Hirschi, Ron 1948-
Hirschi, Ron 1948-
Surname pronounced "Hershey"; born May 18, 1948, in Bremerton, WA; son of Glenn W. (a lumber mill mechanic) and Doris Hirschi; married Brenda Dahl (a grocery clerk), July 19, 1969; children: Nichol. Education: University of Washington, B.S., 1974, graduate research in wildlife ecology, 1974-76.
Office—P.O. Box 899, Hadlock, WA 9339. E-mail—[email protected]
Washington Game Department, Seattle, biologist, 1976-81; North Kitsap Schools, Poulsbo, WA, counselor in Indian education program, 1984-85; author, 1985—; Point No Point Treaty Council, Kingston, WA, biologist, 1988-90. Northwest Coast Indian Tribes, consulting biologist.
National Marine Educators Association, Washington Science Teachers Association, Port Gamble S'Klallam Foundation (member of board).
Headgear and One Day on Pika's Peak selected among Child Study Association's Children's Books of the Year, 1986; Outstanding Science Trade Book for Children, National Science Teachers Association, 1986, for Headgear, and 1987, for City Geese, Who Lives in … the Forest?, and What Is a Bird?; Washington Governos Writer Award, 1992, for Seya's Song.
Headgear, photographs by Galen Burrell, Dodd (New York, NY), 1986.
One Day on Pika's Peak, photographs by Galen Burrell, Dodd (New York, NY), 1986.
City Geese, photographs by Galen Burrell, Dodd (New York, NY), 1987.
What Is a Bird?, photographs by Galen Burrell, Walker (New York, NY), 1987.
Where Do Birds Live?, photographs by Galen Burrell, Walker (New York, NY), 1987.
The Mountain Bluebird, Dodd (New York, NY), 1988.
What Is a Horse?, photographs by Linda Quartman Younker, Walker (New York, NY), 1989.
Where Do Horses Live?, photographs by Linda Quartman Younker, Walker (New York, NY), 1989.
What Is a Cat?, photographs by Linda Quartman Younker, Walker (New York, NY), 1991.
Where Do Cats Live?, photographs by Linda Quartman Younker, Walker (New York, NY), 1991.
Harvest Song, illustrated by Deborah Haeffele, Cobblehill (New York, NY), 1991.
Loon Lake, photographs by Daniel J. Cox, Cobblehill (New York, NY), 1991.
Seya's Song, illustrated by Constance R. Bergum, Sasquatch Books (Seattle, WA), 1992.
Hungry Little Frog, photographs by Dwight Kuhn, Cobblehill (New York, NY), 1992.
Turtle's Day, photographs by Dwight Kuhn, Cobblehill (New York, NY), 1994.
Dance with Me, photographs by Thomas D. Mangelsen, Cobblehill (New York, NY), 1995.
When the Wolves Return, photographs by Thomas D. Mangelsen, Cobblehill (New York, NY), 1995.
People of Salmon and Cedar, illustrated by Deborah Cooper, Cobblehill (New York, NY), 1996.
When Morning Comes, photographs by Thomas D. Mangelsen, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 2000.
When Night Comes, photographs by Thomas D. Mangelsen, Carline House (Honesdale, PA), 2000.
Octopuses, Carolrhoda Books (Minneapolis, MN), 2000.
Whalemail, illustrated by Evon Zerbetz, Island Heritage, 2001.
Salmon, Carolrhoda Books (Minneapolis, MN), 2001.
Seals, Benchmark Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Dolphins, Benchmark Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Swimming with Humuhumu, illustrated by Tammy Lee, Island Heritage, 2004.
Who Lives in the Coral Reef?, illustrated by Steve Sundram, Island Heritage, 2004.
Searching for Grizzlies, photographs by Thomas D. Mangelsen, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 2005.
Ocean Seasons, illustrated by Kirsten Carlson, Sylvan Dell Pub. (Mt. Pleasant, SC), 2007.
Lions, Tigers, and Bears: Why Are Big Predators So Rare?, photographs by Thomas D. Mangelsen, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 2007.
Winter Is for Whales, illustrated by Yuko Green, Island Heritage, 2007.
