When you’re asked to write a book about volcanoes, it helps to be from Reston – home of the So Terry Jennings took full advantage of her location when preparing to write a children's book.
“I went to USGS and checked out everything they had on volcanoes,” says Jennings, an author who specializes in educational material for children. “They had a lot on Mount St. Helens.”
Even better. The editor she was working with was interested in a picture book on how animals reacted to the May, 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, so she used the information from USGS and followed up with a Mount St. Helens scientist.
The result: Gopher to the Rescue, an educational picture book just published by Sylvan Dell.
The scientist “was helping me with an angle, and he said what you really ought to do is write about the gophers,” says Jennings, a longtime Reston resident with two grown children.
She was skeptical: “Does anyone like gophers?” But the scientist persisted. So, she did some more research and soon came to this conclusion. “That was the only way to go.”
The story Jennings wrote and is sharing with school children she visits focuses on the gopher as a survivor. Animals who lived above the earth saw their homes destroyed, but when the volcano erupted, Jennings’ furry little hero could tunnel underground. While he’s there, he burrows through the earth, mixing volcano ash with the soil. Although he doesn’t realize it, he’s also sowing seeds that had been in the ash. Slowly, the seeds sprout, and the earth around Mount St. Helens returns to life.
“They provided little islands [of growth] where life spread out,” Jennings says. “The book pretty much wrote itself when I found our hero, the gopher. It was a very fun book to write.”