Wanting to find out more about Mike Graf and how he integrated informational material into his realistic fictional series Adventures with the Parkers, I contacted Mike by phone. I learned that you could invite Mike Graf to your school in late May and early June this year. Mike will be touring the National Parks as part of his new book tour and is setting his schedule now. Mike’s website is www.mikegrafauthor.com
Mike currently has over 70 published titles that are mostly written for children, and he does have a few teacher books and science kits. One of my favorites is his History Pockets: Explorers of North America. He has worked with fifteen publishers. Mike was an elementary teacher of grades 4 & 5 and the Gifted And Talented Enrichment (GATE) program for ten years. He has also taught part time for Chico State University (child development, children’s literature, and the school-age child), and been a part time/on-again, off-again TV weatherman for six stations.
Mike visited over 50 schools last year. His rates are available on his website and they are actually very reasonable. Even I can afford to ask Mike to come. I certainly will do so with his new book coming out set in the Great Smoky National Park. Because Mike does a writing workshop on realistic fiction, I would have asked him anyway to help improve my students’ writing. Mike is also available to speak at large conferences so keep him in mind when you are organizing your state conference.
Okay, readers, you may be like me. When I was chatting with Mike on the phone, I kept thinking to myself "TV weatherman?" So I asked him how he became a weather expert. Mike explained that his first book was The Weather Report – a teacher’s guide to teaching weather. Mike had been a mentor teacher and a spotter station for his local weather station with his students calling in results daily. Through this he got to know the local meteorologists. One day he was touring the local station with a GATE class. After his students tried acting in front of the green wall, Mike did an impromptu mock weather report and was "picked up" to become a part-time weatherman. I learned the weatherchannel in Atlanta picked up his book, so he must have some expertise with weather.
However, weather is not Mike’s only interest as an author. He has written nonfiction and realistic fiction books on animal encounters, whale rescues, dinosaur digs, caving, and ghost towns. He has written many nonfiction titles about national parks. His realistic fiction title Tail of the Scorpion was chosen as a finalist for the One Book program in Arizona. In his Adventures with the Parkers series you can learn about geology, history, and animals so Mike integrates all subjects well while telling an interesting tale.
I learned that Mike is a great storyteller, also. I wish I could share all of my notes with you, but some of my notes contain secrets for the future. Hee hee hee! I can share with you some of the trivia I learned:
Did you know there are no fireflies west of the Rocky Mountains? I was horror-struck at this thought. All those children in CA, WA, and OR never chasing and dancing with fireflies or lightning bugs on a late June-early July evening. Did you know the Smokies are the Salamander Capital of the world? Did you know girls have more issues with ticks than guys?
Alright, enough of the trivia and on to the facts needed. In 2006-2007 Mike Graf had books set in these parks released:
Zion and Bryce
In February 2009 these two will be released:
What does Mike have in store after that? The Rocky Mountain National Park, Glacier National Park, the Arches Canyon Lands, Acadia, and many more. In 2016 the National Park Service will celebrate its centennial. I wonder just how many parks Mike will have visited and written about by then! I had to ask Mike if the Everglades was on his list and he assured me that he wants to write it. Publishers, let Mike write that book. Every year during the first week, I need something to extend Hoot and other titles set in the everglades for my sixth graders. One of the Parker Adventures would be a good pairing.
Mike Graf’s series Adventures with the Parkers has a 100% endorsement by the National Park Service and has been determined to be factually correct. As part of the research process Mike spends a minimum of two weeks in each park with his tape recorder recording details of the trip and the trail. For one of his recent titles, he recorded 20 hours of research to then be replayed and recorded.
He explained to me his process includes :
Editing a gazillion times.
Each title takes approximately one year to write and develop. Usually his wife takes half the pictures, but this past summer, she was busily preparing for their new baby girl. Can you imagine why an 8-9 month pregnant woman would not want to be exploring the depths of our national parks? Now that Maggie has come along, I’m sure Mike’s adventures will expand. I did ask Mike about the illustrations for this series. The publisher arranges for the illustrator and Mike has never met her. Ann W. Douden designed this series. I usually don’t seek out the designer, so that says something about how much I like the way this book is put together.
The Next Century for Parks encourages you to get involved now in preparing for the Centennial of the National Park Service.