Monday, January 3, 2011

Fact Check Dilemma

Yesterday, I was bored after deciding we all definitely needed to chill out for the New Year weekend.  Apparently, every cell in my body resists relaxation.  So I worked on my Issue Log for the children's book I have been working on.  I researched the animals to make sure my assumptions about their hibernation patterns, whether each animal was nocturnal or not, and what they eat were correct.  I know my animals talk by chapter 5 or so (I couldn't seem to get around the need for dialog), but I want them to be as realistic as possible. 

I quickly found a site devoted to wildlife in Ohio.  I found details about each creature in my story - a rabbit, a chipmunk, fireflies, and garter snakes.  To my dismay, I found no information on the site about hedgehogs living in Ohio.  I thought it would be easy enough to come up with a story about how the hedgehog was transported from, let's say, Indiana or Kentucky.  On further search, I discovered that I was correct that hedgehogs are nocturnal but was dead wrong about them living in North America - not even one. Oh Crap, I thought and broke the news to my kids, who were very involved in developing the characters in the story. 

My daughter agreed that the hedgehog was out - I needed to find another animal.  I went back to the Ohio wildlife site and looked for other mammals - hopefully one would be similar enough to the hedgehog character and would fit the mannerisms and body size of the character in my story.  After a quick search, I decided to go with a groundhog - I can make it work.

I broke the news to my fourth-grade son, whose character is loosely bound to the hedgehog character.  He immediately had a solution for me.  With full animation he explained I should add a prologue.  In the prologue I should explain how the hedgehog got to suburban Ohio, where hedgehogs clearly do not live.  He proceeded to tell me the story of how our hedgehog came from Africa to Ohio in a box.  It was priceless - I knew at that moment, my young son would be a fantastic writer someday. 

When he was through telling me his story, I complimented him (it really was a great idea) and offered up the option of the groundhog as a substitution.  After all, my son was born on groundhog day - we have always called him our little groundhog.  It took him a few minutes before he heard my words - he continued on telling me how the prologue should go - then his face lit up.  He agreed and thought the groundhog would be an excellent idea. 

From his idea of the prologue, I decided to create a brief non-fiction section in the back of the book explaining each species represented in the story.  When I researched fireflies, I learned that they are becoming endangered in Ohio due to the frequent summer draughts lately - we have had two bad ones in the last four years.  I only remember one night this year where the kids gathered to catch lightning bugs.  That would be sad if they all disappeared.

The next item on my issue log is the flowers in our area - I know some of the names of flowers that grow in our garden and when they bloom, but not all of them.  I definitely want to add that little bit of realism to my story.

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