Publicity Photo Shoot

I like keeping my publicity photo current. When I decided recently to go back to wearing contacts after nearly 10 years of glasses, I realized I needed a new publicity photo. Richard was also eager to schedule a photo shoot because he (OK, we) got a new camera for Christmas and he wanted to see what it could do. We used two cameras for the photo shoot: one to take the portraits and one to film the experience. The new camera, the Nikon D7000, takes video and uses the same lenses we have for our other Nikon cameras. Richard put together a short video to show our process.

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Growing Patterns Review on A Fuse #8 Production

cover with geiselAll authors and illustrators have hopes and dreams for their books. Some of us have a hard time speaking these dreams out loud. It seems presumptuous, I guess, to speak of the possibilities: a kid begging mom to check it out again and again; a teacher using it in the classroom; positive reviews; and the un-whisperable awards. I feel so lucky in Wolfsnail to have had a first book that succeeded beyond my modest hopes and dreams. It proved a hit with readers, teachers, librarians, parents, bloggers, and naturalists.

growing patterns coverWith Growing Patterns, my second book, I catch myself expecting things that were delightful surprises with Wolfsnail. This time I allowed myself to expect reviews in the professional review press, and, thankfully, they came. I tried not to let the pressure of living up to a successful first book faze me. While I was writing, and Richard and I were taking photographs, we immersed ourselves in the challenge of bringing a picture book about Fibonacci Numbers in Nature to early elementary aged kids.

One of the great things about Wolfsnail, to be sure, was the surprise. I mean, a meat-eating snail? As I did the early work on Growing Patterns, I kept thinking “I can’t believe no one did this before.” After all, people have been writing about Fibonacci Numbers for centuries. The deeper I got into it, I realized that at least one possible explanation for the fact that no one had done this before was that it was impossible. But I believed so strongly in the child’s fascination with flowers, numbers, and patterns, that I kept on pushing. I kept on trying new things.

Elizabeth BirdI also showed it to a lot of kids and was encouraged by their enthusiasm and interest. One of the things I always hope for as I launch a new book is that kids and others who care about their reading lives will take it seriously. This week a review appeared on A Fuse #8 Production that was enormously satisfying. First of all, it was written by Elizabeth Bird, an influential voice in children’s literature. A review on Bird’s blog, which appears on School Library Journal, is another one of those things for which you hope. She said some very nice things — about Wolfsnail and Growing Patterns. But, what I appreciate most is that she understood the complexities of the project and could see the ways we tried to address them. Here’s a long excerpt from the review:

“I did appreciate that the book makes an effort to be a little subtler than a Fibonacci book for children in the past might have been,” she writes. “In the old days a non-fiction title for kids would be more than happy to merrily proclaim that Fibonacci was an Italian fellow who discovered these numbers and published a book on them in 1202, end of story. Ms. Campbell, however, mentions more than once that before Fibonacci was strutting about, these numbers were known in India by a variety of scholars (and she even names them by name). There’s also a note at the end of the book that says, “Not all numbers in nature are Fibonacci numbers. A dogwood has 4 petals, and an amaryllis has 6.” You’d be forgiven if your natural reaction to this was an outraged, “So what’s the point then?” Fortunately, if you read the extra text in the back there’s an actual little section there called “Why Fibonacci Numbers?” that says that these numbers show up 90 percent of the time in plants with multiple parts around a single stem. It’s not perfect, but it’s there.”

St Therese kids reading Growing Patterns“There is no non-fiction subject so interesting that full-color photographs taken post-1990 cannot improve. Would Nic Bishop be the star he is today if he didn’t have the power of his lens to work with? The Campbells gave Bishop a run for his money a couple of years ago when they photographed one of the world’s more slimy denizens in Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator. The obvious difference here is that while most of these photographs are taken in nature, just as Wolfsnail was, others have been doctored for teaching purposes. The most obvious example is a two-page spread that shows the same pinecone three times but with different digitally darkened spirals in two of the shots. It’s a good thing the text says that “All the pictures on these two pages show the same pinecone” because otherwise it would ruin the whole purpose of the shots. Of course all the photos are lovely, but it’s nice to also see that they serve to drill home certain points.”

The other great thing about thorough, careful reviews is that they remind you once again that any success your book is enjoying depends on the work of so many people: my editor, Andy Boyles; my art director, Tim Gillner; my copy editor, Joan Hyman (whose gentle insistence on clarity made the pineapple pages work!); and, of course, my mother, Patty Crosby, (whose reading about money tipped me off to the earliest references to the Fibonacci sequence). Thanks, everybody. We’re six months into the life of Growing Patterns and things are going really well.

P.S. I have several of Elizabeth’s reviews cut and pasted in files on my computer. One relates directly to the new manuscript I’ve been talking about. Once I find it a home, I’m going to write to her and tell her she was part of the inspiration!

Photographs from Ocean City

Pinecone with 5 spirals and 8 spirals

Lovely windy beach

washed up on beach. a ray?

