Friday, March 10, 2023

Animal Moms have Superpowers!

Supermoms! Animal Heroes 
by Heather Lang & Jamie Harper; illus. by Jamie Harper 
40 pages; ages 3-7
Candlewick, 2023 

theme: animal families, STEM

Supermoms are everywhere. They come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and species.

Like other superheroes, Supermoms have different sorts of superpowers. Some make safe burrows and other comfy places to live – and hide from predators. Some make sure that siblings are separated so they don’t eat each other. Other supermoms focus on meals – some making lengthy treks to get enough food to feed their young. And some supermoms are fierce fighters, doing what it takes to protect their babies.

What I like about this book: I like the many different superpowers that different animal moms have: super hardworking, super protective, super smart, super strong… The list is long and diverse and includes mammals, reptiles, birds, fish, amphibians, and mollusks. 

I like the fun cartoon illustrations and the dialog balloons that give the youngsters voice. For example, when the bat mom carries her pup on her chest while she flies, the pup begs her to do the “dip of death” – in much the same way a kid might beg to be tossed in the air and caught.

And, there is Back Matter! One spread gives each supermom a chance to share a fun fact about her superpower. There’s also a list of books and online resources for curious kids to explore.

I had so much fun reading this book that I just had to ask Heather and Jamie a couple of questions. Okay, so maybe I asked them Three Questions.

Me: So Heather, you mentioned reading Harriet the Spy to prepare for a life of spywork. But that job didn’t pan out. How did Harriet the Spy prepare you for a life of writing children’s books? 

Heather: It’s true! I wanted to be just like Harriet or Nancy Drew—smart, fearless, and independent. Who knew those childhood fantasies could be fulfilled writing nonfiction for kids! 

Of course, good detective work requires lots of fact-finding missions with clues, dead ends, and many twists and turns. Google searches, even on seemingly reputable websites, are rarely sufficient. I especially love learning from experts. I never know what treasures they’ll share, and I always come away even more excited about my topic, often with new leads to investigate. For Supermoms! our experts were critical. They confirmed facts, resolved conflicting information, and shared rich details we could add to the text or use in our back matter.

To make sure my detective work is up to Nancy Drew standards, I try to find ways to experience what I’m writing about. I’ve gone swimming with sharks, paraglided off the top of a mountain, explored the treetops of the Amazon, gone on a safari in the Serengeti, and most recently, hiked deep into the rainforests of Madagascar in search of endangered lemurs. Whether I’m shadowing a scientist, observing an animal, or soaking up sensory details, those adventures enrich my writing in countless ways.

Me: Now I’ve got a question for Jamie. Can you talk about the research you did? 

Jamie: I knew I would love doing research for Supermoms! because I had a small taste of it when I made the four Miss Mingo books. They were fiction titles, but factoids were included throughout each one. I know you can’t rely on the web alone, but I was amazed by how much conflicting information I found. That led to my reading scientific articles on Google Scholar and to reaching out to experts on particular species. They were generous with their time and in sharing their knowledge. Take Ad Konings, a guru on all things cichlid. He helped me find just the right cichlid with just the right colors, and identified the perfect, ugliest cichlid predator to use in the book. He was a terrific resource and teacher.

To become familiar with the animal's anatomy and how they move, I started watching videos on YouTube, the Nature Series on PBS (there have to be hundreds of episodes and I haven’t seen them all yet), plus the huge collection of animal documentaries streaming on Apple TV, Disney and National Geographic. Another new and exciting research tool was drawing animals live on a platform provided on Instagram. For two hours, I drew orangutans while watching them in their natural habitat—good practice for creating my orangutans in Supermoms!

Me: So what are your Supermom powers?

Heather: Looking back, I think my powers evolved as my kids got older and needed different things from me. Perhaps I’m super flexible like our mama giraffe on the cover. Raising triplets plus another little one, I needed to be super patient, and changing up to thirty-five diapers a day, I will say I was super hardworking! As the kids grew, I was always looking for super creative, hands-on projects to entertain them. The teenage years were the most challenging—finding that balance between guiding them and letting them go off and make their own mistakes. I always strove to be super sensible (although sometimes my super protective nature got the best of me). These days, I’m super grateful to have four kind and wonderful adult kids, whom I adore.

Jamie: I wish I could say that I share the same powers as our supermoms! I have three girls who are all grown up now and living their own lives. I’d like to believe I raised them with lots of love, kindness, and respect. And that I was patient, a good listener and consistent in my parenting. But those really aren’t special powers—so I’m wondering, do I have any special powers? I’m a baker and I always have the freezer stocked with the girls’ favorite baked treats just in case they pop home. I’m a communicator so I let my girls know regularly that I’m available—to talk, to listen, or to get together. Now that I think about it some more, I do have something in common with the supermoms in the book. Like the penguin, I too would travel for weeks and weeks to get food for my baby chicks. . . if the food was homemade ice cream and I could get it back home without melting.

Beyond the Books:

Find out how mother animals (and sometimes father animals) care for their young. One way is to read a book or article. Another way is to watch animal families: ducks at a neighborhood park, or cats, or even animals at a zoo.

Do you have a supermom (or super grandma)? What are her superpowers? My mom had eyes on the back of her head, and she could freeze us motionless with her stare of doom.

Heather and Jamie are members of #STEAMTeam2023. You can find out more about Heather at her website, Learn more about Jamie at her website, They both are active on Instagram, Twitter, and on Facebook.

Today we’re joining Perfect Picture Book Friday. It’s a wonderful gathering where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill’s website. Review copy provided by the publisher.

1 comment:

  1. I'm looking forward to reading this book and its follow-on.