Peters, Lisa Westberg 1951–
Peters, Lisa Westberg 1951–
Born October 19, 1951, in Minneapolis, MN; daughter of Walter M. (an inventor) and Naomi (a nurse; maiden name, Balstad) Westberg; married David G. Peters (a journalist), August 16, 1975; children: Emily, Anna. Education: University of Minnesota, B.A., 1974. Hobbies and other interests: Hiking, canoeing, swimming, reading, gardening, travel.
Writer. The Loft, instructor in children's-book writing; speaker at schools and conferences.
Children's Literature Network, Geological Society of Minnesota, Loft Literary Center, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, International Sand Collectors Society.
The Sun, the Wind, and the Rain named an outstanding science trade book, National Science Teachers Association, and nominated for a Minnesota Book Award, both 1988; Good Morning, River! named a notable children's trade book in social studies, Children's Book Council (CBC), 1990; Water's Way named a CBC Children's Choice book, and a Children's Book of the Year, Child Study Children's Book Committee, both 1992; Minnesota Book Award, and Riverbank Review book of distinction honor, both for Our Family Tree; Minnesota Book Award nomination, Riverbank Review book of distinction honor, and School Library Journal Best Book designation, all for Earthshake; American Library Association Notable Book designation, 2000, for Cold Little Duck, Duck, Duck.
The Sun, the Wind, and the Rain, illustrated by Ted Rand, Holt (New York, NY), 1988.
Serengeti, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1989.
Tania's Trolls, Arcade (New York, NY), 1989.
The Condor, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1990.
Good Morning, River!, illustrated by Deborah Kogan Ray, Arcade (New York, NY), 1990.
Water's Way, illustrated by Ted Rand, Arcade (New York, NY), 1991.
Purple Delicious Blackberry Jam, Arcade (New York, NY), 1992.
This Way Home, Holt (New York, NY), 1993.
When the Fly Flew in …, Dial Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 1994.
The Hayloft, Dial Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 1995.
Meg and Dad Discover Treasure in the Air, Holt (New York, NY), 1995.
October Smiled Back, Holt (New York, NY), 1996.
Cold Little Duck, Duck, Duck, Greenwillow Books (New York, NY), 2000.
Our Family Tree: An Evolution Story, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2003.
Earthshake: Poems from the Ground Up, Greenwillow Books (New York, NY), 2003.
We're Rabbits!, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2004.
Lisa Westberg Peters has written a number of books, novels, and verse aimed at a young audience. Among her titles are Our Family Tree: An Evolution Story and Earthshake: Poems from the Ground Up.
Peters was born and raised in Minnesota, where she often spent the summers in a cabin alongside the St. Croix River. Her father was an engineer with the 3-M Company, and he successfully inspired his daughter with an interest in science at an early age. Peters attended the
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University of Minnesota, where she met her husband, David Peters, while the two of them were working on the staff of the school newspaper. Although she had been writing for years, she began writing for children because, as she explained in an interview posted at her Web site, "I like to tell them about the things I've discovered about the world. I also like to make them smile."
Peters credits her two daughters, Emily and Anna, with giving her ideas for stories when the girls were little. The Peters sisters became a deep well of both characters and story ideas for their writer mother, and told Peters when a story she was writing was moving too slowly or was too scary.
In Our Family Tree: An Evolution Story Peters presents, in picture-book format, a family album of our ancient ancestors. Beginning by describing the early, single-cell creatures that first lived in the sea, Peters traces the journey of all life on the planet from these simple beginnings to the human beings of the modern day. Along the way, she takes what a critic for Publishers Weekly called an "outside/inside approach," describing the outward appearance and then the genetic foundations of each creature in the evolutionary story.
As Peters explained in an article for Riverbank Review, it took her "about thirteen years" to develop the idea and text for Our Family Tree. The idea for the book had been waiting in the back of her mind since she and her husband went on a camping trip in the mountains near Seattle. Out in the natural world, Peters began to wonder about the idea of evolution, and she discovered that the topic "made me wonder what it means to be human." Actually writing about the topic took years of research and reading, as Peters learned all she could about evolution, geology, and fossils. Finally, when it was time to write the story, "I sat on my back porch surrounded by a struggling Minnesota spring…. It took less than an hour to write the manuscript that was to become Our Family Tree. I knew it was the story I wanted to tell."
Praising Peters' effort, a critic for Kirkus Reviews called the book "a lyrical, carefully researched look into our deep past." A critic for the St. Paul Pioneer Press explained that Our Family Tree "provides the perfect way to introduce a complex scientific concept to young children."
Peters's lifelong interest in geology led her to write Earthshake!: Poems from the Ground Up. The twenty-two poems in the collection cover everything from the movement of tectonic plates and the creation of fossils to such humble subjects as simple rocks or the course of a mountain stream. Cris Riedel, writing in the School Library Journal, called the poems "exuberant, silly, and serious by turns." Carolyn Phelan in Booklist described the book as "a creative addition to earth science units," while a critic for Kirkus Reviews believed that "this could be used in the classroom for the next ten thousand years."
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Peters once commented: "Perhaps because I spent childhood summers on a river, I especially like to write picture books involving nature or the natural sciences. The woods and rivers of Minnesota and Wisconsin left a strong impression on me as a child, and my writing career started with poetry on the beach on lazy summer afternoons. Eventually I chose the more practical field of journalism, but after my children were born, I wandered away from newspapering in order to linger over the sounds, patterns, and rhythms found in children's books.
"Because I'm not a scientist, I recognize the need to make scientific subjects appealing and understandable. For the sake of young minds, I blend the facts of science with the pull of story. I also try to use simple and expressive language. My ideas come from my own experiences as a mountain climber, a bird watcher, a fossil finder, and from what I hope is a lifelong curiosity about the earth and its creatures. I'm simply trying to gather kids around and help them discover what I am discovering for myself.
"Besides picture-book science, I also write children's fiction. My ideas for those stories come from my childhood, my children, my travels, and from a place in my mind where ideas simmer until they're ready. My inspiration to write often comes from a different source—reading great books or listening to great music."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, March 15, 2003, Hazel Rochman, review of Our Family Tree, p. 1326; November 15, 2003, Carolyn Phelan, review of Earthshake, p. 596; March 15, 2004, Terry Glover, review of We're Rabbits!, p. 1310.
Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2003, review of Our Family Tree, p. 538; July 15, 2003, review of Earthshake, p. 967; January 1, 2004, review of We're Rabbits!, p. 40.
Publishers Weekly, February 17, 2003, review of Our Family Tree, p. 73.
Riverbank Review, spring, 2003, Lisa Westberg Peters, "The Evolution of Our Family Tree."
Ruminator Review, fall, 2003, Lisa Bullard, review of Our Family Tree.
St. Paul Pioneer Press, April 29, 2003, review of Our Family Tree.
School Library Journal, May, 2003, Patricia Manning, review of Our Family Tree, p. 140; September, 2003, Cris Riedel, review of Earthshake, p. 204.
Lisa Westberg Peters's Web site, http://www.lisawestbergpeters.com (May 6, 2005).