I’m Erin Dealey, and I write books for kids. I’m a teacher, presenter, rhymer, blogger, and proud Drama Mama.

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8 Qs with Sibert honoree Patricia Newman = Happy Book Birthday to A RIVER’S GIFTS: The Mighty Elwha River Reborn 

September 6, 2022

Happy Release Day to Sibert honoree Patricia Newman’s

gorgeous new nonfiction picture book,

A RIVER’S GIFTS: The Mighty Elwha River Reborn,

Illus. Natasha Donovan, Millbrook / Lerner.

Full Disclosure: I may be a bit biased about this wonderful book, since my dear friend Patti is the author and our critique group has seen this book grow from the beginning concept…

But don’t take my word for it:

ALA Booklist Starred review: “award winner”! Plus Kirkus Star…

Featured in KIRKUS’ “150 Most Anticipated Books for Fall.”

“Writing in stirring verse, Newman explains that in what is now Washington state, the Elwha River flowed north to the sea…”

Starred Kirkus Review
Click here to view trailer.

8 Questions for Patricia Newman

Author’s Purpose

Q 1. Welcome to the blog, Patti! Because Author’s Purpose is a key part of this important project, let’s start here: What do you want readers to take away from A River’s Gifts?

Patricia Newman: Connection. Most of us don’t live as close to nature as the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and as a result we forget its benefits. But they exist whether we see them or not. With A River’s Gifts I want to inspire readers to see and understand how nature impacts our lives. I also hope that this environmental success story inspires them to act on behalf of nature.

Listen to Patricia Newman’s Live from the 25 podcast, recorded at ALA, to learn more about how her books support her goals of increasing environmental awareness and action in the next generation.


Q 2. What was the most surprising fact or discovery you’ve made as your book, A RIVER’S GIFTS, went from idea to published book?

Patricia Newman: Before the Elwha and Glines Canyon Dams on the Elwha River could be destroyed, the lakes above the dams were drained. As the lakes drained, cedar stumps emerged. These cedars were chopped down when the dams were constructed in the early 1900s. Witnesses said their sap still smelled sweet—one hundred years later! I wish I had been there to smell that sap.

Interior art by Natasha Donovan, from A RIVER’S GIFTS, written by Patricia Newman (Millbrook/ Lerner)


Q 3. How long does it take you to write such an incredible, in-depth book like A RIVER’S GIFTS?

Patricia Newman: I discovered the idea for A River’s Gifts in September 2018 (with some help from my husband). I submitted an overview of the book with an outline to my editor in February 2019. By July, I had an offer. Two months later I visited Port Angeles, WA, the city at the mouth of the Elwha River, to interview several experts and to see the river for myself. I sweated over the manuscript for four months before finally submitting it to my editor in January 2020. My editor and I worked on a few minor revisions, then let illustrator Natasha Donovan do her thing. We had a final version ready for the printer in early 2022.

Bonus–> Inside look at Newman’s pre-writing process:

Q 4. The “stirring verse” (Kirkus/ starred review) of A RIVER’S GIFTS is a departure from the prose and voice of your other nonfiction books. How did this come about?

Patricia Newman: Even though A River’s Gifts is shorter than most of my other nonfiction, it has a broader scope than my other titles. The Elwha River has been flowing for thousands of years. To fully understand the importance of this river to the ecosystem, I began the story when the river formed. The lyrical verse just flowed out of me. It always felt right for this story, from the first drips of the idea. To channel the river, I guess I became the river.

Meet the Illustrator

Q 5. We love that illustrator Natasha M. Donovan is Métis and lives in northern Washington, which is where the Elwha River is located. In your words, “Like the Klallam Tribe, the area is in her blood. Her illustrations feel like home.” (source) What surprises did illustrator Natasha bring to the book?

Patricia Newman: Natasha is one of those rare illustrators who can draw people and nature well. This land is in her blood. The colors, the smells, the textures, the sounds. When I look at Natasha’s incredible art for A River’s Gifts, I feel the water rushing in spots and burbling in others. I hear the salmon jumping and the river breathing life into the forest. I also loved how she captured the determination of The Strong People, the scientists, and the volunteers involved in the restoration. 

Interior art by Natasha Donovan, from A RIVER’S GIFTS, written by Patricia Newman (Millbrook/ Lerner)

STEM Activities and Curriculum Guides

Q 6. Taking a page from your wonderful #STEM / #STEAM blog series, LitLinks, can you share a connection between STEM and language arts using A RIVER’S GIFTS? Will there be a LitLinks post featuring your book?

Patricia Newman: A River’s Gifts has several connections to STEM and language arts, including the salmon, how a river forms, and how a river habitat works. Educators and homeschooling parents can find activities for each of these concepts in the curriculum guide for A River’s Gifts.

A Chinook Salmon spawning. Photo credit: John Mahan

Regarding LitLinks, look for a unique STEM connection to A River’s Gifts on September 21, just before World Rivers Day. 

Making a Difference

Q 7. What do you tell readers—young and old–who are inspired to make a difference in our world, to help preserve or restore our environment, but don’t know where to start?

Patricia Newman: Start small and start local. Choose something that fits in with your lifestyle, whether it’s packing a zero-waste lunch or eating a plant-based meal one day a week. Do what you can do. We can’t do it all, and the first change is the hardest. Once you begin, you notice other ways you can tread more lightly on our planet, and you will incorporate new habits into your life.

Q 8. Can you tell us about any other projects in the works?

Patricia Newman: There are so many more environmental stories to tell! I’m working on proposals for two of them.

Thank you, Patti, for joining the blog today!

To learn more about Patricia Newman and her books,

go to patriciamnewman.com

and follow her on social media–

FB : patricia.newman

Twitter: @PatriciaNewman

So many wonderful books by Patricia Newman.

Happy Reading!

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