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The Animal Book: Author Steve Jenkins’s 2014 BGHB NF Honor Speech

jenkins_animal bookI’ve been interested in the science of the natural world for as long as I can remember. As a child, I read anything and everything about animals that I could get my hands on, even if I didn’t always understand it. At the time — this was in the late 1950s — the children’s nonfiction landscape was pretty bleak. There were high-quality reference books — the Golden Guides were my favorites — but many of the nonfiction trade books for children were written in that insipid Dick-and-Jane style. The publication I remember most clearly from that time — and one that in some ways led, many years later, to The Animal Book — was a 1958 Life magazine my parents gave me. The cover story was titled “The Fantastic Galapagos: Darwin’s Treasure of Wildlife.” It included page after page of remarkable illustrations of the islands’ flora and fauna, and it served as my introduction to the theory of evolution. Things have changed a lot since then. Sadly, it’s been an uphill struggle for Darwin, but the picture is much brighter when it comes to children’s literature. Today there are many, many excellent nonfiction books for children. To have my book recognized among such company is a significant honor.

I suppose that there is something a bit oxymoronic about a 208-page picture book, and I’d like to thank my editor, Margaret Raymo, for believing that I could pull it off, and I’d like to thank the Boston Globe-Horn Book committee for apparently agreeing.

Thank you.

For more on the 2014 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, click on the tag BGHB14. Read Steve Jenkins’s 1999 Boston Globe-Horn Book Nonfiction Award speech for Top of the World.

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