Stephen R. Swinburne (1952-) Biography
Personal, Career, Member, Writings, Sidelights
Born 1952, in London, England; Education: Castleton State College, B.A. Hobbies and other interests: Gardening, bird watching, canoeing.
Writer. Has also worked as a park ranger for National Park Service.
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Children's Book Insider.
Guide to Cumberland Island National Seashore, illustrated by Casey French Alexander, Eastern Acorn Press (New York, NY), 1984.
Swallows in the Birdhouse, Millbrook Press (Brookfield, CT), 1996.
Water for One, Water for Everyone: A Counting Book of African Animals, Millbrook Press (Brookfield, CT), 1998.
Moon in Bear's Eyes, Millbrook Press (Brookfield, CT), 1998.
Lots and Lots of Zebra Stripes: Patterns in Nature, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 1998.
In Good Hands: Behind the Scenes at a Center for Orphaned and Injured Birds, Sierra Club Books for Children (San Francisco, CA), 1998.
Coyote: North America's Dog, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 1999.
Safe, Warm, and Snug (poems), Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1999.
Once a Wolf: How Wildlife Biologists Fought to Bring Back the Gray Wolf, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1999.
Guess Whose Shadow?, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 1999.
Unbeatable Beaks (poems), Henry Holt (New York, NY), 1999.
What's Opposite?, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA),2000.
What's a Pair? What's a Dozen?, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 2001.
Bobcat: North America's Cat, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 2001.
Boxing Rabbits, Bellowing Alligators, and Other Animal Showoffs, Millbrook Press (Brookfield, CT), 2002.
Go, Go, Go!: Kids on the Move, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 2002.
What Color Is Nature?, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 2002.
The Woods Scientist, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2003.
Black Bear: North America's Bear, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 2003.
Stephen R. Swinburne has turned his personal enjoyment of nature and photography into a series of books on wildlife for children. Readers of Swinburne's books can learn how to stalk elusive bobcats through their range in North America. They can see innovative ways that unusual creatures find to protect their vulnerable offspring. They can learn interesting facts about wolves, black bears, and what it takes to be a field biologist studying animals in the wild. Additionally, Swinburne has created books of imaginative photographs that help very young children visualize such daunting concepts as "a pair," "a dozen," "shadows," and "opposites." In a Booklist review of one of Swinburne's works, The Woods Scientist, Gillian Engberg observed that the author's writing "is immediate, clear, and filled with moment-by-moment observations." Margaret Bush in School Library Journal felt that Swinburne's works "offer many invitations for personal involvement in studying wildlife."
Swallows in the Birdhouse is one of the author's early titles. This picture book begins with a brother and sister building a birdhouse and then explores what happens when a pair of tree swallows finds the house, builds a nest, and successfully hatches a brood of chicks. At the end of the book, the swallows amass in great numbers for a communal flight. In Booklist, Lauren Peterson commended Swallows in the Birdhouse for its "lovely descriptive language" and helpful facts on swallow biology and birdhouse building.
Swinburne has written two books that detail the lives of bears. Moon in Bear's Eyes concerns a grizzly bear family in the American West. Black Bear: North America's Bear introduces a species that is finding its way into suburban backyards as its numbers increase and the Eastern forests return. April Judge in Booklist suggested that Moon in Bear's Eyes "reads like an adventure story" while covering all the essential biology and ecology of grizzlies. Judge thought the work would be "a handsome addition" to nonfiction picture book collections.
In the course of his travels Swinburne has often inter-acted with wildlife biologists, both professional and amateur. In the book In Good Hands: Behind the Scenes at a Center for Orphaned and Injured Birds, the author introduces sixteen-year-old Hannah, a volunteer who is nursing an injured baby owl until it can be released into the wild. Ruth S. Vose in School Library Journal liked the "immediacy" imparted by Hannah's personal inter-actions with the owl and with human visitors to the shelter. In Booklist, Kathleen Squires noted that the "bittersweet" ending "will tug on the heartstrings." Swinburne also drew warm reviews for The Woods Scientist, a profile/narrative on the life of Susan C. Morse, a fourth-generation wildlife biologist and forester in Vermont. Booklist's Engberg noted that the title "brings young readers close to the excitement of scientific discovery."
The canine family is represented in two Swinburne books, Coyote: North America's Dog and Once a Wolf: How Wildlife Biologists Fought to Bring Back the Gray Wolf. Coyote includes Swinburne's personal experiences with the elusive wild dog as well as some of his own photographs. Donna Beales in Booklist declared that the work "packs a lot of information." Once a Wolf speaks specifically to the efforts to re-introduce gray wolves to Yellowstone National Park and its environs, over the objections of neighboring farmers and ranchers. Swinburne carefully describes both sides of a tough issue—the wolves' role in the region's ecology versus the economic impact on the ranchers. A Horn Book critic deemed Once a Wolf "bracingly journalistic," and Ruth S. Vose in School Library Journal praised "the excitement of science in action" to be found in its pages.
