I'm thrilled to let you know about a talented writer and advocate of the environment, Alison Ashley Formento, whose third book in the "These Count" series has just come out: THESE SEAS COUNT (Albert Whitman). (Previous titles are THESES TREES COUNT and THESE BEES COUNT - all illustrated by Sarah Snow.)
     Not only are they counting books, they help educate children on the importance of saving our trees, bees, and seas. In that tradition, THESE SEAS COUNT! is a must share for Earth Day...not to mention World Oceans Day on June 8th!

Q. Hi Alison and welcome to! Congratulations on the release of THESE SEAS COUNT. You must be so proud of the entire series and the message these books deliver.
A. Thanks, Elizabeth. I’m proud if parents, teachers, and librarians share my picture books with children, and I’m especially proud when I meet young readers who love nature as much as I do.

Q. Rather than talking about the environment from an overwhelming viewpoint, you hone in on particular issues with trees, bees, and now, seas. How were you able to narrow your topic down?
A. It was a particular challenge in each book, but I knew I had to keep my information concise to highlight the theme of how trees, bees, and seas count, as well as including a counting numbers element, too. I learned enough in my research to write several “Counts!” books on each subject, but I wanted to focus on the main theme (in each book) of understanding the importance of caring for our environment, whether it be trees, bees, or seas.

Q. What was the inspiration for writing these books and will there be more?
A. Nature is my primary inspiration for my “Counts!” series and for much of my writing. An wonderful old elm tree that I hike past at a local nature reserve inspired my first book THIS TREE COUNTS! It’s a huge tree with sprawling branches and I wrote a ten line poem imagining what this tree might say if it could speak. That poem eventually expanded into a full story for my first picture book.
      A taste of honey ice cream inspired my second book, THESE BEES COUNT! and a sign at the ice cream shop describing the plight of disappearing honeybees. I started researching the subject and meeting beekeepers and soon realized how “bees count!” to help our world as much as trees do.
     My new book on seas was a natural follow-up as a “Counts” books since I love the ocean and all that it means for our environment. Recent oil spills and news on ocean pollution inspired my initial research, as well as visiting marine habitats and talking to oceanographers. But, at the end of the day, the waves inspired me. A relaxing day at the beach is always an inspiration.
     Nature is full of creative inspiration, so yes, plans for more “Counts!” books are in the works.

Q. I love Sarah Snow's artwork in the series. They have a very distinctive look. How did you respond when you first saw her vision of your story?
A. I hopped around like a happy bunny! Seriously, though, Sarah Snow’s illustrations captured exactly what I felt when I saw that old tree on my hikes. There’s a real sense of texture and motion in her art. I can imagine hearing the wind in the trees, the bees buzzing, and feel the sea waves splashing when I look at Sarah’s illustrations in our books.

Q. You're also about to launch your first Young Adult book, TWIGS. Can you tell us a little about that?
A. TWIGS will be published in September, 2013, by Merit Press, the new Young Adult imprint of F&W Media. An homage to the classic Gary Cooper film, 'High Noon,' it is the story of a girl nicknamed for her small stature, which is belied by her great spirit when trouble threatens her ne'er do well family — from within and from far away in a war zone. In the contemporary realistic YA tradition of such authors as Sarah Dessen, 'Twigs' asks old questions about the triumph of the weak against the strong, with compassion, humor, and wit.

Q. What was your path to publication? (I always ask this!)
A. My path starts like this—“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” I first heard my editor (Abby Levine, Albert Whitman) speak on a panel at an SCBWI conference. After the conference, I submitted a picture book manuscript to her, which she rejected, but had added a nice note saying she liked my writing. I immediately sent another story, which was also rejected, but this time she mentioned they were looking for nature stories. I sent my tree story. To quote another old saying, “Third time’s a charm.”

Q. Finally, are there any upcoming dates, engagements, or events you'd like my readers to know about?
A. I’m busy with several school visits throughout April, including a special Authors for Earth Day event to donate to a charity dedicated to helping our environment. I’ll be at the Albany Book Festival on April 27th and the Hudson Children’s Book Festival on May 4th and I’m thrilled to be leading a Writing Seeds Workshop on growing creative picture book stories at the NJSBWI conference in Princeton on June 7th. For more information, please visit my website:
     Thanks for the fun questions, Elizabeth. I can’t wait to read your next book, too!

One of my lucky commenters will win a free, signed and dedicated copy of THESE SEAS COUNT from Alison! (Must live in the continental US to win.)
a Rafflecopter giveaway


theartgirl said...

Wonderful series! I'd love to share with my niece.

colleen kosinski

apple blossom said...

I love children's books and share it with my nieces and nephews

LadyD Piano said...

We love our trips to the beach. All 5 grandchildren and I find the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean a beautiful, inspiring place; so full of life. Let's keep it that way!

Geo Librarian said...

The ocean is such an amazing thing. I would love to share this book with my students.