Join Tristan Hunt and the Sea Guardian on their most dangerous adventure yet.
Let's chat with Ellen Prager....
Other than the conservation themes in your books, what is one thing you would want kids to take away from reading Tristan Hunt?
Obviously, I want kids to come away with an interest in the ocean and marine life, but equally I want them to simply enjoy reading and books! Reading is a critical skill for all students and by engaging them with a fun, easy, and entertaining read I hope to the way for a life-long love of and interest in reading.
How has writing for children augmented your career in ocean science? And vice versa?
Writing for children allows me to consider ocean science subjects from a new and very fun perspective, to do research on topics and locales I may not have previously studied, and it enables me to bring so much of what I have learned as a scientist to a new generation of learners and make it entertaining as well as understandable.
You are a recognized name and authority on "things of the sea" and have achieved much in your chosen career. What moved or directed you toward the oceans as your point of interest and career choice?
As a child I loved nature and swimming. I used to run around in the woods, climb trees, and spent hours in the neighborhood pool. Another big influence was watching Jacque Cousteau specials on television back then. But really my career dove headfirst into the ocean when two things happened. I was offered the opportunity to try scuba diving. I fell in love with it and got certified when I was in high school. And in college, I took a semester away from Wesleyan University to study tropical marine science at a marine laboratory in St. Croix. That was it for me, I was "hooked."
Once you began working in that direction, you moved into the realm of authoring books for young readers. Was there an "ah ha!" moment that you decided this was a good direction to pursue and why?
There were many "ah ha" moments along the way! One was when I started visiting classrooms and speaking to kids. I saw their eyes light up when I made science understandable and fun. I then tried my hand at writing popular science and children books. I discovered it came naturally and very much enjoyed it, actually more than writing technical science. Then, a few years ago, people began asking me if I had books specifically for young readers (middle grade). I didn't, so I decided that needed to change. Middle grade is a very influential time in a child's life and can have a big impact on their life-long interests and the lives of those around them. And one of the things I love about writing fiction for young readers is that I get to combine adventure and humor with ocean science (three of my favorite things).
Fortunately, the "ah ha" moments continue. My favorites are when I get a wonderful reaction from readers. Just the other day, after a discussion with a class of middle school students reading my Tristan Hunt and the Sea Guardian series, I took lots of selfies with the kids, but on the way out, one young boy raced over, grabbed my legs, and gave me a huge hug for the books. Almost brought me to tears, it was so heart warming and inspiring. That's what it is all about!
What do you consider your greatest achievement in your career?
I don't have a single, specific greatest achievement in my career. I'm proud of many of the things I've accomplished. Right now though, I am most proud of the impact I'm having on both young and older readers alike in inspiring an interest in and caring for the ocean and marine life, as well in helping to get kids reading and enjoying it.
What piece of advice would you offer to 1) parents and 2) children?
Encourage your kids to follow their dreams, work hard, don't be afraid to try new things, share your love of reading with them. and give them experiences in nature. So many kids today do not have an opportunity to experience nature firsthand and it is truly worrisome.
As for children, much of the same. Follow your dreams, you can be and do anything. Work hard and be pro-active, go after the things you want, and don't be afraid to take risks. And of course read, read, read and get out into nature – especially the ocean!