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December 20, 2018

Author Jane Yolen on CROW NOT CROW

Posted by Rebecca M

New York Times bestselling author Jane Yolen and her son, Adam Stemple, are not only mother and son, but also cowriters! Their latest book, CROW NOT CROW, is a beautiful picture book that teaches young readers how to begin to identify birds. In this post, Yolen tells us a bit about how the book came to be, and why her son invented the "Crow, not crow" method. Read on to learn all about CROW NOT CROW.

Crows are amazing birds. They are smart, use tools (check it out here) They speak in dialects, southern and northern crows having different songs. They can outwit most other birds and a lot of mammals (including humans) as well. Can you tell I love them, though they are cheeky, sarcastic creatures?
When Adam and I sat down to write this picture book together, we knew all that, but the child in the book didn’t. She was just learning to identify them with a method Adam had invented to teach his city-bred (Minneapolis) wife Betsy how to "bird."

Betsy had looked alarmed when he first tried to take her birding. “Too many,” she said, “and they move too fast.” So on the spot, he made up a way to help her. He’d been a birder all his life. Our family were all birders. Adam was taught by his dad, my husband David, who is the original Pa in OWL MOON. David grew up in the mountains of West Virginia and there was little he didn’t know about birds--- or about anything in nature. And what he didn’t know, he promised himself he would learn. Alas, he died too young (68) to keep that promise, but he nearly did, and passed on much of his birding love and knowledge to our children.
Adam’s method is simple. Learn one bird at a time.

It takes time and attention and delight.
P.S: Betsy is now a fine birder.
But I --- who also grew up in a city (New York) am still learning. One of the ways I learn is by writing about birds. Finding their stories. Telling them.
Adam --- already a published poet, novelist (for both adults and children) and lyricist thought writing a picture book was beyond him.

I taught him. One line at a time.

It takes time and attention and delight.
He is now a fine picture book writer. I hope he does more.