Our Three Bears, photographs by Thomas D. Mangelsen, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 2008.
Contributor to periodicals, including Owl and Cobblestone.
"WHERE ANIMALS LIVE" SERIES
Who Lives in … the Forest?, photographs by Galen Burrell, Dodd (New York, NY), 1987.
Who Lives in … Alligator Swamp?, photographs by Galen Burrell, Dodd (New York, NY), 1987.
Who Lives in … the Mountains?, photographs by Galen Burrell, Dodd (New York, NY), 1988.
Who Lives on … the Prairie?, photographs by Galen Burrell, Dodd (New York, NY), 1988.
"WILDLIFE SEASONS" SERIES
Winter, photographs by Thomas D. Mangelsen, Cobblehill (New York, NY), 1990.
Spring, photographs by Thomas D. Mangelsen, Cobblehill (New York, NY), 1991.
Summer, photographs by Thomas D. Mangelsen, Cobblehill (New York, NY), 1991.
Fall, photographs by Thomas D. Mangelsen, Cobblehill (New York, NY), 1991.
The titles in the "Wildlife Seasons" series have been translated into Spanish.
"DISCOVER MY WORLD" SERIES
Forest, illustrated by Barbara Bash, Bantam (New York, NY), 1991.
Ocean, illustrated by Barbara Bash, Bantam (New York, NY), 1991.
Desert, illustrated by Barbara Bash, Bantam (New York, NY), 1992.
Mountain, illustrated by Barbara Bash, Bantam (New York, NY), 1992.
"ONE EARTH" SERIES
Where Are My Bears?, photographs by Erwin and Peggy Bauer, Bantam (New York, NY), 1992.
Where Are My Prairie Dogs and Black-footed Ferrets?, photographs by Erwin and Peggy Bauer, Bantam (New York, NY), 1992.
Where Are My Puffins, Whales, and Seals?, photographs by Erwin and Peggy Bauer, Bantam (New York, NY), 1992.
Where Are My Swans, Whooping Cranes, and Singing Loons?, photographs by Erwin and Peggy Bauer, Bantam (New York, NY), 1992.
Save Our Forests, photographs by E. and P. Bauer and others, National Audubon Society (New York, NY), 1993.
Save Our Oceans and Coasts, photographs by E. and P. Bauer and others, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1993.
Save Our Prairies and Grasslands, photographs by E. and P. Bauer, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1994.
Save Our Wetlands, photographs by E. and P. Bauer, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1994.
"HOW ANIMALS LIVE" SERIES
A Time for Babies, photographs by Thomas D. Mangelsen, Cobblehill (New York, NY), 1993.
A Time for Sleeping, photographs by Thomas D. Mangelsen, Cobblehill (New York, NY), 1993.
A Time for Playing, photographs by Thomas D. Mangelsen, Cobblehill (New York, NY), 1994.
A Time for Singing, photographs by Thomas D. Mangelsen, Cobblehill (New York, NY), 1994.
"WILDLIFE WATCHER'S FIRST GUIDE" SERIES
Faces in the Forest, photographs by Thomas D. Mangelsen, Cobblehill (New York, NY), 1997.
Faces in the Mountains, photographs by Thomas D. Mangelsen, Cobblehill (New York, NY), 1997.
Wildlife biologist and writer Ron Hirschi once recalled to SATA: "When I was growing up, I spent all my free time in the woods, at the beach, or out on the water in boats my father made for me. It was a wonderful childhood and a great way to learn about animals and their needs." As it would prompt his later choice of a career, so these early experiences of nature would also direct it toward becoming a children's author by inspiring such books as One Day on Pika's Peak, When the Wolves Return, and several nature guides for young people. With numerous books on plants, animals, and their habitats now to his credit, Hirschi has opened a wide window to the world of nature for young readers. As School Library Journal reviewer Eva Elisabeth Von Ancken commented of his contributions to the National Audubon Society-sponsored "One Earth" series for children, "books such as these may be vital steps in saving what remains of the Earth's once abundant species."
