Meet a Local Author Mike Graf
“Where we can get to know California authors and illustrators of books for children and teens.” This issue, author Mike Graf was kind enough to do an interview by email.
Q. Congratulations on recent series on National Parks from Falcon Guides. You have written more than 70 books, mostly nonfiction for kids. How did you get your foot in the door of the publishing industry?
My first published book is called The Weather Report and is an activity-based teacher’s guide to everything you want to present to students about weather. I was teaching in San Luis Obispo when I came up with a weather unit that kept growing and eventually I sent it off to a publisher. They took the book which was later picked up by The Weather Channel! That is what got me started. But most of my books now are outdoor adventure fiction for children ages 8-12.
Q. You have a series called “Adventures with the Parkers” that blends factual information with a story. Tell us about that.
These are 12 national park adventure novels in our best national parks (Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Zion/Bryce, Great Smoky Mountains, Glacier …). The series is based on a made up family’s vacation in each of these parks. While there are things that could happen to them in real-life at the park, or has happened, I just fictionalize the events through the characters. While researching each of these books I visit the park and look for events that are educational, dangerous, exciting and unusual to incorporate into the story. Each of these books is also vetted by the park service to make sure all activities, information, and events portrayed in each of the books are accurate. Also the books contain factual sidebars and travel tips as well.
I am particularly excited about these books right now as present Obama just announced that all families with 4th graders will have a free pass next year to all national parks!! www.ibtimes.com/national-parks-pass-obamas-every-kid-park-program-gives-fourth-graders-families-free-1821518 .
Q. What were some of your favorite books as a child?
Easy answer for that. My all-time favorite children’s book is Phantom Tollbooth. I was also quite addicted to many Roald Dahl classics! I loved the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary as well. I also love Island of the Blue Dolphins.
Q. Do you visit schools and public libraries to talk to kids about your books? Tell us about some of your presentations for libraries and schools.
I am constantly on the road visiting schools and libraries. Here are my most requested presentations:
• National Park Adventures and Realistic Fiction: Schools get a combination of national park drama and storytelling, national park background information from key parks, and realistic fiction writing tips and techniques. This also fits well with my Adventures with the Parkers series of books.
• All About Weather: This one hour presentation teaches all about severe weather, storm chasing, weather safety, and basic meteorology.
• A Tour of the National Parks: A grand tour of many of our most famous national parks. While giving a slideshow of my journeys in the 12 national parks in the Adventures with the Parkers series, I will share some of the details and accounts I have experienced while researching each of these parks
• Writing Workshop: This 60-75 minute workshop is for smaller groups and follows my National Park Adventures and Realistic Fiction presentation. During this workshop I give further advice on writing and promote and guide students to begin writing their own stories by giving feedback along the way.
• Weather Workshop: Following my weather assembly, students will make cloud charts illustrating the four basic types of clouds and the weather each brings. Students will also learn about other cloud types and gets some basic tips on a weather broadcast.
• Mini Tour of the National Parks: (for K-1st grade classes only). In this presentation I will take younger students on a mini tour of some of our best national parks. With a slideshow presentation, I will share pictures and teach what makes the parks unique and awesome to visit.
• Author-In Residence Writing Seminar: For 5th grade and up, these seminars can be one to two weeks in length. Please inquire for details.
• SKYPE Presentations: Topics and time vary. Please ask for details.
Q. If so, how do librarians contact you for visits?
Q. Do you have any upcoming appearances for teachers or librarians?
Yes—many—and my schedule is constantly being added on to. I live in Chico and have Bay Area trips and California school trips scheduled all the time. I have a few openings left this school year and am scheduling for next year now as well!
Q. Do you have any new books coming out soon you can mention?
A Non-Fiction book for kids on the Everglades. I am also currently working on two California based hiking and camping guides and will soon have another book contracted (subject is a secret for the moment!)
Q. Anything else you would like our readers to know?
I am a former 4th/5th grade and GATE teacher and I LOVE visiting schools—it is one of my favorite things about being an author!!! My Parker series also has teacher’s activities that go along with it. I can email those out to anyone for free.
Special thanks to Mike Graf for this thoughtful interview! Penny Peck