“Ms. Craig has been awarded KIRKUS BEST CHILDREN’S BOOKS 2016, Best Books for Kindergarten 2017 by We the Teachers, NAAPA PARENT’S CHOICE GOLD AWARD, Wilde Awards Best Children’s Books, Fred Roger’s Best Baby Books 2011, and included in Texas 2X2 reading list. She has also received excellent and starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus, and was featured in the New York Times Book Review.”
Bonnie Ferrante: I have two of Lindsey Craig’s Silly Scientists picture books. My review for the Silly Scientists Take a Tip-Toe with the Tadpoles is here and the second will be on my blog next Wednesday. Both are delightful and informative. Welcome, Lindsey. Most of your books seem to be about nature or science. Why are you drawn to these topics? Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
Lindsey Craig: Firstly, thank you so much, Bonnie, for taking the time to interview me. You’ve done wonderful work with your blog, interviews and excellent reviewing skills.
My interest in science and nature stems from my wild childhood of growing up on a saltwater bay in the Pacific Northwest. I’ve loved the beaches, water and surrounding forests for as long as I can remember. Nature was sacred to me even then. My younger siblings and I spent hours running about our little town, picking blackberries, swimming with the tides, sleeping under the stars, and making up stories of forest witches and sea monsters. It was a wonderful childhood, and a vital one. That is to say, I believe that nature is vital to each of us–to our very spirits–without it we are lost. It is my hope that my books will help kids find this connection to nature again.
Ferrante: Your two latest books about the Silly Scientists address the solar system and the metamorphosis of tadpoles, one huge and one tiny. Which interests you the most and why, the miniscule or the enormous?
Craig: I love learning, so both topics interested me very much. However, my book Silly Scientists Take a Peeky at the Solar System took me over a year to finish the research. I’d taken basic astronomy courses in highschool and college, but it took quite a bit more serious reading to truly understand complex phenomena such as: gravity, electromagnetism and star formations in order to explain in to children (or to myself!). And then, putting those ideas into rhyme was particularly challenging. I was delighted to have my my NASA advisor to help me.
Ferrante: Several of your books play with sound, Farmyard Beat and Dancing Feet for example. You also used music and lyrics in your video about the solar system. https://youtu.be/IPdDWipLC1w Why do you choose to work in this style? Can you explain the process involved in creating something like this?
Craig: Music has been a big part of my family. Someone was always banging on the piano, or singing. Though, I should say, no one sang well, believe me, but that didn’t stop any of my siblings, or me, or my own children from singing merrily. Kids love music! They’re always be-bopping around, and I guess I am, too. My idea for the Silly Scientists Series was to make rap music that would get kids singing about science. I’d seen a woman teach disadvantaged youths with rap music, and I thought, I’ll do that, too. However, rap was too strident and negative for my ear. I love to rhyme and I wanted something more joyful, so I tried emulating Raffi (my own kids’ favorite singer) and Sesame Street’s wonderful Schoolhouse Rock. I wanted my science books to not only be fun, but to be so catchy that kids couldn’t help but learn and by that learning want to go outside and explore nature.
Ferrante: Dance also appears in more than one of your books, for example, Try Try Try. What part does dance play in your life? How does it help you with your writing?
Craig: I’ve been a dancer all my life from ballet, to jazz, and now, with my husband we’re learning swing dance. Dance like music is just a part of who I am. And again, kids love to dance. Plus, I get most of my ideas when I’m walking, and walking is a sort of dance. My stride matches my thoughts or becomes the rhythm of my rhymes.
Ferrante: In addition to your Silly Scientists books, wacky humor appears in much of your work. Do you feel it is necessary to have humor in a picture book in order to engage children today?
Craig: No, I think there are fabulous children’s book that don’t use humor. I just happen to love wacky humor. I’m kind of a silly gal, love to tell jokes, love to laugh, and often wake myself up in the night laughing. Humor is something very special and I’m glad it is in my life.
Ferrante: Why do you write for children and what do you hope to achieve by this?
Craig: Primarily I want to get kids outside into nature again. My moto for my new Silly Scientists books is: ”Learning science, loving nature”. I believe that when you learn about anything you start to fall in love with it. However, as much as I love nature, I also love technology, and these things are here to stay, but I think if we are to progress as human beings we need to find balance and a big part of that balanced-equation is nature. Humans need to surround themselves with trees, butterflies, bugs, rocks and especially the quiet, slowness of nature if they are to be healthy mentally and physically. I think a lot of the problems we’re seeing today are due to a lack of nature in our lives.
Ferrante: Is there anything I haven’t asked you that you would like to share with my readers?
Craig: Yes, boredom. I think that boredom is super important for kids because it fosters creativity. Too many kids have constant occupations, and/or distraction; and parents are way too quick to solve the “pain” of boredom (and other problems) for their kids. Nature can be super boring because it’s slow, as well as cold, uncomfortable, and messy, to name a few problems, but then, so is life. Nature teaches children so much, but those lessons are not given with the flip of a switch. To be part of nature we need to realize we’re not better than nature, or above all it’s messiness. We are nature too, just as the trees and turtles and flowers are nature, so are we.
Three Random Questions
Ferrante: What you have trouble giving away or getting rid of?
Craig: You know, not much. I am super attached to anything my children made from dioramas to handprints to reindeer christmas ornaments. Oh, and I also love photographs. But most other things, I give away easily. My parents both died when I was in my 20s and I think giving away things is a way for me to ease that pain, because often things represent memories, and some of those memories are hard to bear, even now.
Ferrante: What scared you the most as a child?
Craig: I suppose the usual: death and not being loved. But also, I feared not being smart enough. My mom was very smart, and my two older sisters were thirteen and ten years older than me, so I often felt out of the loop. And being naturally goofy as I am didn’t help. Once my oldest sister called me stupid, and I remembering standing up to her and giving her the what for right back. Being intelligent and learning has always been important to me and I crave understanding all these incredible mysteries around us.
Ferrante: If you could master any instrument at symphony level, what would you choose and why?
Craig: The violin. Gosh! I love the almost human-like sound of that instrument. It’s has such an eerie, otherworldly quality to it. I did play the flute in junior high. A disaster, that. But if I were to suffer through band class again, then the violin would be the instrument for me!
Thanks again, Bonnie, for this chance to talk with you and your readers.
Ferrante: Thank you, Lindsey, for sharing your wonderful work and experiences with us.