Curtis, Jennifer Keats
Curtis, Jennifer Keats
Children: two. Education: University of Maryland, B.A., 1991, M.A., 1993. Hobbies and other interests: Boating and any activity on the water, running, basketball, reading.
Author, editor, and educator. Presenter at schools and workshops; editor-at-large, Maryland Life magazine.
Frederick Douglass Award, Maryland Council of Teachers of English Language Arts, 1999, for Oshus and Shelly Save the Bay; ASPCA Henry Bergh Children's Book Award finalist, 2006, for Turtles in My Sandbox.
Oshus and Shelly Save the Bay, illustrated by Christie Sauer Fifer, Captain Caleb Communications, 1999.
Turtles in My Sandbox, illustrated by Emanuel Schongut, Sylvan Dell (Mount Pleasant, SC), 2006.
Osprey Adventure, illustrated by Marcy Dunn Ramsey, Cornell Maritime Press, 2007.
Baby Owl, Sylvan Dell (Mount Peasant, SC), 2008.
Contributor to periodicals, including It's Your Life and Corridor, Inc.
Although her books have universal appeal, Jennifer Keats Curtis focuses her writing on teaching children about the wildlife and ecology of the Maryland coastal region where she lives. An outgrowth of her workshops and school presentations, her books Oshus and Shelly Save the Bay, Turtles in My Sandbox, and Osprey Adventure focus on the animals that live in the complex Chesapeake Bay estuary ecosystem, where freshwater flows into the Atlantic and mixes with the ocean's salt water. Since 1983, scientists have worked to restore and preserve the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem.
Curtis's award-winning first book, Oshus and Shelly Save the Bay, tells the story of two oysters as they try to keep pollution from destroying the bay. As part of her environmental efforts, Curtis dedicated a portion of the profits from sales of this book to the Severn River Association, where it was used to help restore the area's dwindling oyster population.
Other books include Turtles in My Sandbox, a finalist for the ASPCA Henry Bergh Children's Book Award, and Osprey Adventure, a fact-based story about a boy who joins his biologist father to saves a young osprey from certain death. Inspired by an ongoing educational program that introduces children to the life cycle of the native terrapin, Turtles in My Sandbox focuses on a young girl named Maggie, who discovers that a mother diamond-backed terrapin has laid her eggs in Maggie's backyard sandbox. With the help of her mom, the girl meets a woman known as the Turtle Lady, and she learns how to care for the ten eggs, keeping them safe from predators as she waits for the tiny turtles to hatch. A portion of the royalties from this book are donated to
a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving terrapins in their natural habitat. Citing the "detailed watercolors" by illustrator Emanuel Schongut, a Kirkus Reviews writer predicted that Turtles in My Sandbox will be "sure to spark an interest in these amazing creatures, and to increase participation in Maryland's turtle project."
By thoroughly researching her topic and interviewing real experts, including children working to help preserve and protect the local wildlife, Curtis has developed a knack for teaching young children about important ecological issues. Although, because of her journalism background, she loves the investigation and process of writing that goes into creating her picture books, Curtis is most tickled by the delightful response she gets from students when she visits schools with book in hand, live animal in another. "Rascal, my three-year-old turtle, never fails to elicit a grin from the kids," Curtis told SATA "It's such a pleasure to introduce children to the creatures who live in their backyards."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 2006, review of Turtles in My Sandbox, p. 1068.
School Library Journal, December, 2006, Daisy Porter, review of Turtles in My Sandbox, p. 96.
Children's Literature Web site,http://www.childrenslit.com/ (December 15, 2007), "Jennifer Keats Curtis."
Turtles in My Sandbox Web site,http://www.terrapinbook.com/ (December 15, 2007), "Jennifer Keats Curtis."