Friday, May 1, 2020

SECRETS OF THE LOON by Laura Purdie Salas and Chuck Dayton

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Liz at Elizabeth Steinglass and visit for Roundup. 

I can't believe it's May! Be sure to see my latest ArtSpeak: RED (watermelon!) poem from yesterday.

Today I'm excited to share with you the latest by Laura Purdie Salas... and to welcome her to Live Your Poem to respond to a few prompts below. 

You just never know what Laura's going to come up with next, and I love this new book so much. Laura accomplishes A LOT with this text... you will be inspired by the joyful, informative wordsmithery, and the photographs by Chuck Dayton are lovely. And lucky us: we're all invited to the Launch Party! It will be on Facebook, May 4 at 3 pm CST and will feature Laura doing a readaloud, backstory from Chuck, Q and A, and giveaways of 3 signed copies. I totally plan to be there! Click here for more information. 

Meanwhile, here's the description from the publisher: 


Vivid depictions in words and photos illuminate the mysterious world of loons, viewed through the lens of a chick learning how to survive— and thrive—in her first year.

Below white pines, at water’s edge, in guarded nest of mud and sedge, squeezed inside an olive egg, bill meets wing meets folded leg.
With these few words, the scene is set for the hatching of Moon Loon. During her first summer with her parents and brother in the northland, Moon Loon has a lot to learn. Mom and Dad teach essential lessons, like how to catch and eat fish, how to avoid becoming a snack for snapping turtles, and what songs to sing and when. Moon Loon also discovers her secret skills, like how to float, how to dive, and— eventually—how to fly.

Laura with editor Shannon Pennefeather
Laura Purdie Salas’s poetic recounting of a loon’s adventurous first summer celebrates the piney northern landscape and features the gradual development and occasional drama that fills Moon Loon’s days. Supplementary back matter by Chuck Dayton highlights fascinating details of loon biology and ecology, gleaned from expert sources as well as observation. Dayton spent five summers photographing loons from his kayak on a northern Minnesota lake, capturing key moments in the lives of these iconic birds.

Combining imaginative language and striking photography, Secrets of the Loon introduces readers to the sights, sounds, and survival strategies of Minnesota’s state bird.

Laura Purdie Salas
 has written more than 130 books for kids, including Animal Babies and Their FamiliesWater Can Be . . . ; and Snowman – Cold = Puddle: Spring Equations.

As an environmental lawyer, Chuck Dayton protected the landscapes and animals he now observes, camera in hand.

Available May 2020 from the Minnesota Historical Society Press

And now, please welcome Laura!

The delicious: Listening to loon calls as I worked on the book. I would periodically pop over to the Loon Preservation Committee for a quick audio of loon calls. Other times I would play YouTube videos of loon calls softly in the background on a loop. That wild, eerie cry just instantly takes me to the Northwoods.

The difficult: I was invited into this book collaboration in February of 2019, and because of the fast timeline to publication, I did most of my drafting in the spring. There were no loons yet in Minnesota, as they don’t usually arrive until May, so I didn’t get to go see loons in person while I was writing.
an interior spread from SECRETS OF THE LOON

The unexpected: This was hard! I’ve written lots of books that are a publisher’s idea and that I write to their specific guidelines. Those are for educational publishers. This project was sort of similar. Shannon Pennefeather, the wonderful Minnesota Historical Society Press Managing Editor, came to me with the photos and idea from Chuck Dayton (he also wrote the backmatter). I had freedom to choose the tone and style (prose, rhyming, poetry collection?) I thought would work best. I was surprised at the unexpected pressure I felt. It was oddly smack-dab between the “assignment” of writing for educational publishers, where I know exactly what is expected of me, and the freedom of my passion writing, where I write the books I love and hope a publisher will publish them. With Secrets of the Loon, I was hoping to please the eventual reader, of course, but also Shannon and Chuck. Talk about nerve-wracking! (I tried four different approaches: straight prose, rhyming, a haiku collection, and diary entries.) Also, writing a narrative to fit both existing photographs AND the scientific timeline of loon development was much more challenging than I expected. A real jigsaw puzzle!

