Thursday, October 19, 2017

Guest Post: Cathryn Sill on the 10th Anniversary of About Habitats


Cathryn and John Sill's About Habitats series is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year! To learn a little more about the creation of this award-winning nonfiction series for young readers, Cathryn Sill provides insight into the different excursions that inspire their books about the beautiful and varied habitats around the world and the emphasizes importance of encouraging younger generations to appreciate and protect the natural world.

I have always loved nature and was fortunate to grow up with parents who encouraged me to experience the many wonders of creation. We had family adventures in various habitats including camping trips to mountains, deserts, forests, and seashores. Sunday afternoons in spring and summer were often spent in the woods looking for wildflowers and birds.

When I was a teacher, I wanted nonfiction books to use in a classroom setting. Using lessons about different animal groups was a good way to integrate learning reading and science for children. That’s how the About series on animals was started (with About Birds in 1991), and the About Habitats series naturally evolved from that. 

John and I are birders, so most of our travel involves looking for birds. While we don’t often travel specifically to research the books we create, many of our opportunities for travel research have been coincidental. We crossed the prairie on a trip to an event to display John’s paintings. We just happened to be working on About Habitats: Grasslands so he was able to observe and photograph ideas to use in his illustrations.

As we were working on About Habitats: Oceans, we were able to take a sailing trip with friends.


An earlier trip to Panama during the rainy season was helpful when we were working on the book About Habitats: Forests.


A trip to Santa Catalina Island was helpful in writing About Habitats: Seashores as well giving us experience with marine mammals (for About Marine Mammals).


Unfortunately, we aren’t able to travel to every habitat and every region in the world, but we gather information, memories, and photos from our trips to use as needed and where appropriate. Often John and I choose subjects we are more familiar with to use to illustrate the books. When we are not able to travel to gather information, we research our subject using reliable books and websites.

The About Habitats series has been around for 10 years, and in that time, concern of the many negative impacts on earth’s habitats has caused me to think of ways I might make a difference. I feel strongly that the younger generations are a definite hope for the future protection of the environment. The earlier they can develop an appreciation for the world around them, the better they can prepare to help preserve it. We are hopeful that these books will instill a love for this fragile planet that is our home and give young readers incentive to be good stewards.


Cathryn and John Sill are the dynamic team who created the About... series as well as the About Habitats series. Their books have garnered praise from educators and have won a variety of awards, including Bank Street Best Books, CCBC Choices, NSTA/CBC Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K–12, Orbis Pictus Recommended, and Science Books and Films Best Books of the Year. Cathryn, a graduate of Western Carolina State University, taugh early elementary school classes for thirty years. John holds a BS in wildlife biology from North Carolina State University. Combining his knowledge of wildlife and artistic skill, he has achieved an impressive reputation as a wildlife artist. The Sills live in Franklin, North Carolina.

Books in the About Habitats series are at your local libraryindie bookstore, or Barnes & Noble. The most recent book About Habitats: Seashores came out this August 2017.

1 comment:

  1. This was really interesting to hear how you have integrated your personal travels with research for your incredible books. I have your About Mollusks on my couch right now!

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