We are thrilled to welcome yet another author to our Multicultural Children’s Book Day Spotlight: Shining the Light on Inclusive Authors & Illustrators series! Today we are shining the spotlight on Conrad J. Storad, author of Gator Gator Second Grader. Welcome Conrad!
The award-winning author and editor of more than 50 science and nature books for children and young adults, Conrad J. Storad was raised in Barberton, Ohio, and has lived and worked in Arizona since 1982. Expertly drawing young readers into his imaginative, entertaining tales, he is committed to helping students better understand and appreciate the natural world.
When Benny and Jacob bring a baby alligator to school in a cardboard box, their second grade teacher has a memorable message to share: “A baby gator is NOT a good classroom pet!” Leading her students in a lively discussion about powerful jaws, sharp teeth and slashing tails, Mrs. Nichols helps her class answer a very important question…
Which creatures make good classroom pets? Gerbils and geckos do. Grizzlies and gators do NOT!
Question 1: What is your favorite letter of the alphabet and why?
My favorite letter is “T.” Why? The story begins in my childhood. I am a junior, Conrad Jr., to be exact. But I was never called Conrad or Junior or anything close as a child … by my family. My nickname was “Top.” Why? It was the closest translation to a Serbian phrase that my father would coo to me as he carried me around as an infant. “Top” or “Toppy” became my name. All five of my younger brothers and sister call me those names to this day. My mother made a giant blue plaster “T” for my room. That big T is still in my parent’s home. Top or Toppy was my name to all the kids in the neighborhood. Even the kids at school called me that name. Only the nuns at St. Augustine School called me Conrad. But by the time I reached Grade 7, even they had conformed to my nickname.
My name in the high school yearbook is Top Storad. My byline as a newspaper reporter was Top Storad. It was only when I was named editor and general manager of the newspaper (at age 22) that I thought it more appropriate to change my name on the masthead to Conrad “Top” Storad. I associate “T” with my life growing up in northeast Ohio. When I moved on to a new career as a magazine editor and children’s author in Arizona, “T” was left behind. I became Conrad for the magazine articles and books that I have written and edited. After having written and edited thousands of newspaper and magazine articles and now more than 50 books for young readers, I am happy with “C” for Conrad. But “T” will always have a special place in my heart.
Question 2: What’s next? What projects/books/events do you have in the works that you would like to share?
My newest science/nature themed picture book for young readers is now being illustrated by Nathaniel Jensen, a fabulous artist with whom I have created six other books to date. The title is: The Bat Book (Afraid of Bats…What’s up with that?). I like to help demystify science and nature whenever possible. Telling a captivating story that is based on facts is a great way to teach young readers about the world around them. It helps when the illustrations bring the words to life on the pages. Bats get a bad rap. They are totally misunderstood, thanks to myths and legends and misconstrued folk tales, not to mention all the vampire stories that so mesmerize readers everywhere. But bats are one of the most important mammals on Earth. For this story, a little boy bat is puzzled as to why the human kids call him names and vilify all bats. He decides to “write” a book about bats to set the record straight. He will leave his book for the humans to find. A fun project, indeed, for all of us to learn some important lessons. I can’t wait to see the magic that Nathaniel’s illustrations will bring to my manuscript.
Question 3: What would you like readers to know about your book(s)?
Many people might consider science writing/editing for adults and writing books for children to be vastly different pursuits. But I see lots of parallels. My true passion is sharing information in a fun and interesting manner. The age of the reader does not really matter. The answer really depends on your definitions of science writing or children’s writing. I don’t do fairy tales or myths or legends. My work is all nonfiction. To do either type of writing well requires a knack for word choice and explanation. I’ve had to learn how to use a limited vocabulary and simple sentence structure to describe complex ideas. The goal is often how to best “translate” abstract concepts so they are easier to understand. For young readers, the work is often about how best to describe an interesting plant or creature in an entertaining manner that does not go way beyond the reader’s limited life experience. Done well, the best writing will always pique the reader’s curiosity to learn more, regardless of their age. I’ve done my job well if I can make a reader curious to learn more. Translating scientific and technical jargon into simple language can be difficult in itself. The real challenge is how to explain and describe with language that is easy to understand and still make the story captivating and FUN to read. Every new story or book brings with it new challenges. That’s why I always tell young students that my job is ALWAYS fun. I never, ever get bored. Each new story or book project is a brand new challenge … and an opportunity to learn. I never want to stop learning!
Question 4: As an author, how do you know when you have discovered an idea for your next book?
I keep my eyes and my ears open. I tell students and young writers to just look around. There are ideas everywhere! But you have to be open and receptive. You just never know when a good story idea is going to appear. Learning how to “see” and “hear” and be ready to grab those ideas when they appear takes practice. The only way to become a good writer is to write, write, write … and then write some more. The ideas flow from all directions. Be ready!
To learn more about Conrad and all of his wonderful books, visit his author website HERE.
More books by Conrad J. Storad: