Allison's Book Bag

Interview with Phillip Hoose

Posted on: March 6, 2014

PhillipHooseA graduate of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Sciences, Phillip Hoose worked almost forty years with The Nature Conservancy, an organization dedicated to preserving the animals, plants, natural communities of the Earth. Hoose recently came to my attention when, as part of award month at Allison’s Book Bag, I decided to read a nonfiction selection of his. Moonbird by Phillip Hoose earned the 2013 Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal Honor.

Hoose is an award-winning author of books, essays, stories, and articles. Although his first audience was adults, Hoose began writing for children and young adults in part to keep up with his own daughters. His children’s book, Hey, Little Ant was inspired by his daughter Ruby and co-authored by his daughter Hannah. Hoose has also written other titles fro young people including Moonbird.

As a songwriter and performing musician, Hoose has additional accolades. These include being the founding member of the Children’s Music Network and a member of the band Chipped Enamel.

Today I’m honored to present my interview with Hoose. I spoke to him about activism, writing, and about Moonbird. Return tomorrow for tips on how you can help protect the endangered Rufu Red Knot, the most famous of which is Moonbird. Then check out my review on Saturday. Save the dates: March 7-8!

ALLISON: When did you first become interested in the environment and activism?

PHILLIP: I was outdoors a lot as a child. Without realizing it, I was noticing, and classifying, and loving the things I saw.

ALLISON: What was it like working for The Nature Conservancy?

PHILLIP: Rewarding. I believe deeply in the Conservancy’s mission of protecting earth’s life forms by protecting their habitats. It works. I worked with dedicated people who knew a lot and didn’t mind sharing their knowledge. I didn’t ride on an airplane till I was 20. Started working for the Conservancy when I was 30. By the time I was 40, I had slept at least three nights in every state.

ALLISON: What are the lows of being an activist?

PHILLIP: Not being able to help people and improve situations you really care about. Things can go wrong, and it hurts when you care deeply. Injustice causes pain and anger, and you feel it.

ALLISON: What are the highs of being an activist?

PHILLIP: Community. Working with others to achieve common goals. Singing together is the absolute best.

ALLISON: What is your favorite cause?

PHILLIP: Impossible to answer. I love music. The Children’s Music Network is certainly one. Check them out at: www.cmnonline.org

ALLISON: Why writing as your means of activism?

PHILLIP: Writing is what I do. It’s second nature to me now, like breathing out and breathing in, to quote Prof. Higgins.

ALLISON: Why did you switch from writing for adults to writing for young people?

PHILLIP: While I was between books my daughter Hannah’s kindergarten class decided not to throw away their artwork, but rather to save it and have a silent auction. They raised $552 for a homeless shelter. I thought, wow, there must be a bunch of examples of young people making positive change. So I did the research, wrote It’s Our World Too!, and I was off!

ALLISON: How did you come to write about the Moon Bird?

PHILLIP: My friend Charles Duncan, an ornithologist, told me about this bionic individual that was attracting the hemisphere’s attention. He (B95 is a he) was becoming a rock star. Statues were being built of him. It was just such a great-sounding story. I jumped on a plane and went down to Tierra del Fuego to try to find him.

ALLISON: What are the highlights you would like to get across about the survival of the Moon Bird?

PHILLIP: There is a worldwide crisis of species loss, and shorebirds are among the life forms declining most rapidly. All living creatures are survivors of evolution’s trials and errors. The creatures you see have figured out ways to keep going. it’s worth it to learn about their attributes and strategies, and to help them along the way, rather than carelessly letting them wink out. The earth is a better, far more interesting place with them than without them.

ALLISON: As a nonfiction writer, how do you compete with the likes of Hunger Games and other best-selling fiction for young people?

PHILLIP: I don’t. I go to their movies and hope someday Hollywood will see the film potential in some of my books so that readers can go to my movies.

ALLISON: What is it like to go on tour as a nonfiction author? What would a sample presentation be like?

PHILLIP: Well, on my Moonbird tour I narrated a powerpoint of the images in the book and then took part in what was usually a vigorous discussion afterwards. Part way through the presentation I stopped, fetched a concealed guitar and sang the Delaware Bay Blues with them. How great to hear a room full of people scream “I need eggs!!!!!” Here’s the song:

ALLISON: What’s next?

PHILLIP: A tenth-anniversary edition of my book The Race to Save the Lord God Bird will be published this summer. Then, next spring, my World War Two book will appear.

OTHER INTERVIEWS:

  • LISTEN to Phillip Hoose Read and Discuss Moonbird at TeachingBooks.net
  • LISTEN to Phillip Hoose Interviewed on Public Radio
  • LISTEN to Phillip Hoose Interviewed on Utah Public (Radio West, KUER )
  • READ an Interview with Phillip Hoose on Philadelphia Inquirer
  • READ an Interview with Phillip Hoose on Publishers Weekly

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Spring Reviews

Almost a year after I announced that it was time to take a step back from this blog, Allison's Book Bag is still here. I'm slowly working back up to weekly reviews again. Each week, there will be one under any of these categories: Advanced Reader Copies, animal books, religious books, or diversity books. Some will come in the form of single reviews and others in the form of round-ups. Just ahead, there will be reviews of:

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  • The Distance Between Us by Reya Grande
  • Hearts of Fire from The Voice of Matyrs

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