New Voice: Jeanette Larson on Hummingbirds

Jeanette Larson is the first-time author of Hummingbirds: Facts and Folklore from the Americas (Charlesbridge, 2011). From the promotional copy:

Hummingbirds are fascinating little creatures that have captured the imagination of people for thousands of years. Since they are only found in the Americas, the stories about this tiny bird originated from the peoples of North and South America.

These native cultures wrote stories to offer explanations for the behavior and physical characteristics of this graceful species: Why does the hummingbird drink nectar? What accounts for its amazing flying abilities? Why is the hummingbird attracted to the color red?

Jeannette Larson and Adrienne Yorinks have compiled facts and folklore about these intriguing fliers that will answer these questions and many more. Readers will also get a glimpse into the different cultures that have been transfixed for centuries by this bird, as well as learn many interesting scientific facts discovered by modern-day ornithologists.

Adrienne’s bold and unique mixed-media quilts illustrate the hummingbird in nature and the mystery of these birds in ancient folklore.

Substantial back matter includes an index, a glossary of terms, suggested further reading and websites, a bibliography, sources, resources, and a list of hummingbird sanctuaries.

What is it like, to be a debut author in 2011? What do you love about it? What are the challenges? What came as the biggest surprise? In each case, why?

In some ways I don’t think of myself as a “debut author” because I’ve written for librarians and I worked on Quilt of States by Adrienne Yorinks (National Geographic, 2005). So it kind of surprises me that this really, really is my debut book for children.

I love the feedback I’m getting about the book, and I love seeing people enjoying the book. As a librarian, I delight in seeing the right book in the hands of the right person.

The biggest surprise has been the reaction from adults. Although the book was written for readers in grades three through six, a lot of people are buying copies for parents and grandparents who love hummingbirds. So I guess I’m surprised by the wide audience range.

The biggest challenge for me is talking about my own book. For much of my career I’ve “sold” other people’s books and it’s much harder to talk about my own work.

As a nonfiction writer, what inspired you to take on your topic? What about it fascinated you? Why did you want to offer more information about it to young readers?

As a librarian I was often asked if I wanted to be a writer. I really didn’t have any story that I wanted to tell.

As I got closer to “taking my pension” from the library, I did start to think about topics that interested me.

Adrienne Yorinks and I really wanted to do a book together, but I wanted a topic that would really work with her fabric art.

My husband and I took a little vacation weekend in Rockport, Texas and when I walked out of the hotel I was surrounded by hummingbirds. It was Texas HummerBird Celebration weekend. I don’t know exactly how the hummingbirds know which weekend to show up in Rockport, but they do!

I started thinking about the birds and recalled from my anthropology studies (The University of New Mexico) that many of the indigenous peoples in the Americas had stories about hummingbirds. I learned that these little dynamos only live in the Americas.

I’ve always liked birds, and we have a lot of hummers in our garden. I started thinking about them and their lives and how far they fly to migrate and how adaptable they are, even though they are so small and delicate.

So I decided to combine facts and folklore as a way to provide information about these unique and beautiful creatures.

Cynsational Notes

Enter to win an author-signed copy of Hummingbirds: Facts and Folklore from the Americas. To enter the giveaway, comment here or email me (scroll and click envelope) and type “Hummingbirds” in the subject line. Deadline: midnight CST April 8. Note: author sponsored; U.S./Canada entries only.

7 thoughts on “New Voice: Jeanette Larson on Hummingbirds

  1. I had to hum in on your topic. I absolutely adore these birds. What a great subject!!! Had to take down my feeder because the bears were getting at it–no fooling. Will look for your book. It will be easier to find than my library card!


  2. I have to confess I'm not good about feeders. I will plant lots of hummer bushes and flowers but travel too much to commit to a feeder. We don't have to worry about bears (Where are you? Wow!) but we get killer ants and other bugs.

  3. Oh, my — I would love to win a copy of this! I've seen some interior spreads on other sites — the quilts are gorgeous. What a wonderful subject. And to think that up until now I never realized that hummingbirds are only found in the Americas!

  4. My friend and I are planning a trip to Rockport for the HummerBird Celebration. I would love to win this book, so we could take turns reading to the driver on our way to Rockport from Fort Worth area.

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