Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Behind the Books: Cybils Awards

The nominees for the 2010 Cybils Awards were announced last week, and I was thrilled to see three of my books in the list. I’ve already blogged about two of the titles, A Rainbow of Animals and A Place for Frogs, but I’ve never gotten around to the third book, Ants.

Ants is a Level 1 National Geographic Reader, and it was nominated in the Easy Reader category. It’s the first time I’ve had a book recognized in this category, so I’m really pleased.

When my editor suggested this book to me, I was excited (ants are so cool) and a little bit intimidated. After all, there are some wonderful books out there on this topic. I’m talking authors like E.O. Wilson and Bert Holldobler and Mark Moffett. Luckily, they write for adults, and I write for kids. (At least, that’s what I kept telling myself.)

Believe it or not, there are more than 10,000,000,000,000,000 and alive right now. They come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors, and they live almost anywhere you can think of. Ants thrive wherever they go, adapting as needed to their ever-changing world.

My main goal in writing this book was to share the wonder of ants with kids. These little creepy crawlies are part of a large, diverse group with an amazingly sophisticated social system. I wanted to show kids what makes ants special and completely fascinating.

As I was writing, I kept thinking back to my trip to Costa Rica. My eight-year old niece (seen here with a bunch of ants) was so excited by the huge leaf-cutter ant colony we saw in the tropical rain forest. Their nest was a mound as big as a hill. It was just incredible. We also saw cecropia ants protecting the trees they are named for. Those little guys are really hard workers!

After learning so much about ants, you might wonder if I have a favorite. I do. It’s the Dracula ant, which gets all its nutrients from a single source—the blood from ant larvae. How cool is that?

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