On Wednesdays this fall, I’ll be sharing the process of creating my recently-published book Ick! Delightfully Disgusting Animals Dinners, Dwellings, and Defenses step-by-step. (To learn about the whole process in one sitting or to share an age-appropriate version with your students, check out this new resource on my website.)
I chose Research to Revision
as the title for this series of posts because I’m a lover of alliteration, but,
in reality, gathering information isn’t the first step in the nonfiction
writing process. So today, I’ll start at the very beginning—the idea, the spark
The story behind Ick! book traces back to a
three-week research trip I took to East Africa in 1996. You read that
right—we’re talking 24 years ago.
During the safari, I watched
with fascination as a mother black-backed jackal upchucked her
partially-digested dinner to feed her three feisty pups. When the little ones
had eaten their fill, she scarfed down the mushy leftovers.
The next day, while observing
a gerenuk standing on its tippy toes as it ate, our guide told us that it’s one
of more than 150 mammals (including cows) that regurgitate their food and
re-munch their lunch as many as four times. It’s their way of eking every
possible nutrient from the tough plants they eat.
Right then and there, I
started making a list of animals that vomit their vittles as a survival
strategy. Over time, I added more than a dozen insects, birds, and mammals to
But why stop there? I also
made lists of creatures that use poop, pee, spit, snot, and other bodily
substances in the most surprising ways.
Where did I find all that
information? I’ll take a look at my research process next week.