Dragons and Earth: New children’s book explores helping the environment

Children’s author and poet Nancy Donovan will be at the Lane Memorial Public Library in Hampton on Thursday, Feb. 27, at 6:30 p.m. to talk about her most recent book, In the Valley of the Dragons.

Inspired by both the natural world and her grandchildren, Donovan uses her books as an outlet to shine a light on the environmental issues that we as a society face.

Her fourth book, In the Valley of the Dragons, is about a little girl named Lauren who visits the Valley of the Dragons.

Here, she learns to take care of the Earth, including things like soil conservation and water conservation.

Donovan said that in In the Valley of the Dragons, Lauren tells her mother that she can help keep the Earth clean.

“It’s an affirmation that you can go on from here and that you can do something,” Donovan said.

A caretaker by nature, Donovan was raised outside of Boston and went to Boston College’s school of nursing.

Working as a nurse practitioner up until her retirement in 2004, Donovan settled down in Hampton, the place she spent her summers since 1965.

“Hampton is home to me,” she said. “The changes in the environment and ocean that I’ve seen in the time that I’ve lived here makes me very concerned. Ocean acidification, lobster migration, changes in shellfish, increased risks of flooding are all things that have become problems. These are all things we need to pay attention to.”

These concerns and Donovan’s desire to sort out her thoughts through poetry led her to begin writing more regularly.

Shortly after her retirement, she met a woman named Pat Parnell who became her writing mentor and introduced her to many writers and groups along the Seacoast.

In 2006 she began volunteering at Seacoast Science Center in Rye. Advising her to sign up for a Marine Docent Program at UNH, Donovan’s environmental knowledge expanded as a result and has since inspired many of her books.

Donovan said that her books are an attempt to reach kids at a young age to inform them of the severity of the problems that she touches on in her books and ways they can start to make a positive change.

She published her first book, Oscar the Herringgull, in 2011. The story developed from her time at the docent program, and it touches on the human impact on ecology and ways that people can better care for the habitats of these animals.

Her 2015 book The Wild Dolphin Rider is loosely based on her grandson Sean and his interest in marine biology; it’s about a boy who wishes to swim with magical dolphins. In his journey, he encounters the many issues that the ocean faces to this day, such as coral bleaching and plastic pollution.

“When I was writing this book, I was much more alarmed by what is going on,” Donovan said.“It is research-heavy and vetted by two marine biologists through UNH. Although it is information-dense, I try to put it at a level where kids can understand and for them to say, ‘I can do something and I can change this,’” she said.

Donovan’s books take a couple of years to bring to life as she puts a lot of effort and diligence in presenting factual information about the issues she brings up, in a visually appealing way, with the help of Susan Spellman’s art. But most importantly she aims at making environmental issues understandable for children.

“If I’m going to do this, I want to hold up something I am proud of. Storytelling is the best way to present ideas. Stories stick with people and it’s an important art,” she said. “I have the chance to bring ideas about the importance of taking care and recognizing threats to the environment to both children and adults.”

— Chad Ripley

Nancy Donovan at Lane Memorial Library
Where: 2 Academy Ave., Hampton
When: Thursday, Feb. 27, at 6:30 p.m.
Cost: Free
More info: lanememoriallibrary.org, 603-926-3368