Wild flower growing along sidewalk on Coastal Highway. A five.


School Work and Wolfsnail Blog Review

Getting the framing just right

I went back to Davis Magnet School today to facilitate the writing of captions. If you remember, I went out with second graders earlier this month as they photographed their neighborhood for a unit called Davis on the Map. Today, I sat with groups of four or five at a time at a kidney shaped table and we talked about proper nouns, active verbs, capitalization, spelling, and pronouns. We learned words: official, baptismal, peel, kiln, convince, unresolved and Jamaica. We had to consult dictionaries, the internet (which was slow and ineffective – ha!), and the teacher’s notes.

As the teacher and I worked with each group writing captions, the other students spent time going from one center to another. One of the centers was dedicated to books that were related to our unit. I added a work-in-progress of mine to the pile and invited the students to read it and make comments. Once our caption writing work was done, I talked with three students about the manuscript. One girl expressed her observations in the form of “text to self connections and text to text connections.” This particular manuscript is missing an ending so I asked them to give me their ideas and, of course, they had some good ones. I love interacting with my audience!

Wolfsnail update: A new review of Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator went up on Maggie Reads, the blog of a librarian in the northeast part of the state. I really appreciate the kind words about the book and the recommendations for its use with kids. She also mentioned Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature.

Oops! Please Subscribe Again

A technical problem occurred with the blog this week and, in an attempt to fix it, my subscriber database was wiped out. Richard and I went through our list of comments and tried to re-create the subscriber list. This is why you may have gotten an email from the blog requesting confirmation that you are a subscriber. If you didn’t and you want to subscribe, please do so on the left column of the blog. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Gestalt Gardener and Lemuria Signing

It was a big weekend for Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature. On Friday, I started the day as a guest on The Gestalt Gardener, a radio show on Mississippi Public Broadcasting hosted by Felder Rushing. We talked about the book and getting kids excited about the natural world, math, and gardening. I am a longtime listener to Felder’s show so I was familiar with its rhythms; Felder fielded about 8 calls and we fit our conversation in around them. The show was re-broadcast the next morning, which coincided with our signing at Lemuria. Many of our guests at the signing told us they had heard the show. I thank Felder and Ezra Wall, the show’s producer, for having me.

Lots of friends, old and new, came out for the signing, which began during Lemuria’s regular Saturday story hour. (Thank you, Patty, for taking photographs.) One attendee, named Kimberly, brought along an observation she wrote after spending some time talking about Fibonacci numbers and pinecones with her grandmother. (Her grandmother had heard the Gestalt Gardener show.)

Kimberly's news

signing for Madeleine

grandmother who heard the show

signing for Alex and Benjamin

Anna and Jane

Anna and Jane

mom and sons

Kimberly and Bailey and Grandpa and Grandma

Reonna, a budding photographer from Davis, and her mom and sister

talking with Anna about a sand dollar

Growing Patterns: Introducing Richard

Today is the reading and signing party at Lemuria. We’re looking forward to seeing young readers and their grownups at 10 a.m. for some Fibonacci fun!

After being on a blog tour all week (thanks to all of the hosts), we have the featured attraction right here. I interviewed Richard about his unique contribution to Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature.

This is the fun portrait I took of him when we were doing our publicity photo shoot. The powers that be at the publishing house wanted a straight (faced) shot for the catalog so I decided we’d use it here.

Growing Patterns: Classroom Ideas

Today’s fifth stop on the blog book tour is on Dori Reads, written by my writer friend Doraine Bennett. She asked me about using Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature in classrooms with students of different ages.

We’re nearing the end of the blog book tour; I thank everyone who hosted and followed along. Tomorrow, the day of our book launch at Lemuria, I will post an interview with my oft-silent co-photographer, Richard Campbell.

Our tour included stops at Writing Snacks, Teaching Authors, Joseph D’Agnese’s Blog, Live. Love. Explore., Elizabeth O. Dulemba’s Blog, and My Log Cabin Life.

Growing Patterns Blog Tour: Focus on Photography

Today, the blog tour continues at My Log Cabin Life by Julie Owen. Because Julie and I share a passion for photography, today’s post centers on the images.

If you missed previous posts, check them out at:

Monday: Joseph D’Agnese’s blog.

Tuesday: Live. Love Explore. by Irene Latham.

Wednesday: Elizabeth O. Dulemba’s blog.

Tommorrow’s post will be at Dori Reads by Doraine Bennett.

Kirkus Liked Growing Patterns

I am pleased to report that Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature received a favorable review in Kirkus. “This math-and-science title is another beautiful photo-essay by the creators of Wolfsnail (2008). … This clear demonstration of complex ideas will be welcomed in elementary classrooms.”

To learn more interesting facts about Growing Patterns, follow me on my virtual book tour over to Live. Love. Explore., written by Irene Latham.

If you missed Monday’s stop, you can check it out at Joe D’Agnese’s blog.