Local author and illustrator connect children with natural environment through wildlife series

Published 12:23 pm Thursday, May 9, 2024

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Local author Adrienne Palma has been connecting children with the natural world which surrounds them through her educational and enriching wildlife book series. Her latest release, Bella the Black Bear, hit shelves May 1. Each book is told from the perspective of an animal which one could encounter on the eastern shores, reserves and marshes of North Carolina.

As an educator, Palma prioritizes sparking awareness for local ecosystems while helping children develop a love for reading. Her Under the Sea and Wildlife book series have begun to curate a deep appreciation for the natural world within all those who pick them up off the shelves.

Palma had worked in the education system for 25 years, both in New Jersey and North Carolina. She has always loved the outdoors and enjoyed teaching her students about what natural wonders lie beyond the walls of the classroom. In visiting national parks, aquariums, national refuges and swimming in open water, this children’s author decided to learn more about the animals who dwell just outside of her backyard.

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“I really want my children’s books to be entertaining, educational and factual,” Palma shared in an interview with The Coastland Times. “My goal is always for children to develop a love of reading … and increase their knowledge while growing in awareness, which will hopefully continue throughout their lives.”

The Under the Sea series started with research on loggerhead sea turtles. Palma spoke with volunteers at the Network for Endangered Sea Turtles (NEST) to gather information and fact-check details regarding the species. She had been interested in these turtles since moving to the Outer Banks because loggerheads are known to nest right on the beaches. She relied on the experts to guide her through the day-to-day life of the animals and accurately illustrate how they live, what they eat, where they reproduce and who their natural predators are.

Lola the Loggerhead was the first book in Palma’s Under the Sea series, followed by Dawson the Dolphin, Crystal the Crab, Oliver the Otter and Shalim the Shark. Her network of experts has expanded with every book thus far. From staff at the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island, to guides with local ghost crab tours, to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) program managers and staff at the Dolphin Research Center in Grassy Key, Fla., this author has sought the assistance of several specialists in each field. The upcoming release of Bella the Black Bear marks the second book in her Wildlife series, following Willie the Red Wolf.

“It’s been a really fun adventure,” Palma shared in regard to researching and writing her children’s books. Readers will find at the tail end of each publication a list of fun facts about the respective animal. The pages are filled with colorful illustrations which depict the animals in their natural environment.

Dawn Van Ness has teamed up with Palma to bring life to each story and is the artist behind the pages. Once the author shares inspirational shots of each animal and a mock-up of the book, Van Ness gets to work. Her medium of choice is acrylics on multimedia paper. “It’s wonderful because each book challenges me to learn new skills, like how to paint fur or how to get reflective light in the eyes,” the artist explained. “This lets me spend more time with the animals and learn more about them through the photos that Adrienne sources.”

Involving students in the writing process has been something Palma has uniquely explored. A third grade class had pitched in on the research end of things while she was working on Oliver the Otter. In conducting their own bit of research and working up illustrations for the book, the author was able to include their findings and artwork with her publication. “It’s fun to see her engage with students … it engages the children that much more with the wildlife around their area,” Van Ness shared.

Palma and Van Ness hope their love of nature will be apparent in each work and that those who read the books in these series will develop an appreciation for their local wildlife. Copies of all seven books can be found at local Outer Banks bookstores, including Downtown Books and Buxton Village Books, as well as at the USFWS Gateway Visitor Center and Oregon Inlet Fishing Center. Books are available in bookstores from Vermont to Key West, Fla. and expanding to aquariums and zoos across the country.

Palma will be attending Dare Day in Manteo on June 1 to sign copies of all of her books. She will be set up at the Downtown Books tent. To learn more, go to adriennepalma.com.