Matthews, Downs 1925-

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Matthews, Downs 1925-
(Harold Downs Matthews)


Born March 24, 1925, in Waco, TX; son of Harold Jackson (a sociologist) and Grace (a teacher) Matthews; married Mary Byers Riley, November 22, 1948 (divorced, October, 1971); married Marianne Reeder (an editor), November 22, 1971; children: (first marriage) Mark Allen, Elizabeth Ann. Education: University of Texas, Austin, B.A., 1971. Politics: Independent. Religion: Protestant. Hobbies and other interests: Photography, sailing, travel, reading, and orchids.


Home and office—3501 Underwood St., Houston, TX 77025-1903. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Chronicle Books, 85 2nd St., 6th Fl., San Francisco, CA 94105.


Houston Chronicle, Houston, TX, reporter, 1945; Schlumberger Well Services, Houston, manager of employee communications, 1948-68; Exxon USA, Houston, editor of Exxon U.S.A. magazine, 1968-86; freelance writer and editor, 1986—. Nature Ventures (calendar publishing company), co-owner, 1988—. University of Houston, Houston, TX, communications consultant.


International Association of Business Communicators (fellow), Travel Journalists Guild, North American Mycological Association, American Society of Journalists and Authors, Outdoor Writers Association of America, American Orchid Society (chairman of publications committee, 1989-90).


Reading Magic Award, Parenting, 1989, for Polar Bear Cubs; numerous awards for achievement in corporate communications.


How to Manage Company Publications, Williams Company, 1986.

Polar Bear Cubs, photographs by Dan Guravich, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 1989.

Skimmers, photographs by Dan Guravich, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 1990.

Polar Bear, photographs by Dan Guravich, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 1993.

Arctic Summer, photographs by Dan Guravich, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 1993.

Wetlands, photographs by Dan Guravich, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 1994.

(With Nikita Ovsyanikov) Arctic Foxes, photographs by Dan Guravich, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 1995.

(Editor) The American Orchid Society Celebrates Its Diamond Jubilee: A Review of the First 75 Years 1921-1996, American Orchid Society (West Palm Beach, FL), 1996.

Sharks!: The Mysterious Killers, Wings Books (Avenel, NJ), 1996.

Harp Seal Pups, photographs by Dan Guravich, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 1997.

Beneath the Canopy: Wildlife of the Latin American Rain Forest, photographs by Kevin Schafer, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 1999.

(Editor) The Sabic Story: 25 Years of Achievement, 1976-2001, Sabic America (Houston, TX), 2002.

Contributor to periodicals, including Wildlife Conservation, Popular Photography, Sports Illustrated, Birder's World, and Sea Frontiers.


Downs Matthews has written a number of natural science books, especially about animals of the Arctic, for young readers. Teaming with photographer Dan Guravich, Matthews has created several books depicting the lives of such creatures as polar bears, seals, and foxes. In Arctic Summer, Matthews and Guravich look at the short, prolific summer to be found in the Arctic, a time when plants and animals of many kinds unexpectedly flourish. Matthews particularly looks at how summer affects the animals of the region that are more accustomed to colder weather. This is the time when the young are born and raised, when some animals migrate long distances, and when others must find and store food for the winter months. Margaret A. Bush, writing in Horn Book, found Arctic Summer to be "an unusual, smoothly blended mix of photo essay and topical album."

Arctic Foxes tells of the life cycle of the Arctic fox. The fox's fur coat changes color to allow it to blend in with the seasons, turning from a bright white in wintertime to a muted brown in summer. Matthews documents how the fox hunts larger animals, raises its young, lives in dens dug into the cold soil, and survives the harsh conditions of the Arctic. Bush described the book as an "absorbing documentary." Susan Dove Lempke in Booklist called it "a book that will satisfy."

Harp Seal Pups focuses on one female harp seal and shows how she interacts with her mother, learns how to survive, and finally goes out to live on her own. Along the way Matthews explains the ways in which harp seals find food and shelter, raise their young, and interact with each other and with other animals. Lauren Peterson wrote in Booklist that "librarians won't need to work very hard to promote this book."

Harp Seal Pups was Matthews's last collaboration with Guravich, who died in 1997. The photographer for Beneath the Canopy: Wildlife of the Latin American Rain Forest is Kevin Schafer. The book opens up the world of an ecosystem that is home to an amazing number of mammals, reptiles, and insects, represented in many of the nearly 200 images provided by Schafer that accompany Matthews's text. Matthews begins the book by providing a description of the waterways where many of these species make their home: "One of the Amazon River's major tributaries, the Rio Napo drains the eastern slopes of the Ecuadorian Andes, gathers volume in passing through the rain forests of northern Peru, joins the Rio Amazonas, and surges into northwestern Brazil to create the world's largest and longest river."

In addition to Matthews's nature books, he contributes to many nature and science magazines. He has also written several books focusing on business topics.

Matthews once commented: "My children's books are created in partnership with Dr. Dan Guravich, a Canadian living in Greenville, Mississippi. The texts couple good science simply told with extraordinary photographs. Using the techniques of fiction, I describe the life cycle of an animal from conception to near maturity. The biology is technically sound; the events and circumstances are derived from personal observation, often over a period of years. The stories entertain and inform, but they also address the role of the parent as teacher and the child's need to learn how to live. (In nature, the heedless offspring seldom reaches maturity.)

"The subjects of our books are not anthropomorphic comic-strip characters with cute names who talk and think like people. In fact, we resist the urge to turn animals into human beings. It isn't necessary. There is nothing more beautiful or more charming than a polar bear cub or a skimmer chick [a baby marine bird]. Our animals are real. They do as animals do. It makes sense for parents to give children the basis for an objective understanding of other life forms and their needs so that sensible environmental conservation can succeed.

"For most of my working life, I have written about the people and technologies of organizations involved in some aspect of the petroleum business. As a student of the earth sciences, I was able to indulge a penchant for travel and a fascination with the great outdoors. Today as a freelance, I have been able to direct these interests into natural science and far-off places. The wildlife of the Arctic, particularly polar bears, has captured my attention in recent years."



Booklist, May 15, 1993, Denia Hester, review of Arctic Summer, p. 1690; October 1, 1995, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Arctic Foxes, p. 323; January 1, 1997, Lauren Peterson, review of Harp Seal Pups, p. 852.

Country Living, April, 1994, Monica Michael Willis, review of Polar Bear, p. 44.

Horn Book, September-October, 1989, Ellen Fader, review of Polar Bear Cubs, p. 640; July-August, 1993, Margaret A. Bush, review of Arctic Summer, p. 480; September-October, 1995, Margaret A. Bush, review of Arctic Foxes, p. 621.

Houston Chronicle, July 28, 1996, Fritz Lanham, review of Sharks!: The Mysterious Killers, p. 18.

Journal of the West, Mark Fiege, review of Polar Bear, p. 100.

Nature Canada, summer, 1994, Ed Struzik, review of Polar Bear, p. 61.

Petersen's Photographic, November, 1993, review of Polar Bear, p. 55.

School Library Journal, July, 1989, J.J. Votapka, review of Polar Bear Cubs, p. 80; February, 1991, Charlene J. Lenzen, review of Skimmers, p. 79; July, 1993, Patricia Manning, review of Arctic Summer, p. 93; December, 1995, Patricia Manning, review of Arctic Foxes, p. 121; February, 1997, Diane Nunn, review of Harp Seal Pups, p. 93.

Wildlife Conservation, January-February, 2000, review of Beneath the Canopy: Wildlife of the Latin American Rain Forest, p. 67.

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Matthews, Downs 1925-

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