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Mary Batten (1937–) Biography - Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights

review book science plants

Born 1937, in Smithfield, VA; Education: Attended University of North Carolina, 1955–57; New School for Social Research, B.A., 1959; Columbia University, M.A., 1962.

Addresses

Agent—c/o Author Mail, PeachTree Publishing, 1700 Chattahoochee Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30318-2112.

Career

New York Public Library, New York, NY, library clerk, 1957–59; New York Cancer Research Institute, New York, NY, secretary, 1961–62; Manhattan Vocational-Technical High School, New York, English teacher, 1962–63; National Broadcasting Company (NBC) News, New York, NY, production assistant and researcher, 1963–67; Ford Foundation, New York, NY, information analyst, 1967–69. Writer. Previously served as editor of Costeau Society membership magazine Calypso Log; currently editor-in-chief of breast cancer Web site www.Breastlink.org.

Honors Awards

Fulbright fellow, 1959–60; American Film Festival Blue Ribbon, 1972, for documentary The Not-So-Solid Earth; Global Media Award, Population Institute for Best Population/Environmental Reporting Effort, 1991, for Calypso Log; Outstanding Science Trade Book for Children citation, National Science Teachers Association/Children's Book Council, 2001, for Anthropologist: Scientist of the People; Emmy award nomination, for work on television series 3-2-1-CONTACT; Front Page Award, Newswomen's Club of New York, for Science Digest article, "Sexual Choice: The Female's Newly Discovered Role."

Writings

Discovery by Chance: Science and the Unexpected, illustrated by Laszlo Matulay, Funk and Wagnalls (New York, NY), 1968.

The Tropical Forest: Ants, Ants, Animals and Plants, illustrated by Betty Fraser, Crowell (Springfield, OH), 1973.

Nature's Tricksters: Animals and Plants That Aren't What They Seem, illustrated by Lois Lovejoy, Sierra Club Books (San Francisco, CA), 1992.

The Twenty-five Scariest Hauntings in the World, illustrated by Brian Dow, Lowell House Juvenile (Los Angeles, CA), 1996.

Shark Attack Almanac, illustrated by Carol Lyon, Random House (New York, NY), 1997.

Baby Wolf, illustrated by Jo Ellen McAllister Stammen, Grosset & Dunlap (New York, NY), 1998.

Sexual Strategies: How Females Choose Their Mates, G. P. Putnam's Sons (New York, NY), 1992.

The Winking, Blinking Sea: All about Bioluminescence, Millbrook Press (Brookfield, CT), 2000.

Hungry Plants, illustrated by Paul Mirocha, Golden Books (New York, NY), 2000.

Extinct!: Creatures of the Past, illustrated by Beverly Doyle, Golden Books (New York, NY), 2000.

Anthropologist: Scientist of the People, photographs by A. Magdalena Hurtado and Kim Hill, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2001.

Wild Cats, illustrated by Michael Langham Rowe, Random House (New York, NY), 2002.

Hey, Daddy!: Animal Fathers and Their Babies, illustrated by Higgins Bond, Peachtree (Atlanta, GA), 2002.

Aliens from Earth: When Animals and Plants Invade Other Ecosystems, illustrated by Beverly J. Doyle, Peachtree (Atlanta, GA) 2003.

Who Has a Belly Button?, illustrated by Higgins Bond, Peachtree (Atlanta, GA), 2004.

Contributor to books, including "Bank Street Readers," Macmillan, 1966, and The Scary Stories for Sleep-overs Almanac, compiled by Michelle Ghaffari, illustrated by Brian Baugh, Lowell House Juvenile, 1997. Contributor of interviews, articles, and reviews to Film Comment; contributor of articles to magazines, including National Geographic World, Ask, North Atlantic Review, ZooNooz, Calypso Log, Dolphin Log, Ladies' Home Journal, Modern Maturity, Science Digest, and Cosmopolitan. Author of television scripts for Time-Life documentaries The Not-So-Solid Earth, 1971; (with Bert Shapiro) Other Planets: No Place like Earth, 1970; (also researcher) Life in a Tropical Forest, 1971; (with Jerry Alden) More than Meets the Eye, 1971; (also producer) Should Oceans Meet? 1971; and Animal Communication, 1971. Author of television scripts for series, including 3-2-1 Contact, PBS, 1979–80; Wild World of Animals; Other People, Other Places; and Life around Us. Writer of documentary film Stars, Galaxies, and the Southern Skies, produced by Kitt Peak National Observatory, 1971. Author of filmstrips produced by Joshua Tree Productions, Time-Life Films, and others.

Sidelights

With wit and dash, Mary Batten writes about science topics for children, according to reviewers who have
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praised her ability to create interest in science subjects and methods. Her first book, Discovery by Chance, was commended for stressing the training scientists must have if they are to uncover new information about the world, even by chance. In the work, Batten surveys ten scientists and the remarkable discoveries they made quite by accident. "The author stresses the fact that all ten [scientists] were prepared by knowledge and by training to turn a mistake into a triumph," noted a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Though several of these accounts may be familiar, Harry C. Stubbs wrote in Horn Book, Batten "tells the stories well and makes the central point clearly." A Booklist contributor called Discovery by Chance "a stimulating book for the neophyte scientist and the general reader."

In The Tropical Forest: Ants, Ants, Animals, and Plants, Batten turns her love for the tropics into a paean to the creatures who inhabit that lush world, while providing clear and concise information about photosynthesis, evolution, and other scientific phenomenon. Growing Point reviewer Margery Fisher noted that Batten takes "a definite and personal approach" to her subject, high-lighting the book's focus on the small organisms that play such a large role in maintaining the ecological balance of the rain forest. Further, the "engrossing text … fortifies our understanding of such phenomena as photosynthesis, food chains, and evolution," remarked a reviewer for Booklist. A critic for Junior Bookshelf acknowledged the comprehensiveness of Batten's text, stating: "Altogether this is a book that fulfills its promises, and will be as useful in the home as in the classroom."

