In 1999, 53 percent of children ages 3 to 5 were read to daily by a family member, the same as in 1993 after increasin... More

Author Showcase

Spring 2005 Featured Author, Peter Parente

RT: In reading both Peeper the Kinkajou and Boomer to the Rescue, you offer readers lots of details about exotic animals. How did Peeper and Boomer come to inspire you to write stories about their part of the animal kingdom? Have you always studied or worked with animals?

Peter: The animals, my children, are my inspiration, but I did not try to write the stories. I was never into writing, but one morning I woke up with this unexplainably strange feeling. I needed to grab a pen and when I sat down, Peeper the Kinkajou came out. After Peeper I thought I would take a shot at this writing thing, so for the next six months I tried to write a follow up, but I drew a blank. Then I woke up again with "that feeling" and wrote Peeper Goes to Florida. That feeling has taken me over for three Peeper books and the Boomer book. I am also working on two novels.

RT: Boomer and Peeper really do live in your home! How did they come to be your companions (I hesitate to say pets, since they are wild animals)? How do they get along?

Peter: They are more like family. I also have a pug (my best man), a shepherd mix, a 2-toed sloth that was neglected, and another kinkajou the owners could no longer give the proper care to. The animals get along as if they were the same species. They don’t realize they are different. I came about these animals by researching them to understand their personalities and requirements and knew then that I could provide a great environment where we can all co-exist. I always hear adults and children say they want monkeys or kinkajous, but do not understand what it takes to care for these animals. I recommend that every animal owner research the type of animal they would like to bring into their family to assure a happy and safe home for everyone.

RT: Have you always studied or worked with animals? What kind of research did you do to build your plots?

Peter: I've loved animals and nature my whole life, but didn’t start to really study them until I decided a few years ago that I wanted to make a difference. When I took on my sloth, Maggie, I wanted to know how to care for her, so I went to the Sloth Rescue Center in Costa Rica to research sloths because they are considered the world’s best authority on the sloth. After seeing their work to help all the rainforest animals, I saw a new life goal to teach children about unique animals and their habitats. Kids are the future and the only hope for these creatures and their ecosystems. The Internet was also a great tool in research, especially when you need that answer right away.

RT: What’s next for Tree of Life Publishing? Are there other animals you plan to write about?

Peter: Peeper Goes To Florida will be out early 2006 and The Lemur Party, set in Madagasgar, will be out late 2006 or early 2007. The animals and illustrations only get better with each book. You can preview the Peeper Goes To Florida characters at www.peeperandfriends.com.

RT: When you talk with kids about your books, Peeper and Boomer join you. What kind of reactions do you get from the kids? Do you have a favorite memory from a school visit?

Peter: I usually have Peeper and Maggie because I want kids to see the real endangered animals that need their help. I can’t even begin to explain their response, not to mention the adult's. It’s hard to pick one memory. Every time I know I made a difference. Whether it is to inspire a child tp read, write, or help the environment it is equally rewarding. Usually the schools I visit are inspired to adopt a sloth from the rescue center and I get emails from parents thanking me because their children want to recycle and won’t litter because they want to help.

RT: In addition to learning about the animals themselves, the stories offer life lessons. If you could offer parents and teachers advice about how to bring your books to life what would you suggest they do?

Peter: I believe in the teach-don’t-preach method. I try to get my points across and teach with stories kids can relate to. They seem to understand better when see the situation not just hear about it. My goal with Peeper was to have adults and children fall in love with the characters and understand the rainforest is diminishing and it needs our help. By introducing the real animals it has an amazingly positive impact. Boomer is a story for young children dealing with first day of school jitters. The book shows them that being different is good.

RT: A portion of the proceeds from your books are donated to organizations working to preserve our environment and protect animals. How did you come to work with these organizations? What inspired you to make that type of commitment to these charities?

Peter: Kinkajous and sloths are endangered rainforest animals, yet most people have never heard of them. The problem is that if humans don’t take an active role in working to save the environment they may never see one of these amazing animals before they are extinct. With each book I publish I try to introduce a wildlife organization from the area these animals indigenous to. This helps everyone big and small understand that these animals need our help and I show them an organization they can support to make a difference. I was inspired to make a difference after visiting the Sloth Rescue Center (www.slothrescue.org) in Costa Rica. I guess that is where I developed my theory about introducing the animals that need our help in the books because I heard oodles of times about the rainforest needing out help and did nothing. I was fortunate enough to meet those incredible creatures because they changed my life and inspired me to make a difference. I can’t do it alone, so I work with the children. They are the future.

RT: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Peter: We are all inspired by different things. I am inspired by wildlife and nature. If there is something that inspires you, write about it and you may be pleasantly surprised what happens. I talk about supporting ecosystems around the world, but there are simple things we can all do in our local areas that will have a positive impact worldwide, like recycling and not littering. If you see trash on the ground and it’s not yours, you can help by moving it into a garbage can. Remember, Mother Nature is counting on you.


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