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Kids' Q&A

Elin Kelsey

Describe your latest project.
Scientists are discovering more new species today than at any time in history. Strange New Species: Astonishing Discoveries of Life on Earth is a book for eight- to fourteen-year-olds that highlights dozens of incredible new species discoveries — a monkey, a camel, a whale... even a new species of human! All of my books are based on first-person interviews with scientists from around the world which means that kids get the inside scoop on current ideas and scientific debates and a sneak peek at technologies that scientists use to find new species in environments as diverse as the deep ocean, the London Underground, a neighborhood swimming pool, and outer space!

When I spoke with Dr. Bonnie Baxter, a biologist who studies new species of microorganisms, she was so excited about the idea of bringing kids and science together that she gave us a rare and priceless gift — the chance for a kid to name a new species. This "extremophile" — a life form that thrives in extreme environments — was discovered by one of Bonnie's students, Ashlee Allred, in Great Salt Lake, Utah (an environment ten times saltier than the sea). If you'd like to enter the contest to name the new species and leave a permanent mark on science, please visit the Maple Tree Press website for contest details.

For now, I am enjoying visiting schools and doing media interviews that enable me to talk with kids and their families about science and new species discoveries. I am also getting ready to travel to Baja, Mexico, for six weeks, where I will be working with scientists on a book about exciting new whale research in the Sea of Cortez, the richest place to see the greatest diversity of whales in the world.

What fictional character would you like to be your friend, and why?
I would love to be friends with Charlotte, the wonderful spider in the story Charlotte's Web. She is everything a friend should be: loyal, kind, practical, loving, adventurous, wise, and clever.

Introduce one other author/illustrator you think people should read, and suggest a good book by him/her.
I am a huge fan of the author/illustrator William Steig. He has a marvelous talent for telling tales that demonstrate the moral dilemmas and rich relationships that shape everyday life. You should read Doctor DeSoto the wonderful tale of a mouse dentist and his wife who must deal with a fox who turns up with a toothache and ulterior motives.

Describe your most memorable teacher.
I have been lucky to have many great teachers and mentors in my life. My current favorite is my five-year-old son, Kip, who never fails to inspire me with his glorious imagination and his ability to transport us both into wildlife adventures that span the globe.

What is your favorite literary first line?
"Where's papa going with that axe?" said Fern.
From Charlotte's Web by E. B. White.

What do you do for relaxation?
I go for long, slow runs by the ocean with a group of my buddies.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a veterinarian, a writer, and an artist who lived in a tree house with lots of pets.

Why do you write books for kids?
I think that kids are very smart and I want them to have access to cutting-edge ideas and debates in science that nourish their imaginations and encourage them to be engaged in the world around them.

Make a question of your own, then answer it.
Q: Is there really a black and white striped bunny with a red rump?
A: Yes! It's a newly discovered species that is featured in Strange New Species: Astonishing Discoveries of Life on Earth. spacer

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