Johnson, Rebecca L. 1956-
JOHNSON, Rebecca L. 1956-
PERSONAL: Born April 10, 1956, in Sioux Falls, SD; married Leland Johnson, 1978; stepchildren: Michael, Julie, Franklin. Education: Augustana College, B.A., 1978, M.A., 1986.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Lerner Publications Company, 241 First Ave. N, Minneapolis, MN 55401.
CAREER: Freelance writer and science illustrator, 1982—. Great Plains Zoo and Delbridge Museum of Natural History, Sioux Falls, SD, part-time instructor; member, National Science Foundation Antarctic Artists and Writers Program.
(With husband, Leland G. Johnson) Essentials of Biology, W. C. Brown, 1986.
The Secret Language: Pheromones in the AnimalWorld, Lerner (Minneapolis, MN), 1989.
Diving into Darkness: A Submersible Explores theSea, Lerner (Minneapolis, MN), 1989.
The Greenhouse Effect: Life on a Warmer Planet, Lerner (Minneapolis, MN), 1990.
The Great Barrier Reef: A Living Laboratory, Lerner (Minneapolis, MN), 1991.
Investigating the Ozone Hole, Lerner (Minneapolis, MN), 1993.
Science on the Ice: An Antarctic Journal, Lerner (Minneapolis, MN), 1995.
Braving the Frozen Frontier: Women Working in Antarctica, Lerner (Minneapolis, MN), 1997.
What It Took: A History of the USGS EROS DataCenter, Augustana College (Sioux Falls, SD), 1998.
Global Warming, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 2002.
Ernest Shackleton: Gripped by the Antarctic, Carolrhoda Books (Minneapolis, MN), 2003.
Looking at Cells, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 2003.
You and Your Genes, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 2003.
The Magic of Light and Sound, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 2003.
Paul Sereno: Digging for Dinosaurs, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 2003.
Robert Ballard: Discovering Underwater Treasures, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 2003.
Weather and Climate, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 2003.
"BIOMES OF NORTH AMERICA" SERIES; ILLUSTRATED BY PHYLLIS V. SAROFF
A Walk in the Boreal Forest, Carolrhoda Books (Minneapolis, MN), 2001.
A Walk in the Deciduous Forest, Carolrhoda Books (Minneapolis, MN), 2001.
A Walk in the Desert, Carolrhoda Books (Minneapolis, MN), 2001.
A Walk in the Prairie, Carolrhoda Books (Minneapolis, MN), 2001.
A Walk in the Rain Forest, Carolrhoda Books (Minneapolis, MN), 2001.
A Walk in the Tundra, Carolrhoda Books (Minneapolis, MN), 2001.
A Journey into a Lake, Carolrhoda Books (Minneapolis, MN), 2004.
A Journey into a River, Carolrhoda Books (Minneapolis, MN), 2004.
A Journey into a Wetland, Carolrhoda Books (Minneapolis, MN), 2004.
A Journey into an Estuary, Carolrhoda Books (Minneapolis, MN), 2004.
A Journey into the Ocean, Carolrhoda Books (Minneapolis, MN), 2004.
Contributor to numerous textbooks. Several of Johnson's books have been translated into Spanish.
WORK IN PROGRESS: The Muscular System and The Digestive System, both for Lerner (Minneapolis, MN), publication expected in 2005.
SIDELIGHTS: Inspired by an early love of science, Rebecca L. Johnson has communicated both her enthusiasm for the natural world and her wide-ranging, firsthand knowledge of scientific exploration to young people through her many nonfiction books. As a child, Johnson enjoyed her family's annual trips to Chicago, where she could visit, as she once described to CA, "one of my favorite places in the world: the Field Museum of Natural History." Although at first fascinated by the exhibits on ancient civilizations such as Egypt, Johnson has since broadened her interests and now focuses on earth sciences in such books as Investigating the Ozone Hole, A Walk in the Tundra, and Science on the Ice: An Antarctic Journal. Praised by many reviewers, Science on the Ice recounts Johnson's trip to Antarctica's McMurdo Research Station where she explored the range of scientific discovery occurring at the base of the planet. Calling the book "richly rewarding" and "a marvelously personal look at scientific investigation and survival in one of the world's harshest ecosystems," School Library Journal contributor Patricia Manning added that Science on the Ice follows geologists, biologists, ecologists, and meteorologists as they explore the way life adapts to ultracold conditions and how changes in the earth are affecting the South Pole region, where summertime temperatures often peak at minus fifty degrees Fahrenheit.
Johnson's first book for children, The Secret Language: Pheromones in the Animal World, grew out of research the author did for her master's degree at South Dakota's Augustana College. Her next book was inspired by a visit with a group of marine biologists who work with deep-diving research subs. In Diving into Darkness: A Submersible Explores the Sea, Johnson recounts her own experience taking a trip in one of these subs to a depth of more than 2,000 feet. Similarly, a trip to Australia inspired The Great Barrier Reef: A Living Laboratory. A participant in the scientific study of the world's largest coral reef, Johnson "captures the excitement and commitment" of the men and women working to ensure the safety of the reef's ecosystem from pollution and other environmental hazards, according to Booklist contributor Karen Hutt. "Rather than the usual litany of the creatures of this unique habitat," Johnson's book views the region "through the eyes of research scientists," according to Manning in School Library Journal. The author begins with a discussion of the reef's evolution and the plants and animals it is home to and then moves on to focus on efforts to regenerate giant clams through farming, the reproduction habits of sea turtles, and the problems caused by unusually large starfish populations in the area, illustrating her text with numerous color photographs.
