Guest Edition

Patricia Newman–What Was on Her . . .

Patricia Newman

With Earth Day right around the corner, I can think of no better guest than award-winning author Patricia Newman. Patricia has made it her personal mission to empower young readers to act for our planet. In Eavesdropping on Elephants, she introduced readers to Africa’s forest elephants and the steps needed to save them from extinction. In Plastic Ahoy!, she revealed how the Great Pacific Garbage Patch affects each of us. In her most recent book, Planet Ocean, she reveals the importance of our ocean, showing that every breath we take and every drop of water we drink links us to the “beating blue heart” of our world.


                                                    PLANET OCEAN:                                                                                      Why We All need A Healthy Ocean                                   

By Patricia Newman, Photographs by Annie Crawley

A little more than 70 percent of Planet Earth is ocean. So wouldn’t a better name for our global home be Planet Ocean?

You may be surprised at just how closely YOU are connected to the ocean. Regardless of where you live, every breath you take and every drop of water you drink links you to the ocean. And because of this connection, the ocean’s health affects all of us.

Dive in with author Patricia Newman and photographer Annie Crawley—visit the Coral Triangle near Indonesia, the Salish Sea in the Pacific Northwest, and the Arctic Ocean at the top of the world. Find out about problems including climate change, ocean acidification, and plastic pollution, and meet inspiring local people who are leading the way to reverse the ways in which humans have harmed the ocean.

Planet Ocean shows us how to stop thinking of ourselves as existing separate from the ocean and how to start taking better care of this precious resource.



For Planet Ocean, Patricia interviewed scuba divers, scientists, conservationists, professors, children, teens—in short, anyone who had a story to tell about the importance of the ecosystem that covers most of our globe. She traveled to Seattle to take a scuba diving course with her book-partner, photographer Annie Crawley. While there, she and Annie also gathered information on the Salish Sea ecosystem, which includes the Puget Sound. As Annie traveled to the Coral Triangle in Indonesia and to the Arctic, Patricia kept in contact by phone, texts, emails, Google Drive, Dropbox, Facebook, and Twitter.

When Patricia is not researching and writing, she is a much-loved speaker. Throughout the year, she visits schools (both in person and virtually) for assemblies, classroom visits, and writers’ workshops. With all this and her advocacy for our planet, it’s hard to believe—but true—that Patricia also curates LitLinks, a blog that highlights the natural connections between STEM and language arts. Given how busy Patricia is, I feel lucky, very lucky indeed, to have her with us today.

Patricia joins us from Sacramento, California, where she lives with her husband Ken and her dog JoJo, to tell us what was on her…

Wish list for Earth Day: Sandra, I don’t mean to be greedy, but I have three wishes to share with your audience.

  1. I wish we would all understand that every day is Earth Day.
  2. I wish for everyone to see our unbreakable connection to our ocean. We can’t live without it because it provides half of our oxygen even if we don’t live near the coast. We eat from the ocean’s bounty. The ocean drives our weather and provides our drinking water. Try to imagine life without a healthy ocean. Could we survive? Once we see this connection, we start to value our ocean. When we value something, we protect it.
  3. I wish everyone reading this blog post will add one more way to protect our ocean to their daily routine. Annie and I provide a long list of suggestions on page 53 of Planet Ocean.

Most Exciting Scuba Dive: I’ve only been diving twice, but I’ve snorkeled dozens of times. I loved swimming with sea turtles who are surprisingly acrobatic. They seem to play the role of ocean ambassadors, inviting you to swim along with them while they show you around their underwater home.

Favorite Video Taken by Annie Crawley: Planet Ocean includes eleven QR codes that link to underwater videos. These videos bring the ocean to life and demonstrate the below-the-surface perspective we used to create the book. I think one of the most powerful videos in the book is about the sea turtle with plastic fishing line coming out of its bottom (page 20).

We wanted the videos to complement the text and to encourage readers to tell their own ocean stories. To guide them, we share Annie’s pro tips for visual storytelling on page 52 and two fantastic QR code videos created by students.

List of Most Surprising Discoveries:

  1. The kids and teens in the pages of Planet Ocean! For example, Aji Piper says, “I’m not fighting climate change. I’m fighting for human change.” I couldn’t have said it any better.
  2. The ocean is less explored than outer space.
  3. Our maps are wrong because they distort the size of some countries and our ocean, which is approximately 70% of our planet.
  4. Children as young as ten can learn to scuba dive.
  5. Some people say Annie is a mermaid! Read Planet Ocean to find out where her gills are.
  6. The excess carbon dioxide in our atmosphere pollutes our air and our ocean.

Most Inspiring Research Trip: Oh, this one is hard. I’ve researched on a boat, at zoos, in a blizzard, and in scientists’ labs. As you already mentioned, Sandra, I flew to Seattle for Planet Ocean where I talked to scientists, talked with the kids and teens on Annie’s Dive Team, and took a dive lesson. I particularly liked talking to the Dive Team for my research. Those kids always amaze me.

Desk: I’m usually a tidy person, but my desk is a disaster area. I think it reflects what’s happening in my head.

Best Advice for Nonfiction Writers: Nonfiction writers are not reporters. They have something to say beyond the facts at their fingertips.

  • Clearly identify your theme.
  • Make sure your readers understand why your topic fascinates you. Do you have a personal connection to your topic? Your passion should come through in the arc of a narrative or in the way you focus your expository text.
  • Whatever your topic, make sure it will resonate with your target audience. What is the hook that connects your topic to your reader?
  • Get the facts right but explain them using luscious language. Study literary devices such as setting, humor, alliteration, simile, metaphor, and imagery.

Mind: I feel a sense of urgency about our ocean and our environment in general as you probably guessed by my three wishes above. We are the problem, but we are also the solution. To quote Planet Ocean: “People often draw an invisible line between themselves and nature, but we need to blur that line. ‘Living for each other is nature’s rule,’ Annie says. ‘Nothing lives for itself.’ By helping the ocean, we help ourselves. Planet Ocean is us.”

Thank you, Patricia! My nephew Nic, who is almost 5 years old, absolutely loves Planet Ocean and the links to videos you include. I love them too, but I don’t think I screamed in delight the way Nic did each time he opened a new link. As for my step to help protect our ocean, I am committing to only eating fish caught in Lake Geneva by a local fisherman.

You can stay in contact with Patricia Newman at, on Twitter @PatriciaNewman, on Facebook @PatriciaNewmanBooks, and on Pinterest @newmanbooks.

If you would like to order Planet Ocean, click on the book below.


Be sure to stop by again on April 29th, International Dance Day, when Valerie Bolling will talk about her book, Let’s Dance, and tell us What Was On her dance floor, winning Twitter pitch, and list of most admired dancers.

Also put May 15, Learn to Swim Day, on your calendar. Julie Abery will be talking about Sakamoto’s Swim Club and, of course, learning to swim!

If you would like to know more about me and my writing, please visit

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