Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Interview with Melissa Stewart

Welcome to Day 10 of Peachtree’s Fins, Wings & Things Blog Tour. Today – an interview with Melissa Stewart, author of A Place for Fish – and a chance to sign up for the book giveaway if you haven’t already (rules at bottom)

You write that "Fish make our world a better place." Was there something in particular that inspired this book?

Melissa: This book is part of a series. It started with APlace for Butterflies . Then came A Place for Birds and APlace for Frogs. Fish seemed like the perfect complement to these other titles. Water covers more than 70 percent of our planet, and it is home to all kinds of fascinating creatures. I thought some of them deserved attention. It’s easy to overlook the dangers of over-fishing or polluting our oceans and waterways. I hope my book will help kids see the importance of caring for the water as well as the land.

 How long did it take you to do all the research that went into this book? And did you get to travel to any cool, new places?

Melissa: I researched this book off and on for about three years. Much of the information came from interviews with scientists studying the featured fish. I also drew experiences from past trips to Costa Rica and the Galapagos Islands. I’ll never forget the thrill (or maybe it was terror) of swimming with hammerheads in the Galapagos. I visited the New England Aquarium in Boston while researching this book and  saw their great display of seahorses and lots of other fish—both freshwater and salt water species.

Each spread has two kinds of text—a simple main text across the top and more detailed explanations running along the side of one page. Why did you set the book up in this way?

Melissa: When I was writing the first book in this series, A Place for Butterflies, I was substitute teaching at a school in Hudson, MA. When I was covering a first grade classroom, a fourth grade teacher brought her students in so the kids could meet with their Reading Buddies (also called Book Buddies in some schools).  The students were using books written at first grade level.

I thought the program was a great idea. Not only were the younger students improving their reading skills, the older students took pride in their role as mentors. But I thought the program might be even more successful if the students used books with sections written at each child’s level. That’s when I decided to create two layers of text in my book. The simpler main text is perfect for younger students. And the more detailed sidebars make it easy to share the book with slightly older students. Then the students can look at the art together and discuss the content. Teachers liked this style of presentation so much that I have even written multi-age level activities for some of the books. 

What specific things can we do to help coral reefs

Melissa: Coral reefs are probably the most critically endangered ocean ecosystems. And that’s bad news because an estimated 90 percent of all ocean life depends on them directly or indirectly. Besides not keeping coral-reef fishes in home aquariums, we should all avoid buying shells and corals collected at coral reefs. If you snorkel or scuba dive at a reef, it’s important not to touch or stand on the living corals. And if you live near coral reefs, don’t pour household cleaners or other chemicals down the drain. Some of these chemicals make corals weak, so they can’t fight diseases. Others make seaweeds and sea grasses grow so quickly that they smother corals.

What did you learn in writing this book?

Melissa: Wow, I learned so much. What I hope kids will take away from the book is that fish—and every other kind of creature on Earth—has an important role to play in their habitats. When species disappear, entire ecosystems suffer in ways that are often hard to predict in advance. That’s why it’s so important to live in a way that shows our respect for the amazing array of living things that share our world.
Book Giveaway

You could win your very own copy of A Place for Fish. This particular contest is limited to folks who live in the United States. All you have to do to enter is send an email to: sueheaven{at}gmail{dot}com.

If you can, leave a comment on this blog about what things you are doing or will do to protect watery places and the fish living in them, and consider becoming a “follower”.

The contest for this book ends Sunday April 25.

Remember to come back tomorrow – Earth Day – and don’t forget to visit Peachtree  for the rest of the Blog Tour schedule.


  1. Great interview! It's wonderful to be able to be inspired to protect the world and respect all living things through a book. Books are powerful. And Melissa is a talented writer who does a wonderful job of writing about neat topics in interesting way. Thanks for sharing this.

  2. We don't fertilize the grass, we only eat fish that aren't on the over fished list, and we recycle as much as we can.

    Trying to help as much as we can!

    Inspiring blog interview, can't wait to check out the book!

    -the Girards