Laura on Burntside Lake
A connection: The Common Loon is Minnesota’s state bird, but I haven’t seen loons in the wild very many times. When our daughters were little, we used to go to Camp du Nord up near Ely, Minnesota. (This is also near where Chuck took the photos for this book.) I remember our very first year at Camp du Nord, we all went on a night-time family hike listening for wolf calls. I thought I heard one, and I was so excited! It turned out to be a loon wail, which I had never heard before. So haunting. (And a little embarrassing.) Each year we went to camp, we would canoe and kayak in clear, cold Burntside Lake, and a few of the years there was a loon pair raising chicks on the lake. Great memories!
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So there you have it. I wanted to write a "secrets of" poem to go with this post, but it just didn't come together. Maybe later. Meanwhile, congratulations, Laura, on another beautiful book!

For more info, including book trailer and downloadable activity sheets on this page of Laura's website.

24 comments:

  1. My book is on the way, Irene & Laura, taking time from the local Indie. I'm always sad when people share about loons because we don't have them in Colorado. I have seen & heard them on trips, and look forward to reading Laura's poems about them & seeing Chuck's photos. Happy May!

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    1. Thank you, Linda! You're ahead of me. At least you've heard them, even though you don't live where loons live :>)

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  2. Thank you so much for highlighting SECRETS OF THE LOON, Irene! Also, have I already asked you this...Is there or will there be a Syrian-language edition of THE CAT MAN OF ALEPPO? Do you know? (I realize lots of times we just find out about foreign-language editions when two copies pop up on our doorstep!)

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  3. Writing four different versions! That sounds like something I might do. Congratulations on your beautiful new book, Laura! 📚🎈

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    1. Thanks, Tabatha--yeah, trying to find the right form/structure is always SO tricky!

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  4. I love this! I especially appreciate how Laura explains what was difficult for her in the writing of this book. I love the place where science and literature meet...which I sense is where the text of this book falls. I really look forward to reading it. Thanks for featuring Laura today.

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  5. Another beautiful book! I can't wait to read it! The writing and images are lovely.

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    1. Thank you, Liz! Chuck's photos are just beautiful!

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  6. So interesting to learn how this project came about and the pressure Laura felt from trying to please everyone involved. It certainly paid off! Such a beautiful book.

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  7. Laura's books are always filled with wonder and surprise. From what I've seen so far, I'm already in love with Loons. My copy is on its way!

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    1. Thank you, Linda--that's how I feel about the world! I hope you like it!

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  8. What an intriguing bird–their calls are wonderful–their wail is unworldly from another time, and I loved the tremolo. I also liked hearing about the books backstory, and oh my all those versions Laura tried–I'm looking forward to reading it. Thanks for sharing Laura's new book Irene!

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    1. Thank you, Michelle--unworldly captures it!

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  9. Irene, thank you for this spotlight! Laura, when I finally have your book in my hands, I will appreciate it so much more knowing the journey and the jigsawing it took to get it to publication!

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  10. Thanks so much for featuring Laura's new book. Love reading her comments. Interesting about the challenges of writing something in between educational and passion projects.

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    1. Thank you, Jama...it was a narrower tightrope than I anticipated :D

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  11. Irene: I have been lucky to be in the company of loons quite a few times, now finding a quiet lake with loons is a yearly requirement. Thanks for highlighting this book, I look forward to it!

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  12. Thanks for the interview--I loved reading about Laura's approach to writing an assignment/not-quite-an assignment book. We've heard the haunting calls of loons on trips to northern Michigan. And this year, for the very first time, a loon was fishing on our small lake! We saw it a couple of times on its way (I assume) to mate and nest north of here.

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