July Newspaper Column – Moon Over Bioko – Author and Illustrator Interview!

According to my new blog schedule, I am not supposed to be posting today but I wanted to post my July column I wrote for The Upper Bucks Free Press because it was published today. The original print article can be found HERE and just READ ON for the expanded article!

 I have reviewed “Moon Over Bioko” before on my blog – to read the review click HERE. Today I have an awesome interview with the author, Heidi Rader and illustrator, Holly Smith!

Author – Heidi Rader

Illustrator – Holly Smith

Local author, Heidi Rader and illustrator, Holly Smith teamed up to create the award-winning book, “Moon Over Bioko”.

Moon Over Bioko – The Turtles of Bioko Island

By Heidi Rader
Illustrated by Holly Smith
Published by Wildlife Conservation Publishers in 2011
44 pages – ages 8+

Deme wants to help his father and the scientists record important information about the sea turtles that make their nests on the beach of Bioko Island (an island off the coast of Africa) every year. They have to measure the turtles, identify them and count the eggs they lay. Deme’s father tells him to work hard in school and when he learns the math and skills he needs, that he can help with the turtles. Deme works very hard at school and when the turtles come back, Deme’s father tells him that he can help! Deme learns many things about the sea turtles and how they are endangered. He learns how poachers and pollution hurt the sea turtles and what he can do to help. Deme also learns that the sea turtles have been around since the dinosaurs were on the earth and leather back turtles can grow up to 7 feet long! Best of all he learns about what great creatures the turtles are!

Ms. Rader (HR) and Ms. Smith (HS) were nice to do an interview with me.

You are a local author (Montgomery County, PA)! Please tell us a little about yourself.

 HR: A local resident of Harleysville, Pennsylvania, I am an Environmental Educator with the Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy, an author, a research assistant with the Bioko Biodiversity Protection Program, Drexel University, and a docent at the Elmwood Park Zoo in Norristown, PA. When not teaching at the Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy, or volunteering at the Elmwood Park Zoo, I can be found traveling both in the US and overseas reporting on the status of the four endangered species of sea turtles on Bioko Island, Equatorial Guinea, West Africa, for the Bioko Biodiversity Protection Program.

 I was really interested to learn about your conservation work you do with the turtles of Bioko Island. How did you get the idea to write “Moon Over Bioko” from your conservation work?

 HR: My first children’s book: Moon Over Bioko; Sea Turtles of Bioko Island, draws from my experience living on the island and assisting the scientists and the local people who study and protect the sea turtles that nest on the black sand beaches. So many sea turtle books are written about the turtles themselves, not the people protecting them. I wanted to give the reader an idea of the science and team work involved in a successful conservation program.

 What do you hope people learn from your book?

HR: It is my hope that the readers of Moon Over Bioko, both children and adults, learn the value of an education and the importance of the preservation of not only sea turtles, but of all living things through good conservation practices.

I will be returning to Bioko in October to teach sea turtle conservation in the island schools. Moon Over Bioko is the foundation of the curriculum. In addition to using the book as a teaching tool, we are currently developing an activity book based on the educational content of Moon Over Bioko. Every classroom we visit will be given an activity book for each student and copies of the hardcover edition of Moon Over Bioko.

 Are you planning to write any more conservation books?

 HR: Yes! Another conservation book is in the works. Moon Over Bioko is the first book in the Bioko Island Book Series. The second in the series will feature the endangered monkeys of Bioko. The same creative team from Moon Over Bioko is hard at work. Holly Smith will bring the story to life with her fabulous illustrations. Peter Muir will again lend his expertise in print technology coordinating book production and design.

You are a local artist/illustrator (Bucks County, PA)! Please tell us a little about yourself.

