Posted by Rebecca G. Aguilar, M.Ed. on November 8, 2014
The Case of the Vanishing Little Brown Bats: A Scientific Mystery
By Sandra Markle
Publisher: Millbrook Press
Publication date: 9/28/2014
Preserving endangered species habitat can captivate the imagination of young science aficionados inspired by the prospect of careers in wildlife biology. Award-winning children’s author Sandra Markle understands the exhilarating draw of scientists who save animals from extinction and peers into their work in several A Scientific Mystery books, including The Case of the Vanishing Golden Frogs and The Case of the Vanishing Honeybees.
In a quest to learn more about writing true stories for children, I review Markle’s latest scientific mystery, The Case of the Vanishing Little Brown Bats.
NF 4 NF organizer, librarian and author Pat Miller calls on writers, no matter what stage in their journey, to find mentor texts that can serve as roadmaps for their writing.
As a highly worthwhile mentor text for science nonfiction, Markle’s book makes facts about little brown bats relevant and salient for readers through the often overlooked skill of interviewing. In the author’s note, Markle writes about her firsthand interviews with scientists and their efforts to save the hibernating habitat of these flying mammals.
“The stakes are extremely high—keeping little brown bats and a number of other kinds of bats from becoming extinct. And scientists continue to collect clues in this ongoing investigation.”
Because her books are written for grades 2-6, the publisher omits a detailed bibliography. So, the kind of bookwork Markle performed in researching little brown bat biologists is not evident in the back matter.
What is clear in The Case of the Vanishing Little Brown Bats is Markle’s remarkable aptitude for interviewing. As a primary research gathering tool, her interviews are the source of quotes, photographs and details that recreate the work of wildlife biology and highlight the experience for readers.
Markle traced links between teams of scientists surveying bat populations in the Adirondack Mountains. She connected with wildlife biologists in their native habitats—performing field work in caves and experiments in labs and doing the kind of inquiry that led them to a fuzzy white fungus found on the sleeping little brown bats.
“Because of Reeder’s findings, one team of scientists at the NWHC, led by David Blehert, is using instruments to monitor and record the temperature and humidity in caves in the eastern United States.”
Solid interviewing like Markle’s can be honed by listening, observing and asking the kinds of questions that solicit more than yes/no answers and possibly newer questions.
“What do hibernating bats need? A hibernating bat needs to be undisturbed. Coming out of hibernation causes it to use up stored body fat as it warms up and becomes active.”
Facklam and Thomas (2011) in Anatomy of Nonfiction recommend that writers keep a list of experts mentioned in books and articles on their topic. Writers can research organizations that are referred to often or find professionals by contacting a university public relations office. And, like Markle, ask to be directed to anyone in the department of wildlife biology willing to talk about their work.
Sandra Markle is the author of numerous award-winning books for children and a science education consultant for CNN, PBS and the National Science Foundation.
An imprint of Lerner Publishing Group, Millbrook Press publishes informative picture books, illustrated nonfiction series and inspiring photo-driven titles for grades K–5.