“By Sandra Zunino
Local writer and author, Jennifer Keats Curtis is at it again, spinning tales for children that not only entertain but educate as well.
“Baby Owl’s Rescue”, about two children who find a stranded Great Horned owlet, is Jennifer’s fourth children’s book. A native of the Chesapeake Bay area, Jennifer says she likes to feature indigenous animals in her stories. “There are six owls that live in Maryland and two that migrate through here,” she says. “I chose a baby owl because children relate to baby animals in particular.”
As development encroaches on wildlife habitat, owl-human encounters are becoming more frequent. According to Jennifer, an owlet falling out of a nest is common. Based on the work of wildlife rehabilitator Kathy Woods of the Phoenix Wildlife Center in Phoenix, Maryland, Baby Owl’s Rescue imparts information about what to do when encountering a baby Great Horned Owl.
Siblings Maddie and Max discover the baby owl in their backyard. Fortunately, their mother is a wildlife rehabilitator and knows what steps to take to ensure the owl’s survival. Jennifer says she has great respect for wildlife rehabilitators. “I’m fascinated by what they do,” she says, “the expertise, training and education required to take care of these wild animals.”
Jennifer’s last book, “Osprey Adventure” was based on the work of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Biologist, Pete McGowan. Jennifer’s first book, “Oshus and Shelly Save the Bay,” about oysters, won the Frederick Douglass Award. Her second book, “Turtles In My Sandbox” about diamondback terrapins was a finalist for the ASPCA Henry Bergh Children’s Book Award.
Jennifer says completing the research for her books takes longer than writing the stories.
Understanding that preaching can lose her kindergarten-through-fifth-grade audience, Jennifer is wary about how she presents the information. “”You want it to be educational and informative, but at the end of the day it’s still a story,” she says, “and you want kids to be able to identify with it.””
Released last week by Sylvan Dell Publishing, the book was slightly behind schedule because illustrator Laura Jacques suffered an injury, delaying completion of the artwork. “I think the illustrations are just gorgeous,”” says Jennifer. “They are very realistic and just blew me away.”
Starting with Fort Smallwood Elementary in Pasadena, Jennifer will be visiting schools to promote her book and educate students about owls. Kathy Woods will also present a bird of prey to the class. Jennifer says she enjoys school presentations and even entertained the idea of a teaching career. “I am in awe of teachers and how patient they are,” she says, “and how they teach many subjects day in and day out.”
Jennifer’s next book about otters will be coming out next fall and she is currently working on a story about sea horses. She also works as a freelance writer and serves as editor-at-large for Maryland Life Magazine.
A portion of the royalties for “Baby Owl’s Rescue” will benefit the Phoenix Wildlife Center. Jennifer and Kathy will be at the Pickering Creek Audubon Center for the 18th Annual Harvest Hoedown Festival promoting the book and presenting a rescued Great Horned Owl.
For more information about Jennifer Keats Curtis, “Baby Owl’s Rescue” or any of her other books, visit www.sylvandellpublishing.com.