In Nature's Tricksters: Animals and Plants That Aren't What They Seem Batten describes the process of various disguises utilized by plants, animals, and fish in mating, feeding and defending against predators. "The author carefully explains why and how each intricate trick operates," noted Deborah Abbott in Booklist. Reviewers agreed that Batten's subject holds intrinsic interest. Batten is also the author of Shark Attack Almanac, an "unpretentious paperback … full of fascinating facts," according to Frances E. Millhouser in School Library Journal. The author begins her exploration by detailing a shark attack, then discusses why such an occurrence is unlikely to happen to a human being, followed by facts about sharks and their evolution.

Batten again tackles strange plant life in Hungry Plants, a book that introduces young readers to carnivorous plants. Batten discusses how the plants are built to catch their food, covering such horticultural oddities as the Venus flytrap and the sundew, a plant that captures insects with tentacles. Writing for Booklist, Shelly Townsend-Hudson praised Hungry Plants as "an informative and fascinating first chapter book."

Batten discusses cultural science in her book Anthropologist: Scientist of the People. Magdalena Hurtado is the subject of this book, which explains how a field anthropolitist works. Hurtado and her anthropologist husband Kim Hill provide the photographs for Batten's book. Batten describes what anthropology is and talks about Hurtado's study of the Ache tribe of Paraguay. The "graceful text covers basic science concepts … in accessible, clear language," commented Gillian Engberg in her review for Booklist. Dona J. Helmer, writing in School Library Journal, complimented the book's "well-organized, logical text."

Returning to the topic of unusual animals, Batten produced Hey, Daddy! Animal Fathers and Their Babies. The male takes an active part in raising young in several animal species, including certain types of penguins, frogs, and seahorses. Kay Weisman of Booklist found that the book "offers a good deal of information in an attractive format." Aliens from Earth: When Animals and Plants Invade Other Ecosystems deals with an ecological problem faced by environments when humans and other animals bring exotic species onto new soil. A Kirkus Reviews contributor described the book as "fascinating." Who Has a Belly Button? focuses on belly buttons found in different species of mammals, from humans to blue whales to bumblebee bats. Batten describes how this unique physical feature makes mammals different from other types of animals. A contributor to Kirkus Reviews considered Who Has a Belly Button? "an especially wonderful book to share with youngsters awaiting the birth of a sibling," while Doris Losey of School Library Journal noted that the book will prove useful for "reports and answering kids' questions."

In her books and articles for magazines, Batten has written on science topics as varied as astronomy, ecology, human behavior, and disease and has visited tropical rainforests, medical research laboratories, and astronomical observatories. "I feel lucky to be a science writer because I can follow my curiosity wherever my questions take me," she explained on her Web site. "Ecology has become a deep concern," Batten told Something about the Author, "not simply from the point of view of combating pollution but on the more serious level of the interrelationships that bind together all life on this planet. My travel to the tropical rainforest reserve maintained for scientific research by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute on Barro Colorado Island, Panama, really opened my eyes to the subtle interactions which sustain any natural system. I now have also a deep love for tropical rainforests and I go there whenever I can…. The power of words to create characters, to bring them alive and, hopefully, to enlarge the visions of my readers, fascinates me…. My ideas come from anyplace: a chance remark, an unexpected experience, a crisis, a dream, the newspaper, a subway ride."

Children are posed an intriguing question in Who Has a Belly Button?, and Batten provides the answer in a simple text grounded in fascinating science. (Illustration by Higgins Bond.)

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, September 15, 1969, review of Discovery by Chance: Science and the Unexpected, p. 123; April 15, 1974, review of The Tropical Forest, p. 935; January 15, 1992, Deborah Abbott, review of Nature's Tricksters: Animals and Plants That Aren't What They Seem, p. 934; May 15, 2000, Shelly Townsend-Hudson, review of Hungry Plants, p. 1745; August, 2001, Gillian Engberg, review of Anthropologist: Scientist of the People, p. 2109; October 1, 2002, Kay Weisman, review of Hey Daddy!: Animal Fathers and Their Babies, p. 328; March 1, 2003, Connie Fletcher, review of Aliens from Earth: When Animals and Plants Invade Other Ecosystems, p. 1193.

Growing Point, September, 1976, review of The Tropical Forest, p. 2949.

Horn Book, June, 1969, Harry C. Stubbs, "Views on Science Books," pp. 323-325; January-February, 2002, Peter D. Sieruta, review of Anthropologist, p. 92.

Junior Bookshelf, December, 1976, review of The Tropical Forest, pp. 337-338.

Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 1991, p. 1529; March 1, 2003, review of Aliens from Earth, p. 379; March 1, 2004, review of Who Has a Belly Button? p. 219.

Publishers Weekly, January 20, 1969, review of Discovery by Chance: Science and the Unexpected, p. 271.

School Library Journal, September, 1976, Frances E. Millhouser, review of Shark Attack Almanac, p. 162; April, 1992, p. 128; July, 2000, Nora Jane Natke, review of The Winking, Blinking Sea: All about Bioluminescence, p. 91; September, 2001, Dona J. Helmer, review of Anthropologist, p. 238; December, 2002, Cathie Bashaw Morton, review of Hey Daddy! p. 116; May, 2003, Laurie von Mehren, review of Aliens from Earth, p. 134; May, 2004, Doris Losey, review of Who Has a Belly Button? p. 128.

ONLINE

Mary Batten Home Page, http://www.marybatten.com (July 12, 2005).

Gwendolyn Battle-Lavert (1951-) Biography - Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights [next]

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