Cathleen Burnham is an experienced travel and wildlife photojournalist.
She has done assignments across the globe from Africa to Southeast Asia, from South and Central America to Europe. She is an author of a number of books, including this six-book series, the WAKA series (World Association of Kids and Animals), profiling real kids around the world who are actively engaged in local wildlife conservation on a grassroots, community-based level. She lives in Pittsford, New York, a suburb of Rochester. (Doyli is the first book in the series; other titles to be released 2015 and early 2016).
Cathleen was kind enough to answer some questions for us today, so without further ado, here she is!
About the Book
As succinctly as possible, tell us why someone should read your book.
In Doyli to the Rescue: Saving Baby Monkeys in the Amazon, 10-year-old Doyli, with the help of her family, rescues endangered, orphaned monkeys from the perils of native hunters and the black market. She takes the rescued animals to her island home in the Peruvian Amazon, where she runs an informal rescue shelter, with the help of her family. There, Doyli nurtures the baby monkeys back to health and eventually releases them back into their natural habitat: the Amazon rainforest.
As you’ve seen in our post earlier this week, we really enjoyed meeting Doyli too!
What is YOUR favorite part of the book?
It’s so hard to choose from the many moments when I was there, spending time with Doyli in her home on the island, taking the photographs and notes that would later become this book! Doyli’s family is so loving and were so helpful, letting me to take so many photos of their life. I loved seeing the Yagua Indian (a native hunter) in his headdress paddling up to the island in his dug-out canoe. I was moved when Doyli brought the baby howler monkey back from the brink of death because I, too, take in orphaned wildlife (I have been a wildlife rehabilitator in New York State), and I know how it feels to have a baby animal almost die and then give it the food and warmth it needs to survive and recover.
I even loved the ordinary, everyday moments, like when Doyli ate her breakfast – because the eggs and fried bananas smelled so delicious cooked over the toasty fire! Or seeing someone carry a full bucket of water every morning from the river to use in their house, which is so different from my life where I just turn on the spigot in the sink to get all the water I need, anytime I want it. Also, following Doyli to school, riding in her dugout canoe, was an epic adventure. And I was so happy when the awful monkey thief in the marketplace was arrested!
I really want to integrate it all, so that it wasn’t just a book about rescuing monkeys, but a glimpse into the life of a young girl who was inspired to do this rescue work because she cared so much for the wild animals that lived in the Amazon rainforest around her.
Yes, I agree that there are a mixture of great moments ranging from seeing Doyli in her every day life, to attending to her chores and going to school, as well as learning about her work as an animal rescuer. There are many things to love about the book!
What is the main message you want to convey to your readers in your books?
We all must look out for each other – not just people helping people – but encouraging people to find ways to help and protect all the living beings on Earth.
Doyli truly was an inspiration and she demonstrated that it is totally doable if your heart is in the right place.
Can we expect more books from you in the future?
Yes! Five more are all ready for release in this WAKA series (which stands for World Association of Kids and Animals). There is a book about a boy in Thailand helping elephants, a village of Costa Rican kids helping sea turtles, Masaii boys helping wild dogs, Tanzanian boys helping cheetahs, and a Central American girl saving monkeys and sloths. And there are several more books in development in the series. My publisher, Crickhollow Books, plans to release these as quickly as possible; the next book to come out this summer will be the sea turtle book.
We can’t wait to meet some more inspirational kids making a big difference in the world.
About Being an Author
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up? What inspired you to choose to write books?
I wanted to either be a writer or a statesman because I believed those were two ways you could really change the world for the better. I also wanted to be a vet because I love animals. I ended up being a photographer and writer, and believe that books are a wonderful way to reach out to young readers about ways they can make a difference now (they don’t have to wait to grow up to get involved in environmental causes and local projects!).
It looks like you are not too far from what you envisioned for yourself when you were younger. It sounds like you are having quite a few adventures!
