His children’s books brought science to life – The Denver Post

Steve Jenkins, an award-winning children’s book author and illustrator whose passion for science, as well as his meticulous and vivid collages, has made the natural world a reality. should be alive, passed away on December 26 in Boulder. He was 69 years old.

His wife, Robin Page, said the cause was a splenic aneurysm.

How many ways can you catch a fly? And who eats flies? Why do turtles clean hippos, and how? What would you do if you worked at the zoo? What do baby animals do on the day they are born? How do animals talk to each other? How do birds make nests? His books, often written with Page, answer the kinds of questions, posed by children (as well as still curious adults) about animals and the world around them.

Out of curiosity, Jenkins combined the rigor of scientific research with exquisite illustrations and clear language to explore topics like animal vision: “Eye to Eye: How Animals See the World” (2014) explains how a domestic cat sees in the dark. (At the back of its eyes is a reflective layer called the tapetum, which reflects light back through the cat’s retina.)

His “Extreme Animals” series includes the hardest, fastest, deadliest, and foulest animals. The last type is the European Rolling Chicken, which vomits all over itself to ward off predators. (His vomit stinks from the toxin in the grasshoppers that the chicks are fed by their parents.)

Questions about his own children have started many books. When Trang’s daughter was 2 or 3 years old, she wondered why the houses and cars she saw through the plane windows were so small. So Jenkins made a wordless book called “Looking Down” (1995), a visual journey from outer space to a child’s backyard.

Jenkins’ medium is paper: tearing (a good method for furs) or cutting with an X-Acto knife, assembled by him so precisely that his images, such as fragile shadows on the baggy skin of a rhinoceros, it looked as if he had painted them. .

He used a variety of paper to do so: marbled paper; stickers he made with Robin Page (the rich texture of the paste makes the vulture’s black plumage pop); Japanese rice paper (for translucent creatures like jellyfish); bark paper (also good for feathers); and even butcher paper. He once picked up burnt wax paper from a pizza box because he found its pattern interesting.

During his long career, Jenkins has illustrated, written, and art-directed over 50 books, many with Page; Together, they have sold over 4 million copies and been translated into 19 languages, including Catalan and Farsi. He has also illustrated about 40 books for other authors. Among the many awards he has received is the Caldecott Medal, the highest honor in children’s picture books.

“Children don’t need anyone to surprise them; they already have it,” wrote Jenkins in 2000, when he won The Boston Globe-Horn Book Award. “But they needed a way to combine the different bits and pieces of knowledge they had acquired into some logical picture of the world. For me, science provides the most elegant and satisfying way to construct this picture. ”

Stephen Wilkins Jenkins was born on March 31, 1952 in Hickory, North Carolina. His father, Alvin Wilkins Jenkins Jr., was a professor of physics and astronomy; His mother, Margaret Wade (Anderson) Jenkins, is a bank administrator and homemaker.

His father taught and researched at many universities, and the family moved often. Steve grew up in various places in North Carolina, Panama, Virginia, Kansas, California and Colorado.

He was a born naturalist, collector, and experimenter. “Wherever we live,” he writes on his website, “I maintain a small camp of lizards, turtles, spiders, and other animals. I have collected rocks and fossils. I built a chemistry lab, which produces a lot of horrible smells and loud bangs. With Dad’s help, I built radios, electric motors, and other devices. I also spent a lot of time on books.”

He thinks he is aiming for a scientific career just like his father. But at the last minute, he turned to art school, earning his undergraduate and master’s degrees from North Carolina State University’s School of Design. It was there that he met Trang.

In 1982, he and Page opened a design studio in New York City, Jenkins & Page, having worked for American Express, Audubon, Calvin Klein, Levi’s and many other corporate clients. They married in 1984 and moved from New York to Boulder a decade later.

In addition to his wife, Jenkins is survived by their children, Jamie, Alec and Page Jenkins; his mother; and one brother, Jeffrey.

Margaret Raymo, Jenkins’ longtime editor, told Publishers Weekly: “His curiosity and passion for science and the natural world were boundless. Over the past 25 years, she and Jenkins have written more than 50 books together, first at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and then at Little, Brown Books for young readers, where Raymo is executive editor, and two Jenkins and Page’s next book will be. (START OPTIONAL TRIM.) “He always had new ideas coming in – the hard part was deciding which one to work on next,” says Raymo. “He wants kids to get excited about science.”

In a phone interview, Raymo added: “I always learn something when we work together.”

(END OPTION TRIM.) Over the years, Jenkins found himself increasingly frustrated by society’s escalation towards creationism and other questionable sciences. The idea that evolution should be considered theory and not scientific fact, or that it should not be taught at all, particularly stirred him.

A soft-spoken, soft-spoken man whose conversational style often appeases others, a decade ago he was amazed when he gave a speech to a group of educators about the dangers of ignoring scientific data or manipulating facts for political gain or financial gain, and some audiences walk out.

“Understanding how science works means that we know how to think critically about things,” he said that day, “that we can observe things as they really appear. , instead, as we said, form new ideas about things and test them against what we already know.

“This kind of thinking is essential if we want to maintain some kind of control over our lives and culture.” This article originally appeared in New York Times.

https://www.denverpost.com/2022/01/16/steve-jenkins-69-dies-his-childrens-books-brought-science-to-life/ His children’s books brought science to life – The Denver Post

Huynh Nguyen

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