Nonfiction Monday: Pamela Turner’s Next Big Thing



by Pamela S. Turner

Houghton Mifflin Company, 2013

Category: Middle-grade nonfiction

One of the many rewarding aspects of my career as a writer of science and nature books for young people is meeting other writers who share my passion for these topics. For the most part, these are men and women whose work I read and admired for a long time before I actually had a chance to meet them in person. That is certainly true for my colleague Pamela Turner.

If you are a fan of Houghton Mifflin’s ‘Scientists in the Field’ series, then you know Pamela’s books. THE GORILLA DOCTORS, THE FROG SCIENTIST and PROJECT SEAHORSE won many accolades for the series, including starred reviews, an SB&F Prize and more. What you may not know is that Pam is a wife, mother of three grown children, a passionate scuba diver, and even dabbles in Japanese swordfighting. (I am not kidding! Learn more at her website.)

Today, I’m happy to host Pam as she answers a few questions about her upcoming Scientists in the Field book, THE DOLPHINS OF SHARK BAY. It’ll be out this fall, and it is Pam’s Next Big Thing. Here’s a peek:

1. What is the working title of your book?

The title is The Dolphins of Shark Bay, and it already appears on Amazon with a release date of November 5, 2013. I should get a final proof of the layout in the next week or so.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

I was at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference a few years ago to receive an award for The Frog Scientist. In a presentation on the ethical implications of dolphin intelligence the speaker casually mentioned that some wild bottlenose dolphins in Western Australia use tools. Are you kidding me? I thought. I MUST find out more…

3. What genre does your book come under?

The Dolphins of Shark Bay is a nonfiction science book for children age ten and up. It’s illustrated with amazing color photographs by Scott Tuason, who also shot the photographs for my book Project Seahorse.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

The dolphins would play themselves, and cheesy computer-generated scenes would be banned. I would cast Sandra Bullock as Dr. Janet Mann. Eric Patterson could play himself because he’s already ridiculously good-looking. I would be played by Steven Colbert in drag.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Everyone knows dolphins are smart. The Dolphins of Shark Bay seeks to answer the question: Why are dolphins smart? (Okay, two sentences).

6. Who is publishing your book?

The Dolphins of Shark Bay will be published by Houghton Mifflin this fall.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About six months.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Surprisingly, there are very few books on bottlenose dolphins for middle grade children and young adults–mostly “factoid” books. In format Dolphins is much like other “Scientists in the Field” titles.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I’ve been a scuba diver for twenty-eight years, and each time I’ve seen wild dolphins underwater it was like a visitation from an angel. (Not that dolphins are actually angelic, as you’ll discover in The Dolphins of Shark Bay.)

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Many of the female dolphins in Shark Bay are incredible innovators and amazing athletes. The lives of adult male dolphins, on the other hand, perpetually resemble a sixth-grade slumber party where everybody is talking about everybody else and trying desperately to wiggle into the “cool” crowd. I would not want to be a male bottlenose dolphin!

Check out the Scientists in the Field blog for news and updates on all the Scientists in the field titles, their authors, and their subjects.

And be sure to catch this week’s roundup of Nonfiction Monday posts over at Perogies & Gyoza today.

18 Replies to “Nonfiction Monday: Pamela Turner’s Next Big Thing”

  1. Hi Loree! Wondeful interview with Pamela Turner. My favorite line (which I just tweeted): “Each time I’ve seen wild dolphins underwater, it was like a visitation from an angel.” I can’t wait to read the Dolphins of Shark Bay. She writes such beautiful narrative nonfiction.

    1. I remember reading a National Geographic article on dolphins when I was in middle school and learning about their ability to make bubble rings; it may have been the start of my march toward a career in science. Such incredible animals.

  2. I love the cover photo! (And can’t wait to see Steven Colbert as Pam…when is the movie coming out?) Seriously, another fabulous SITF book!

  3. What a fun interview. Stephen Colbert in drag? Females more innovative and athletic than males? The use of tools? All this and more from a scuba-diving, Japanese sword-fighting, award-winning writer? I’m sold :). Thanks, both of you!

  4. This sounds fabulous! And between the Japanese sword-fighting and the Stephen Colbert in drag comment, I’m thinking I need to learn more about Turner, too, not just dolphins! Can’t wait!

  5. I am a fan of the Scientists in the Field series. Your interview with the author makes me want to read it right now. This sounds fascinating. Thanks for the recommendation.
    Apples with Many Seeds

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