Lenora Todaro—Sea Lions in the Parking Lot: Animals on the Move in a Time of Pandemic

Sea Lions

Sea Lions


LenoraTodaro (NASW member). Illustrated by Annika Siems
mineditionUS/Astra Books for Young Readers, October 5, 2021, $18.99
ISBN10: 1662650493, ISBN 13: 9781662650499
Ebook ISBN: 9781662650499
For readers aged 4-8 years.

Todaro reports:

During lockdown, confined to a two-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn with my husband, three teenage sons, and our dog, I found myself transfixed by reports of unusual animal behavior occurring around the world—behavior brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and the abrupt stoppage of human activity as one country after another urged its citizens to stay indoors.

An octopus swimming into a canal in Venice, Italy, caused a local stir. A kangaroo’s journey through the empty city streets of Adelaide, Australia was captured on a police video. Sea turtles hatched in record numbers in Brazil and Mexico. I began to see these stories as a series of vignettes for a children’s picture book, rooted in science and reporting, about changes—however temporary—in animal behavior and habitat that might point toward ways humans and wildlife can better coexist.



Just prior to lockdown, I had been writing Sidewalk Naturalist, a column about urban wildlife in New York City, and reviews of children’s books that featured animals. My book review editor decided to transition into a career as a children’s book editor. During a backyard conversation, she said she loved my idea of looking at the pandemic through the lens of wildlife. She wanted it ready in time for this fall, with an emphasis on habitats.

Trained as a journalist, I work well on deadlines, but this is my first children’s book, so the process was a new adventure. I researched and fact-checked stories and interviewed scientists. I wrote and revised the vignettes, then whittled them down to twelve that represent a variety of countries, habitats, and creatures. I reached out to teachers and librarians to find out how the book might help them in the classroom.

Working on this book gave me the final push to begin a graduate program in Animal Behavior and Conservation at Hunter College in Manhattan.

I don’t have an agent. My advice to aspiring children’s book writers is to join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and to find one person or a critique group whose opinion you trust to read your manuscript at different stages.

Contact info:

NASW members: will your book be published soon? Promote it by submitting your report for Advance Copy.

Tell your fellow NASW members how you came up with the idea for your book, developed a proposal, found an agent and publisher, funded and conducted research, and put the book together. Include what you wish you had known before you began working on your book, or had done differently.

See https://www.nasw.org/advance-copy-submission-guidelines.

View Advance Copy archives at https://www.nasw.org/member-article/advance-copy.

Thinking of writing a book? If you are a NASW member, you may access a list of more than 200 books and online resources to help you craft your book proposal, find an agent and funding sources, negotiate your contract, learn about self-publishing, publicize and market your book, and more at https://www.nasw.org/article/write-book.

Send book info and questions about book publishing to Lynne Lamberg, NASW book editor, llamberg@nasw.org.

Follow @LynneLamberg on Twitter for news about science/medical books and writing.

Hero image by Stephanie Harvey on Unsplash/

Oct. 13, 2021

Advance Copy

The path from idea to book may take myriad routes. The Advance Copy column, started in 2000 by NASW volunteer book editor Lynne Lamberg, features NASW authors telling the stories behind their books. Authors are asked to report how they got their idea, honed it into a proposal, found an agent and a publisher, funded and conducted their research, and organized their writing process. They also are asked to share what they wish they’d known when they started or would do differently next time, and what advice they can offer aspiring authors. Lamberg edits the authors’ answers to produce the Advance Copy reports.

NASW members: Will your book be published soon? Visit www.nasw.org/advance-copy-submission-guidelines for information on submitting your report.

Publication of NASW author reports in Advance Copy does not constitute NASW's endorsement of any publication or the ideas, values, or material contained within or espoused by authors or their books. We hope this column stimulates productive discussions on important topics now and in the future as both science and societies progress. We welcome your discussion in the comments section below.