Ginjer L. Clarke writes fun, fact-filled nonfiction beginning readers about weird, wonderful animals. Her love for strange creatures started early, as the first story she remembers writing in the third grade was “The Strange Animal” about a small, pink-spotted imaginary creature called a Woofa. She loves that her job entails visiting zoos and aquariums, reading lots of books, and even watching TV for research. And she can work at home in her pajamas, which is a lifelong dream!
Ginjer’s books, most of which are part of the Penguin Young Readers series, have sold a combined total of more than 3 million copies worldwide. Her books Freak Out! and Gross Out! were on Publisher’s Weekly‘s 2006 and 2007 lists of top 100 best-selling children’s books. Her books have been favorably reviewed in Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, Horn Book, School Library Journal, and regional newspapers and magazines, and have been featured in Scholastic Book Fairs. Her book Platypus! (Random House Step into Reading) was awarded the Maryland Library Association’s 2005 Blue Crab Young Reader Award for Nonfiction and was selected by the National Science Teachers Association as recommended classroom reading.
Ginjer is an experienced and lively school, library, and conference presenter, who has appeared at more than 200 elementary schools, regional reading and writing conferences, statewide book festivals, many bookstores and libraries, and even a zoo. She is a graduate of James Madison University and lives in Richmond, Virginia, with her husband, young son, and several silly-looking pets.
What’s Up in the Amazon Rainforest
Clarke launches a nonfiction series with an in-depth look at the Amazon rainforest. Faded map backgrounds, faux “taped-in” photographs, and pages marked with colored pencil create the feeling of an explorer’s notebook as Clarke walks readers through the history of the Amazon, threats like deforestation, and the animals and humans that populate it; noting that some 500 tribes live in the Amazon (and not all of them communicate with outsiders), Clarke introduces a handful of peoples, including the Yanomami, Matis, and Kayapó. The Amazon itself is enormous (“almost as big as the United States”), and Clarke capably covers substantial terrain in this book, too, making it an asset for readers looking to learn about one of the world’s most vibrant and important regions—or as Clarke puts it, a “crazy, cool, and crucial habitat.” 2015, Penguin Group, $8.99. Ages 8 to 12. Reviewer: Publisher’s Weekly.
Illustrated by Robbin Cuddy
Meerkats certainly are not one of the more common animals found in children’s books which makes this “All Aboard Science Reader” all the more interesting. At level 2 it contains simple sentences, dialogue, and plot. The text begins by telling us that meerkats live in the Kalahari Desert located in southern Africa. The families are led by an older female who in this story is pregnant. While the other meerkats pile up and go to sleep, she heads off to a separate chamber in their tunnel and gives birth. All of the members of the family will help in raising the new pups. These babysitters never leave the new ones alone. After four weeks in the burrow nursing, baby meerkats are ready to eat some real food. Members of the extended family show them how to dig for grubs, catch insects, mice lizards, and other small animals. Usually a meerkat is selected to stand guard over the family as it forages and warn of any danger such as eagles and cobras. All of the illustrations demonstrate what the text is telling. There are pictures of the meerkats standing and facing the sun to warm their bodies and others of them diving into holes to escape danger and snuggling up in their tunnels during the heat of the day. It is a fascinating and informative look at this little animal and a book that should be in classrooms and home libraries. 2010, Grosset & Dunlap/Penguin, $3.99. Ages 5 to 8. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot (Children’s Literature).
Far Out!: Animals That Do Amazing Things
Illustrated by Pete Mueller
Animals are interesting creatures that are able to accomplish some fascinating feats. In the first chapter, there are descriptions of how five different animals communicate with their group. The second chapter is about animals using tools. The reader can find out how the chimpanzee and the finch use a tool to get their meals. The Egyptian vulture, sea otter, and capuchin monkey use a common tool with a variation in operation to break open their food source. The next two chapters cover the topics of animal jobs and memory. The chapter headings are noted in bold print. Also, in bold print are the names of the animals when they are first introduced. Pronunciation keys are embedded in the text and are designated in parentheses with the word, “say.” There are color illustrations of the animals throughout the book. This book is part of the “All Aboard Science Reader” series, which covers other animals by utilizing high interest topics for early readers. 2009, Grosset & Dunlap/Penguin, $3.99. Ages 7 to 9. Reviewer: Carrie Hane Hung (Children’s Literature).
Mrs. Clarke is an experienced school and library presenter, who can provide tailored talks to grades K through 5. Her programs include book readings, discussion of how she got started writing, the process of how a book gets made, and concrete writing tips and exercises for older grades (and teachers too!).
Animals Are Fun!
Ginjer reads short books, plays a true-or-false listening game, and gives brief information about her background and the book process. For grades K-1.
This program has more discussion about the book process. It includes book readings with interactive questions and a question-and-answer session. For grades 2-3.
Let’s Get Writing!
The same as the Really Reading program but with a 15 minute writing workshop and a discussion of revisions. For grades 4-5.
Young Authors’ Club
For wanna-be student writers, this program gives selected upper-elementary students an opportunity to spend time with the author in a more intimate setting to develop their skills. Building on the information they have already learned in the general session and the story starter they created, they will stretch their stories, add details and expressive language, and then experience the challenges and successes of editing to achieve better-quality writing. This program can be during school, after school, or a follow-up to a previous visit. Same fee applies for a single session depending on the school’s location.
Ginjer will give up to four presentations of between 30 minutes and one hour per day for up to 200 students per session. For schools within one hour driving distance of Richmond, Virginia, the fee is $200 per session ($800 per day). Presentations within a two-hour driving distance are $250 per session ($1,000 per day). Schools three hours or more from Richmond are $300 per session ($1,200 per day) plus meals and accommodations, if necessary.
To learn more about Ginjer Clarke and her publications please visit her web page.