The Greenhouse Effect: Life on a Warmer Planet and Investigating the Ozone Hole both explore the environmental issues concerning the depletion of the ozone layer and the formation of a hole in the ozone over Antarctica. Johnson discusses the theory advanced by many in the scientific community: that the chlorine released into the atmosphere by refrigerants and the use of aerosols has degraded the ozone layer protecting Earth from the ultraviolet light, resulting in genetic mutation and other environmental problems. One shortcoming of Investigating the Ozone Hole, as pointed out by an Appraisal contributor, is that Johnson neglects "the controversial aspects of research and [U.S.] government policy related to ozone depletion" and does not touch upon the argument by some scientists that ozone depletion does not pose significant hazards to the planet. Nonetheless, a Kirkus Reviews critic called Investigating the Ozone Hole "an impressive, if scary, book," while in Appraisal another contributor commented that science students "should find this book to be informative as well as fairly easy to read."
For younger readers, Johnson has worked with Carolrhoda Books to create the "Biomes of North America" series. Including such volumes as A Walk in the Desert, A Walk in the Rain Forest, and A Journey into a Wetland, the series consists of short books that describe the characteristics of each climate, the plants and animals that inhabit each area, and the way each biome functions. Praising the photographs included in each volume as "breathtaking," Children's Book and Play Review contributor Marilyn Lee called Johnson's series of books "beautiful, fascinating, and informative," while in Booklist, Stephanie Zvirin praised the text of A Walk in the Tundra as "lively" and noted the inclusion of a comprehensive glossary as well as maps and a resources section that includes a wealth of online sources. Reviewing A Walk in the Boreal Forest, Kathy Piehl, in her School Library Journal review, praised Johnson for providing young readers with "a well-crafted introduction to an area little explored in children's books."
In biographies such as Ernest Shackleton: Gripped by the Antarctic and Robert Ballard: Discovering Underwater Treasures, Johnson introduces readers to several noteworthy scientists. Reviewing the biography about Sir Ernest Shackleton, the Irishman who captained the ill-fated Endurance to within ninety-seven miles of the South Pole during World War I before being forced back by the cold and ice, Marlene Gawron noted in School Library Journal that Johnson's "writing is lively and clear and the story is compelling."
Regarding her career as an author, Johnson once explained: "Writing was something I didn't seriously consider taking up as my vocation until I was in my mid-twenties. But I've never regretted [it] because writing has made it possible for me to spend my life . . . exploring . . . science and nature.
"My first real exposure to book writing came when I met my husband, who at the time was in the middle of writing a college biology textbook. During the first few years of our marriage, I became immersed in book work. I quickly learned all about deadlines, reviewers, editors, layouts, galleys, and photo searches—everything that goes into the creative process of writing and putting together a book. I also learned that writing well is a challenging task; it's hard work that requires not just tireless creativity, but enormous dedication and discipline."
Johnson sees part of her task as a writer to help sustain the advancement of scientific study by inspiring young people to choose science as a career. "Part of the problem may lie in the fact that many children have little or no idea of what scientists, whatever their particular field, actually do on a day to day basis," she once explained. "This tends to make science a subject that doesn't have much connection with reality for them. I'm trying to address this problem more and more in my writing. If, through my writing, I can capture the interest of even just a few readers and increase their appreciation of science, I'll feel that I have succeeded in doing something very positive. For me, writing about science is the best of two worlds. I'm able to be an explorer and experience firsthand the excitement of many different kinds of scientific research, then turn around and have the fun of sharing it all with young people."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Appraisal, spring, 1994, review of Investigating theOzone Hole, pp. 19-20; autumn, 1995, review of Science on the Ice: An Antarctic Journal, p. 26.
Booklist, May 15, 1992, Karen Hutt, review of TheGreat Barrier Reef: A Living Laboratory, p. 1678; March 1, 1994, Karen Hutt, review of Investigating the Ozone Hole, p. 1257; February 15, 1997, Kay Weisman, review of Braving the Frozen Frontier: Women Working in Antarctica, p. 1018; October 15, 2000, Stephanie Zvirin, review of A Walk in the Tundra, p. 460.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, March, 1997, Susan S. Verner, review of Braving the Frozen Frontier, pp. 250-251.
Children's Book and Play Review, September, 2001, Marilyn Lee, review of "Biomes of North America" series.
Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 1994, review of Investigating the Ozone Hole, p. 69; January 1, 1997, review of Braving the Frozen Frontier, p. 59.
Reading Teacher, November, 1992, p. 240.
School Library Journal, July, 1992, Patricia Manning, review of The Great Barrier Reef, p. 84; July, 1995, P. Manning, review of Science on the Ice, p. 100; March, 1997, Eldon Younce, review of Bravingthe Frozen Frontier, p. 202; December, 2000, Mollie Bynum, review of A Walk in the Tundra, p. 162; March, 2001, Kathy Piehl, review of A Walk in the Boreal Forest, p. 237; August, 2003, Marlene Gawron, review of Ernest L. Shackleton: Gripped by the Antarctic, p. 177.
Science Books and Films, March-April, 2002, review of Braving the Frozen Frontier, p. 349.
Scientific American, December, 1995, review of Science on the Ice, p. 112.*