Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Behind the Books: A Rainbow of Research

Think research is research? Think again.

The more books I write the more I realize that no two projects are every the same. Each one has its own unique challenges.


The Rainbow of Animals series was no exception. It includes six books—one for each color in the rainbow.

Why Are Animals Red?

Why Are Animals Orange?

Why Are Animals Yellow?

Why Are Animals Green?

Why Are Animals Blue?

Why Are Animals Purple?

The first hurdle in researching this series was making sure that there were enough animals of each color to fill each 32-page book. Of course, there are lots of orange and yellow and green animals. But I wasn’t so sure about the other colors—especially purple.

And even if there were enough animals, would we be able to find great book-quality photos of them all? It was an important question. And these concerns led me to do content research and photo research simultaneously. (Usually the publisher handles photo research after I submit the manuscript.)

My other worry was that all red animals would be red for the same reason, and all green animals would be green for the same reason. That would make for pretty monotonous books.

I was relieved when my photo research turned up plenty of animals to choose from for each color—even purple. And my content research went well too.

Sure, lots of green animals blend in with their surroundings. But a male mallard duck’s green head helps it stand out, so it can attract a mate.

On land, red animals are easy to spot. A male cardinal’s bright colors tell females it is healthy. But a coral snake’s red rings warn other creatures that it is poisonous. In the ocean, red animals are hard to see—especially at night. See, there were lots of great stories to tell. Phew!

Once my initial concerns had been allayed, I dove into the project with all my heart. And boy did I learn a lot.

I’ve been observing and studying animals for most of my life, but it wasn’t until I wrote these books that I really considered just how much coloring affects a creature’s ability to survival in its environment. I hope my audience of curious kids is just as fascinated by the information as I was.

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