Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Interview with "Our Powerful Planet" Author Tim O'Shei

Our Powerful Planet author Tim O'Shei has written over 40 kids' books. He published his first national magazine article at 16 and had his first book contract by the age of 20. An inspiration to all aspiring authors, he was nice enough to answer a few of our questions on the environment, what inspires him to write, and his favourite kids' book.

What inspired you to write Our Powerful Planet?

We all have to do more to help our Earth. Period. I'm absolutely convinced of that, and I have been for a long time. Writing this book is my chance to make a difference by teaching kids about our planet and inspiring them to treat it well.

What was your research process like? Were you familiar with the material prior to writing the book?

Ha! Ask my editor, Meghan Nolan, about the research process! It was long, hard, challenging, sometimes frustrating -- and incredibly rewarding. Why challenging? Well, Earth is a tough place to "understand." If scientists knew exactly how it worked, we'd be able to predict every bit of weather and cure climate change in a snap. Meghan and I really worked well as a team trying to dig up the vital information and the most interesting facts. Why frustrating? Frankly, it's difficult to convey some of these concepts in a children's book. That's where Meghan pushed and pushed me. She made suggestions, ordered rewrites, gave pointed feedback, and ultimately helped me craft a book that I'm proud to hold in my hands. She was like the coach; I was the athlete. She made me sweat -- and it was worth it. We've got a book that's loaded with crisp, clear and sometimes alarmingly information ... must-know stuff. It'll make kids think.

What was the most interesting fact you stumbled upon? What’s your favourite weather phenomena?

A large hurricane creates more energy than every human on the planet uses in an entire year. I wonder if someday we'll learn how to harness the energy of a hurricane and use it. If we could do that, our energy crisis would disappear as quickly as a bolt of lightning. Which leads me to my favorite phenomena -- ball lightning. This is a type of lightning that shows up as a fizzy, glowing, basketball-sized sphere. It hisses and pops for a few seconds, and then it's gone.

How much of a role do children play in impacting the future of this planet?

A very big role. Think of it this way: If every kid recycled, avoided wasting paper, and walked or biked whenever possible, this planet would be much healthier. (So would we, by the way, thanks to the extra physical activity.)

What are the little, everyday things we could do to have a greener lifestyle?

The goal is to stop putting so much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Cars and fuel-burning machines put CO2 into the air. Trees absorb CO2, so when we cut them down, more of it gets trapped in the atmosphere. Little things make all the difference when everybody does them. Kids can cut down on how much fuel their family uses by walking, biking or riding a scooter. When you have to drive somewhere, see if your family can carpool with others. Cut down on paper by doing your assignments online, borrowing books from the library, and donating old books to the library. There are some side benefits to all of this: When you walk, ride or scoot, you burn calories and build muscle. When you do your homework on the computer, it turns out neater. And when you borrow books from the library, you save money.One more thought: Kids can also take a leadership role in their schools and communities by organizing programs like recycling drives and water-saving days.

Time for a hypothetical: would you rather ride a tornado or take a journey to the center of the Earth?

Whew, that's a tough one. Let's see ... Roller coasters are fun, so riding a tornado sounds cool. But then again, tornado winds can hit 200 miles/320 kilometers per hour. The world's fastest roller coasters are only a little more than half that fast. Sounds pretty dangerous -- not to mention a surefire way to mess up your hair -- so maybe I'll take a journey to the center of the Earth. Then again, the core of the planet consists of molten iron -- that'll melt your hair and skin off! I suppose what I'd do is build a heat-resistant traveling machine that spins as fast as a tornado to dig through the Earth's rocky crust on a whirlwind journey to the center of the planet. Since nobody has ever gone there, who knows what new phenomena we'd find!

And of course, what was your favourite book as a child?

Ribsy, by Beverly Cleary. My second grade teacher, Mrs. Kuhanek, read my class this story of a lost dog and the boy who loved him. Something about that story captured my attention and I wanted badly to read it myself. The catch is this: Back then I struggled mightily with reading and writing. But Mrs. Kuhanek gave me the book at the end of the year, and I managed to read it over the summer. I fell in love with reading through that book, and my love for writing following quickly behind.

You can visit Tim O'Shei on his website by clicking here. For green holiday craft ideas, please click here.

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