Hirschi believes that his desire to write children's books first became manifest while he was a student at the University of Washington, when he, his wife Brenda, and his young daughter Nichol would sometimes escape to the nearby mountains or, when free time was especially scarce, as far as a city park near campus. "The inspiration for my book City Geese came from those days spent feeding geese and watching them in their city home," he once recalled to SATA. Although it would be another decade before Hirschi began submitting work to publishers, he found himself "creating stories for my daughter as she turned one, then two, then quickly five, then…. I really became enchanted by children's books as I read stories to Nichol, stories by Russell Hoban and Leo Lionni and Brooke Goffstein. Without realizing it, I became a student of children's literature as I bought books for Nichol and read and reread them, carefully tracing the wonderful relationship between work and image."
After graduating from college in the mid-1970s, Hirschi worked as a biologist, which often found him out in the field studying relationships between plants and animals. "I spent a lot of time writing reports, too," he remembered, "especially reports that had an educational value. It seemed to me that there was a large gap between scientific knowledge and public knowledge." He used his writing skills to help bridge that gap, producing pamphlets, booklets, and eventually magazine articles. "First, a few articles were published in local newspapers and fishing magazines," the author explained. "I am very proud of some of those articles since they attempt to show people the relationships between their actions and environmental consequences."
An idea for an article he submitted to Owl magazine, a publication of the Canadian Young Naturalist Foundation, would eventually become Hirschi's first published book for children. "The idea I submitted to Owl was about horns and antlers. My editor thought it wasn't quite right for the magazine, but she liked the concept and wrote a few thoughts that triggered my imagination enough to rewrite the idea as a nonfiction book." That rejected idea became Headgear, which was published in 1986.
Hirschi's "Where Animals Live" series was based on a set of books he wrote for adults while he was employed in the Washington State Game Department. Including the titles Who Lives in … the Mountains? and Who Lives on … the Prairie?, the series is designed to appeal to a preschool audience, with its color photographs of animals in their habitats and a prose style that Nancy Vasilakis praised in a Horn Book review as "brief and expressive, never talking down to its young audience." Each volume includes a supplement for adults and older children that provides further information on the many animals that Hirschi features in each book—from such common creatures as a chipmunk to exotic birds like egrets and the gallinule. While noting the basic approach of the "Where Animals Live" books, Jacqueline Elsner commented in a School Library Journal review that Hirschi's work "is sure to inspire an appreciation for wildlife and conservation in the very young."
In addition to his "Where Animals Live" books, Hirschi has authored several other nature-book series, including "Discover My World," illustrated by artist Barbara Bash. Featuring titles like Ocean, Forest, and Mountain, each book is designed in a question-and-answer format. Detailed watercolor drawings of a particular animal's features—eyes, legs, teeth—encourage up-close observation by budding scientists so they can hypothesize what animal each picture represents, in answer to the question "Who am I,?" which is posed on every double-page spread. Other series by Hirschi include "The One Earth," which encourages young readers to actively engage in protecting and preserving the earth's endangered areas, and "Wildlife Seasons," each book of which documents the myriad of seasonal
changes that occur in the natural world through beautiful color photographs by Thomas D. Mangelsen.
Picture books featuring animal characters in realistic natural settings are another way Hirschi has promoted a love of the natural world, especially to really young audiences. His Hungry Little Frog uses a tiny spring peeper's quest for dinner as the basis for a counting book: one ladybug, four strawberries, five robin's eggs, and so on. Harvest Song shows the passages of the seasons as viewed through the eyes of a young girl visiting her grandmother's farm, while Turtle's Day, illustrated with color photographs by nature photographer Dwight Kuhn, follows an eastern box turtle as he makes his daily rounds, scouting around for food, keeping out of the way of hungry bobcats, and righting himself after being turned over onto his back. "Hirschi conveys basic facts in a direct, lively manner that provides immediacy" to young readers, noted Diane Nunn in her review of Turtle's Day for School Library Journal.
Even after more than a decade as a prolific author, Hirschi is still surprised by the way new ideas spring up every day. Spending time in schools with students, watching the way kids respond to questions and talk about animals, has also inspired ideas that encourage young readers to participate more fully. "That is one reason I write books with questions as titles and the main reason the text often asks questions, too," the author explained.