 HS: As a small child I recall my astonishment as I watched my sister make a Christmas card for our mother. That something recognizable could be created using only a pencil, a piece of paper, and one’s imagination was like flipping on a light switch in my brain.  During my years in the Pennridge School District, I always gravitated to anything associated with art or creativity – and tried to squirm my way out of gym class.  When I was accepted into Moore College of Art (where there was no gym class!) it was my intention to major in illustration.  But, in what I consider a bit of good fortune, I ended up studying painting and sculpture.  In the years since receiving my BFA, both my 2-D and 3-D work has been shown in numerous exhibitions, won several awards, and is included in many private collections throughout the United States.  I have also designed greeting cards which were sold in the Trader Joe’s stores nationwide.  However, my interest in illustration has never waned and I was honored when Heidi Rader asked me to do the pictures for “Moon Over Bioko”.  It was an especially good fit due to my lifelong passion for wildlife conservation.

 I thought it was interesting that you said you have never actually seen a live sea turtle, but the turtle illustrations in “Moon Over Bioko” are very accurate. What research did you do for drawing the turtles?

HS: Heidi gave me a DVD of live turtles in their natural habitat plus some scientific fact sheets that included line drawings of each type of sea turtle found on Bioko.  This helped immensely when trying to get the details of the turtle shells, and the patterns on their skin. portrayed correctly.  She also gave me a stack of photographs taken on Bioko and sent many digital pictures.  Library books about sea turtles were invaluable, and I looked at endless images of them on the internet, especially at the Bioko Biodiversity Protection Program website.  And, finally, I had people who work with the turtles check my illustrations for accuracy.

Which was the hardest turtle to draw and why? Which is your favorite?

HS: All of the sea turtles, except the leatherback, have shells comprised of interlocking plates called “scutes”.  At first glance, the scutes appear to be a jumble of tiles; only after patiently staring at them and then trying to draw them, did I discern the patterns and the structure of these wondrous animals. I would say the hawksbill sea turtle is the hardest to draw since their shells are the most complex and colorful. Unfortunately, their beauty is also the reason humans have hunted them to near extinction.

If I had to pick a favorite it would be the leatherback sea turtle. I am astounded and awed by the fact that they were swimming in the seas when the dinosaurs were alive and can grow to be 2000 pounds. Plus they are the easiest to draw!

Are you currently working on any projects you’d like to tell us about?

HS: Heidi has begun writing a new book about the endangered monkeys on Bioko Island and I have started preliminary sketches for it. She is also putting together an activity book about sea turtles to which I’ve contributed a few things.   I’ve been commissioned to do a portrait of my friend’s crazy dog; and I recently became editor of my sculpture group’s newsletter –all of which will keep me in the 2-dimensionsal world for awhile.  But I am itching to get back into my sculpture studio and make something humongous that will scare the neighbors.

Moon Over Bioko; Sea Turtles of Bioko Island is such an awesome book it won several book awards including;

 2012 Green Book Festival – Children’s Category – Honorable Mention

2012 International Book Awards (IBA) – Award-Winning Finalist in the Children’s Picture Book: Hardcover Fiction category of the 2012 International Book Awards. Award-Winning Finalist in the Best New Children’s Picture Book category of the 2012 International Book Awards.

 2012 National Indie Excellence Awards – Winner – Book Cover Design-Children’s Picture Books

Thank you very much Ms. Rader and Ms. Smith for the interview and writing such a wonderful book about an important subject!

For information where to buy the book and more information on the book go to the publisher’s website –Wildlife Conservation Publishers !

Categories: Age 6-9

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14 replies

  1. Great interview Erik, as always. What a great book & what a wonderful message. I am so impressed at the work you do Heidi (HR). My hat is off to you! Fantastic illustrations Holly(HS)! Best of luck to both of you:)

  2. Very illuminating interview, Erik!

  3. What a marvellous book. Love the illustrations and the message it conveys. Thanks for bringing this to our attention Erik.

  4. Hello! I have nominated you for Most Versatile Blogger award. See my post about it here!


  5. I really enjoyed your book review Erik. I especially liked hearing from both the author and illustrator. Great job!

  6. Thank you, Erik for the great interview. Congratulations to Heidi and Holly. They are doing wonderful and very important work by getting this message out to kids.

  7. This sounds like a truly important book, Erik. And I enjoyed reading through the interview. 🙂

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