Heather Lang is the author of the new children's picture book biography The Leaf Detective: How Margaret Lowman Uncovered Secrets in the Rainforest. Her other books include Anybody's Game. She lives in Massachusetts.
Q: How did you learn about conservationist Margaret Lowman, and what inspired you to write a picture book about her?
A: We’ve done so much harm to our natural world over the last few centuries, and I’m especially concerned about our rainforests.
People are logging and burning down rainforests for farming and agriculture at an alarming rate. More than half of our forests have already been destroyed. Scientists believe rainforests like the Amazon are near a tipping point.
I knew I wanted to write a biography about a scientist/conservationist that was also a science book about the rainforest.
I searched online and spent a lot of time at the library. When I read about Meg Lowman—an exceptional biologist, educator, and conservationist—I was intrigued. Then when I learned about her deep passion for trees and her courageous work exploring tree canopies, I was hooked.
Meg pioneered treetop science, using ropes and harnesses, canopy walkways, and hot air balloons with inflatables. In the process she has made countless discoveries. And she works tirelessly to come up with creative ways to save trees locally and globally. It’s been such an honor to share her story.
Q: In our previous interview, you described some of the experiential research you conducted for your other books. What did you do to research this one?
A: Experiencing trees and nature is something we can all do and something I have done my whole life.
I’ve always admired trees, but I didn’t have a true appreciation for all the things they do for our world until I went to the Amazon rainforest with Meg.
I learned so much from her about the magic of our rainforests. I learned firsthand what it’s like to be a rainforest scientist. And I came away with a new understanding of what it means to all be interconnected—from tiny ants to trees to humans.
Experiencing this kind of personal growth is one of the most exciting parts of writing a book. It’s a gift I’ll always be grateful for and one I try to pass on to my readers.
Q: What do you hope kids take away from Meg Lowman's story?
A: There are so many things I hope kids will take away from this book. Here are three of the most important:
I hope Meg’s story will inspire students interested in STEM fields, especially girls, to follow their passions and persevere through challenges.
I hope this book will motivate kids to explore and enjoy nature!
I hope kids will be wowed by trees and the many valuable things they do for our world—from providing oxygen, food, water, and medicine to cleaning our air. Inspiring young people to appreciate and respect trees is critical to saving our natural world. And there’s no time to waste.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m thrilled to be working on a collective biography about 12 conservationists for readers in grades 4-7.
I’m also having a blast working on a new informational picture book series about extraordinary animals for Candlewick Press with my co-author/illustrator and close friend Jamie Harper.
The first book, Supermoms!, features cool nonfiction facts about 18 amazing animal moms in a graphic format with humorous callouts.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: Students can “meet” Meg and learn about the rainforest and her journey by watching a series of short videos I took of Meg when we were in the Amazon. Check out FUN FACTS FROM THE FIELD WITH THE LEAF DETECTIVE on The Leaf Detective page of my website. There’s also an excellent discussion guide for educators.
Thanks so much for these excellent questions, Deborah, and for featuring The Leaf Detective on your blog!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Heather Lang.