be entered in the random drawing for a copy of Bobcat Prowling or Being a Dog.

- Be sure to say where you shared the post (Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram), and I'll add additional entries for you.

- *Sorry, US Residents only.*

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Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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