Southwest Children's Literature

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Agave Blooms Just Once

Author Interview with Gisela Jernigan:

Why did you write this book?
When I wrote my first book, One Green Mesquite Tree (1988), a counting book about the Sonoran Desert, I had planned to write an alphabet book, too. Agave Blooms Just Once is that book. At the time, there weren't very many books about our desert. Also, my son was a hiker who knew a great deal about Sonoran desert plants and animals. He was my inspiration.

Did you share Agave Bloom Just Once with kids as you were writing it?
No, I didn't share it with school children while I was writing it. At the time, I wasn't working outside my home. I did, of course, share my ideas with own my children.

Did you do research on the plants and animals of the Sonoran Desert?
Yes, I certainly did research on the plants and animals in all my books. It was most řimportant to me to be certain that a particular plant would actually be growing in an animal's specific habitat. Also, I was careful about showing animals as diurnal, active in the daytime, or nocturnal, active at night. In order to do my research. I used nature guides and went to the library often.

Have you written other books?
I have written and published a total of three books: One Green Mesquite Tree (1988), Agave Blooms Just Once (1989), and Sonoran Seasons (1994). I have written other books but have not had them published as yet.

What is it like to work with your husband as the illustrator of your books?
I have written each of our books before my husband has started the illustrations. Wesley draws with colored pencils and likes to work from photographs. I brought him copies of Arizona Highways magazines to help him draw details in his pictures. Wesley sometimes complains about the number of spines on cactus because he feels like he has to draw every one of them! In Sonoran Seasons, he used our family as models for the people he drew. In the original version of Agave Blooms Just Once, I had written about the elf owl and the fairy duster on the same page. I had read in a book about the Sonoran Desert that the fairy duster was a tree, and I liked the idea of having an "elf" and a "fairy" on the same page. Wesley, however, found out that a fairy duster is a small plant, and an elf owl wouldn't normally be found on the ground next to one. I changed the plant on the elf owl page to the Fremont cottonwood, a truly large tree.

What's the best part about being an author?
There are many best parts of being an author. I have especially enjoyed meeting other authors. I like sharing my books with readers. And of course, it is very exciting to see my books in print. I love books!

Do you have any children? or pets?
I have four sons, ages 13, 16, 25, and 29. When my youngest son was three, I did lots of school visits. For a while, I brought him with me to schools but learned that he was a distraction to the children. He liked to grab the books out of my hands! As my sons were growing up, we had some desert animals as pets. We currently have one cat named Andromeda.

This interview was conducted with Gisela Jernigan on March 30, 2000.

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