For Hirschi, the most enjoyable part of writing a book is doing the research, which means spending lots of time in the mountains, at the beach, or in a boat. "Research for The Mountain Bluebird was especially enjoyable," Hirschi recalled, "since my wife came along much of the time. We traveled to Montana and Wyoming several times to watch bluebirds at their nests, during migration, and in the late days of summer." One of many well-illustrated books on birds that Hirschi has written, The Mountain Bluebird presents readers with a complete portrait of a bird whose numbers have been steadily decreasing due to the influence of mankind on its Rocky Mountain habitat. Praising the work as having "tremendous application as a reference tool," an Appraisal reviewer added that The Mountain Bluebird "is perfect for pleasure reading. Both young and old will enjoy the beauty of the bluebirds and their surroundings as portrayed in this wonderful book."
One of Hirschi's trips to Montana to watch bluebirds proved to be especially magical. Having camped in the Pryor Mountain range the night before, he and his wife awoke early and followed a flock of birds up a narrow canyon into the hills. "On our walk back we heard horses," the author remembered. "These weren't just any horses, though—they were wild horses, the first we had ever seen." Hirschi was overwhelmed by the experience of encountering such beautiful wild creatures, and would return to follow the Pryor Mountain horses, gathering information for his books What Is a Horse? and Where Do Horses Live? "As in my other books," the author maintained, "the horse books attempt to bring us a little closer—us, meaning the other creatures we share our world with as well as all the people, young and old."
In 1988 Hirschi accepted a job with Washington State's S'Klallam Indian Tribe. Acting to protect and help enforce the S'Klallam tribe's treaty rights to fish and wildlife in reservation areas, especially against the incursions by logging crews, he also continues to fight the deforestation along streams that threatens to destroy the habitat of trout, salmon, eagles, and other wildlife that live in such wooded areas. "The Klallam people lived in this area long before white people arrived," Hirschi explained, "and they have wonderful stories that tell of our relationship with animals and the land. As I listen to their stories, I realize the richness of their culture and I also realize how important it is to protect their way of life." Story is one way that the S'Klallam preserve their cultural traditions, and Hirschi reflects those rich traditions in Seya's Song. Using words of native S'Klallam speakers, a young girl describes the life cycle of the region's salmon against the changes wrought by the seasons and the activities of her tribe. With his characteristic fluid prose, which Janice Del Negro characterized in a Booklist review as "simple, poetic, and concrete," Hirschi paints a portrait of a rare Native-American culture and language that reflects its origins in nature.
In both When Morning Comes and When Night Comes Hirschi chronicles the activities of forest animals at both daybreak and nightfall. Illustrated with photographs by Thomas D. Mangelsen, the books present a variety of activities. Shelle Rosenfeld, writing in Booklist, praised "the simple, often poetic prose" of both books while Carolyn Angus noted in the School Library Journal that the books are enhanced by "Hirschi's spare lyrical text."
Searching for Grizzlies takes a look at the typical yearly cycle of the grizzly bears of Yellowstone National Park. It begins with their emergence from hibernation in the spring and ends with a final binge of eating in the fall, before hibernating for the winter again. Included are pages from the notebook journal Hirschi kept during a visit to Yellowstone. A critic for Kirkus Reviews believed that "Hirschi gives readers an up-close-and-personal look at grizzly bears," and Engberg concluded that Searching for Grizzlies was "excellent for classroom use or personal reading for young naturalists."
In Ocean Seasons Hirschi discusses the yearly cycle of seasons at sea. From one spring to the next, he explains the behaviors of fish, birds, and plants along the northern Pacific coast as the weather changes from warm to cold and back again. As on land, spring brings renewed plant growth in the ocean as well. Birds and fish breed in the springtime. Summer is a time of growth and activity. By fall, plankton growth falls off, and the food cycle begins to change. Fish begin to migrate south to warmer waters where the food is plentiful. "The lyrical text," Angela Leeper wrote in ForeWord, "not only describes the changes that occur throughout the year amidst the ocean's plants and animals but also how they form a food web." "Ocean Seasons provides a unique perspective on seasonal change," Judy Kraus noted in Science and Children, "and affords readers the opportunity to view a world they don't often see."