Bobcats rank among the most difficult of all large mammals to find in the wild. In Bobcat: North America's Cat, Swinburne goes in search of the beautiful predator, alone, with professional trackers, and with a class of sixth graders. Interspersed with these treks, the author fills his readers in on the bobcat's survival skills and its passion for privacy. Margaret Bush in School Library Journal felt that Swinburne's personal anecdotes "lend an inviting immediacy" to the narrative. In Booklist, Ilene Cooper contended that the title will make readers think "about the relationship between animals and their prey."
Nature affords many opportunities for bright, educational photographs, and Swinburne has published a number of well-received theme books with his own photographs. One of the best known of these is Lots and Lots of Zebra Stripes: Patterns in Nature, a work that uses natural sources to teach preschoolers about pattern. Lauren Peterson in Booklist called Lots and Lots of Zebra Stripes a "gorgeous photo-essay." Other Swinburne photo books pose questions such as What's Opposite?, What's a Pair? What's a Dozen?, and What Color Is Nature?, and then answer their respective questions with vivid photographs of objects that young children will recognize, even if they have never seen them so vividly presented. Booklist correspondent Carolyn Phelan found What's Opposite? to be a "handsome book of photographs." School Library Journal contributor Kristina Aaronson declared What's a Pair? What's a Dozen? a good introduction to mathematical concepts, as well as a "well-designed picture book" with "… clear, engaging photographs." What Color Is Nature? drew praise from Phelan in Booklist for its "jewel-bright photos" that are "clear and well composed."
Swinburne's Safe, Warm, and Snug uses rhyming verses to offer glimpses into the many ways that animals protect their babies. From toads to penguins to marsupials, the book covers some of the most bizarre parental behavior on the planet. In her School Library Journal review of the work, Marian Drabkin called Safe, Warm, and Snug "a celebration of the animal world" that offers the added attraction of giving children "reassurance that parents are protectors."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, June 1, 1996, Lauren Peterson, review of Swallows in the Birdhouse, p. 1729; May 1, 1998, April Judge, review of Moon in Bear's Eyes, p. 1520; July, 1998, Kathleen Squires, review of In Good Hands: Behind the Scenes at a Center for Orphaned and Injured Birds, p. 1880; September 15, 1998, Lauren Peterson, review of Lots and Lots of Zebra Stripes: Patterns in Nature, p. 233; March 1, 1999, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Once a Wolf: How Wildlife Biologists Fought to Bring Back the Gray Wolf, p. 1211; June 1, 1999, Kay Weisman, review of Safe, Warm, and Snug, p. 1835; October 15, 1999, Donna Beales, review of Coyote: North America's Dog, p. 440; March 15, 2000, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of What's a Pair? What's a Dozen?, p. 1384; September 1, 2000, Carolyn Phelan, review of What's Opposite?, p. 120; April 1, 2001, Ilene Cooper, review of Bobcat: North America's Cat, p. 1468; June 1, 2002, Carolyn Phelan, review of What Color Is Nature?, p. 1732; March 15, 2003, Gillian Engberg, review of The Woods Scientist, p. 1326.
Horn Book, July, 1999, review of Once a Wolf, p. 487.
Publishers Weekly, May 3, 1999, review of Safe, Warm, and Snug, p. 75; April 8, 2002, review of Safe, Warm, and Snug, p. 230.
School Library Journal, June, 1996, Helen Rosenberg, review of Swallows in the Birdhouse, p. 118; August, 1998, Ruth S. Vose, review of In Good Hands, p. 184; January, 1999, Arwen Marshall, review of Lots and Lots of Zebra Stripes, p. 122; May, 1999, Ruth S. Vose, review of Once a Wolf, p. 140; June, 1999, Marian Drabkin, review of Safe, Warm, and Snug, p. 122; April, 2000, Kristina Aaronson, review of What's a Pair? What's a Dozen?, p. 126; October, 2000, Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, review of What's Opposite?, p. 154; August, 2001, Margaret Bush, review of Bobcat, p. 205; April, 2003, Margaret Bush, review of The Woods Scientist, p. 193; August, 2003, Kathy Piehl, review of Once a Wolf, p. 117; November, 2003, Nancy Call, review of Black Bear: North America's Bear, p. 132.
Steve Swinburne Home Page, http://www.steveswinburne.com/ (March 27, 2004).
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