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Author and illustrator explored orcas’ home while creating ‘A Whale of the Wild’

“I’ve been curious about orcas all my life,” Parry told KidsPost by phone from her backyard tree house in Portland, Oregon, where she writes.

Parry first encountered these marine mammals as a child when she and her family were camping one night near a beach in the San Juan Islands. She was awakened by the sound of orcas emerging to breathe.

“I remember this great ‘chaaaah’ of outgoing breath and instant knowledge that it was a whale,” Parry said. “I heard several more breaths, one at a time, and then they slipped away.”

Underwater world

Parry’s curiosity led her to write a story about two young orcas, Vega and her little brother Deneb.

The book begins with Vega learning how to run her family group or pod with her eager assistant, Deneb. When Vega acts impulsively, the siblings are separated from their pod. In search of their lost family, they discover friends – and great danger.

When asked as she – a rural dweller – wrote from the underwater perspective of the orcas, Parry replied with a laugh: “It was quite a challenge.”

Parry read books and articles on orcas and interviewed scientists. She asked questions to Native American leaders, whose tribes have coexisted with orcas for thousands of years.

But she really got to experience the world of orcas when she and the book’s illustrator, Lindsay Moore, traveled for a week by car, on foot and by kayak through the region around the Salish Sea in September last year.

As they traveled, Parry and Moore observed the seaweed, shellfish, and other wild things around them. They took photos and notes and drew sketches so that they could accurately represent these things in the book.

On the water in the kayak, Parry took care of the tides and currents that orcas swim through. As they paddled, she and Moore could “spy” or see at the same level as an orca if it partially rose from the sea to look around.

“Lindsay was the perfect travel companion,” said Parry. “She studied marine biology, so I knew her illustrations would be both accurate and beautiful, and she also helped me with details for the book.”

Write in a tree

For 17 years Parry has been writing in a tree house, a place perfect for nature lovers. In the branches of a Douglas fir, surrounded by birds and squirrels, she imagines the life of wild creatures, including orcas and the wolf, in her novel “A wolf named Wander”.

For children interested in writing about animals, Parry offers this tip: Try to be as conscious of the world as the animal could be. What would it see, hear, smell? How could it move?

Parry takes her own advice. She knelt and sniffed the forest like her wolf character and watched sea otters like her orcas.

Now she’s trying to decide which animal to write about for her next book. Depending on her choice, she may soon come into character by flying, running, or crawling.

Help for orcas

“A Whale of the Wild” highlights real problems – global warming, toxins in the water and lack of food for orcas and other marine animals. Want to help? Rosanne Parry suggests the following:

● Use less energy. Go for a walk, ride a bike, or ask parents to carpool. Turn off lights and electronics when you are not using them.

● Buy less and recycle more. Try to keep plastics and other pollutants out of the water.

● Write letters to your local representatives in Congress. Protest when fragile ecosystems are threatened.

Virtual event

What: Rosanne Parry talks about “A Whale of the Wild”.

Host: Second star on the right in Denver, Colorado.

When: November 22nd at 4 p.m. east time (2 p.m. mountain time).

Best for: ages 8 and up.

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