Hirschi looks at seven predatory animals—cougar, polar bear, lion, cheetah, tiger, grizzly bear, and killer whale—in Lions, Tigers, and Bears: Why Are Big Predators So Rare? Poaching and war, especially in Africa, have depleted the numbers of some predatory animals; poaching of tigers in Asia is particularly widespread. In other places, traditional habitats of such animals as the cougar have been taken over for farming and ranching, and Hirsch ultimately argues that the best way to save these animals is for humans to step in and protect them. The author's "approach is gentle and engaging," Anne Chapman Callaghan noted in School Library Journal, "but the urgency of his message is not lost—these animals need human help."
"When I think about the inspiration for my books, the connection with my childhood experiences always comes through," Hirschi explained to SATA. "But, my experiences as a biologist are also important in shaping the book themes. Now, I write nonfiction almost exclusively. I still pursue some fiction, but I remain a biologist and have a strong need to communicate through children's books all the ideas I have about our relationship with animals and the land."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Appraisal, summer, 1990, review of The Mountain Bluebird, pp. 25-26.
Audubon, January-February, 2008, Julie Leibach, review of Lions, Tigers, and Bears: Why Are Big Predators So Rare?, p. 98.
Booklist, January 1, 1993, Janice Del Negro, review of Seya's Song, p. 806; December 15, 1993, Janice Del Negro, review of A Time for Babies, p. 757; March 15, 1994, Ellen Mandel, review of Save Our Oceans and Coasts, p. 1339; April 1, 1994, Mary Harris Veeder, review of Turtle's Day, pp. 1453, 1457; April 15, 1994, Mary Harris Veeder, reviews of Save Our Prairies and Grasslands and Save Our Wetlands, p. 1530; October 15, 1994, Deborah Abbott, reviews of A Time for Singing and A Time for Playing, p. 431; September 1, 1995, Mary Harris Veeder, review of Dance with Me, p. 79; September 15, 1997, Carolyn Phelan, reviews of Faces in the Mountains and Faces in the Forest, p. 237; July, 2000, Nora Jane Natke, review of Octopuses, p. 117; October 15, 2000, Shelle Rosenfeld, reviews of When Morning Comes and When Night Comes, p. 441; September 1, 2005, Gillian Engberg, review of Searching for Grizzlies, p. 126; October 15, 2007, Carolyn Phelan, review of Lions, Tigers, and Bears, p. 48.
ForeWord, July-August, 2007, Angela Leeper, review of Ocean Seasons.
Horn Book, January-February, 1988, Nancy Vasilakis, review of Who Lives in … Alligator Swamp?, p. 85.
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2005, review of Searching for Grizzlies, p. 974; May 1, 2007, review of Ocean Seasons; August 1, 2007, review of Lions, Tigers, and Bears.
Publishers Weekly, October 4, 1991, reviews of Ocean and Forest, p. 89; October 5, 1992, review of Hungry Little Frog, p. 69; November 9, 1992, review of Seya's Song, p. 82.
School Library Journal, January, 1988, Jacqueline Elsner, review of Who Lives in … Alligator Swamp?, pp. 72-73; November, 1990, p. 103; January, 1993, Eva Elisabeth Von Ancken, review of Where Are My Bears?, p. 92; February, 1994, p. 110; July, 1994, Diane Nunn, review of Turtle's Day, pp. 94-95; October, 1995, p. 148; December, 2000, Carolyn Angus, reviews of When Morning Comes and When Night Comes, p. 133; February, 2003, Pam Spencer Holley, review of Seals, p. 132; September, 2005, Patricia Manning, review of Searching for Grizzlies, p. 224; September, 2007, Anne Chapman Callaghan, review of Lions, Tigers, and Bears, p. 183.
Science and Children, April-May, 2008, Judy Kraus, review of Ocean Seasons, p. 67.
Teacher Librarian, June, 2008, John Peters, review of Ocean Seasons, p. 55.
Ron Hirschi Home Page,http://www.ronhirschi.com (August 14, 2008).