Monday, September 26, 2022

Notice, Wonder, and Seek ~ by Randi Sonenshine


Several years ago I wrote an artist statement – a sentence or two that described what I did as a writer. That was before my debut book was published and, subsequently, before I truly knew myself as a writer. More importantly, it was before I believed myself to be an artist (something I still question more often than I’d like!).

After giving it much thought, I landed on this statement: I write picture books and poems that take readers on nature-fueled and wonder-filled journeys. Those two phrases, nature-fueled and wonder-filled, capture my essence as a writer, which was in no small part influenced by a childhood steeped in nature.


I grew up on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, with the Chesapeake Bay just to the west, and the Atlantic Ocean just to the East, so there was no shortage of woods and watery places to explore. Wood-fringed ponds, creeks, rivers, marshes, and swamps, each with their own alluring mysteries, were all within close reach. My parents were nature-loving adventurers, so spring through fall, our family of five was off to one state park or another, our canoe-topped pop-up camper bobbing behind us with each dip in the road. 

Our trips always included nature walks and outings with the five of us (and our sixty-pound Irish setter) piled into our red Coleman canoe. My parents never missed an opportunity to educate us on the flora and fauna, though it was always in a way that taught us to notice, wonder, and seek rather than passively absorb information. 

We didn’t need to go camping to commune with nature, however; we only needed to walk out our back door, across the sloping backyard, and down the homemade log stairs into a primordial wonderland - the Swamp. Our Swamp.

Our Swamp, which fed from a pond and funneled into a Creek, was shaded by holly and bald cypress trees and ringed with cattails, sedges, jewelweed, and numerous other plant species. According to my mom, there were 37 different species of birds when we moved there in the winter of 1977.  Songbirds, ducks, geese, owls, herons, and a plethora of four-legged critters, like otters, rabbits, foxes, and white-tailed deer called the Swamp home. There were also snakes, frogs, turtles, and fish. 

My sisters and I, along with our neighborhood friends spent countless hours traipsing in the swamp and adjacent woods. Sometimes we took the canoe through the swamp all the way to the pond, maneuvering through the thick tangle of undergrowth and overgrowth. This often required getting out and carrying the canoe where it was too shallow, or some impenetrable jumble of green blocked the way. 

Though I’m sure I didn’t fully appreciate it then, this time spent in nature had a profound and lasting impression on me. Today, I write with the hope that my books will inspire readers, young and old, alike, to seek out the wild, wooded, and watery places and make their own wondrous discoveries. 

Randi Sonenshine grew up exploring the magical world of forests, streams, and ponds in a pair of trusty tennis shoes and a red canoe. Her debut picture book, The Nest That Wren Built (reviewed here), is a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection and earned a place on many notable lists. Her newest picture book is The Lodge That Beaver Built and it releases this week!

In addition to writing for children, Randi is a literacy specialist and instructional coach in northwest Georgia, where she lives with her husband, two sons, and a sock-eating poodle. Learn more about Randi and her books on her website, www.randisonenshine.com, on Twitter @rsonenshine, and on Instagram @randisonenshine.

1 comment:

Damon Dean said...

What a wonderful peek into your inspirations, Randi! I can relate to the muses of wonder and nature. Thanks for sharing! Waiting anxiously for my pre-ordered copy of "The Lodge that Beaver Built."