“Cathleen – your books are BREATHTAKING! So gorgeous!” This came from Natalie Kinsey Warnock, a Vermont author of children’s books, whose work The Bear that Heard Crying. A fictionalized version of a fascinating true story of a three-year-old girl in 1783 who was lost in the woods of New Hampshire and was protected by a bear until her rescue four days later.
I second what Natalie says about Doyli to the Rescue!
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?
When I brought Doyli to the Rescue: Saving Baby Monkeys in the Amazon to a children’s book workshop, an editor took a quick look at it and said, “I don’t even know what this is supposed to be. Is Doyli a witch doctor?” That was upsetting, because I thought it was pretty clear that Doyli was a real girl saving animals in the Amazon.
That is such an insensitive inappropriate thing for an editor to say. Don’t even get me started!
More About Reading and Writing
What are some of your favourite books from when you were a child and did any of these inspire you when writing your books?
When I was very small, my favourite books were Little Bear by Maurice Sendak. I also loved the Winnie the Pooh books, Big Red, The Velveteen Rabbit, Rapunzel, The Wind in the Willows, Frog & Toad Are Friends, Green Eggs & Ham, and Are You My Mother? As I got older my favourites were Little House in the Big Woods, The Yearling (although it was so terribly sad), and The Outsiders. My favourite book of my childhood, though, was Anne of Green Gables.
Anne of Green Gables is definitely one of my favorites too and we were such huge fans of Dr. Seuss in our hosue. Our favorite was One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. I would spend so much time just flipping through the pages.
If you could invite any 5 authors to dinner who would you choose?
Jane Goodall, Mark Twain, Toni Morrison, Martha Beck, Elspeth Huxley.
What is your favourite book of all-time (adult)?
The Shipping News by Annie Proulx.
More About the Author
What is a typical day in your life?
When I am in the United States, I wake up around 5:00 or 6:00 a.m., see my daughter off to school, make coffee and walk around my yard with my dog and cats looking at all the life happening there –large and small. Often I’ll make a small campfire in my fire pit with fallen branches. Then I’ll come up to my writing room and work on the several writing projects I have going (a novel, a picture book, more projects in the WAKA series) or work on photographs for a few hours. Next is housework, running errands, visiting friends, and either cooking dinner or going out to dinner with my family. In the evening, I may correspond with someone in a different time zone, watch TV, plan my next trip, or research a writing project. Then, I’ll read in bed almost every night before I fall asleep.
I love how you begin your answer with “When I am in the United States…”. I’d love to hear about what life is like when you are traveling! Your everyday life sounds eerily like mine! I’m not sure I’m capable of falling asleep without reading first.
If you could choose only one time period (i.e., past, present, or future) and place to live, when and where would you live and why?
I would live in Kenya in the early 1900s. I would love to live amongst the Kenyan wildlife and visit all the different tribal people. Kenya is a fascinating place; I really enjoying spending time there not long ago, working on one of the coming books in the WAKA series.
How interesting! I can’t wait to catch a glimpse of your experiences there.
If you were a superhero what would your name be, what would be your super-power, and what would be your kryptonite?
I would be She-Eagle, able to soar all around the world at high speed, and my kryptonite would probably be cigarette smoke.
Oh, I’m you on the cigarette smoke ~ *cough, cough*.
If someone wrote a book about your life, what would the title be?
Love the Wild
- Place to travel? Tanzania, Botswana, Indonesia, Montana, China
- Food? Eggs and toast, coffee, Brussels sprouts
- TV Show? Modern Family
- Movie? “Born Free”, “The Fox and the Child”, “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”, “The Philadelphia Story” (LOVE that movie!), “Cross Creek”
- Smell? Rain on the road in summer, lilacs, freshly-cut grass, puppy’s breath.
- Animal? Dog, elephant, sea turtle, seal, cat
- Flower? Gardenia, poppy, snap dragon, pansy, rose
- Board game? Scrabble, Battleship, Clue
- Actor? Morgan Freeman, Gerard Butler, Ryan Gosling, Jack Nicholson, Cary Grant
- Actress? Meryl Streep, Reese Witherspoon, Julia Roberts, Doris Day
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