Happy, Hope-y Book Birthday, BAT COUNT!


BAT COUNT — my debut picture book — is officially out TODAY!

I owe many thanks for help bringing this book into being: to supportive family, friends and colleagues; to the wonderful illustrator Susan Detwiler; and to the great folks at Arbordale Publishing.

I wrote BAT COUNT almost three years ago — before I learned that picture books are ‘supposed’ to be 500 words or less (BAT COUNT has almost 1000 words), and that ‘quiet’ books don’t sell. Happily its publisher, Arbordale, is committed to making books that support math and science education, and happily they are also interested in promoting the practice of citizen science. And so they found a place for BAT COUNT on their list.

Jojo, the story’s narrator, shares my worry about the many bats that are dying from white nose syndrome. Being a kid, though, she does NOT know that bats are just one among many species in rapid decline as human activity propels our planet deep into this new phase of mass extinctions known as “The Sixth Extinction“. I lose sleep over this stuff, and over the fact that the current U.S. administration believes in neither science nor global warming nor the fundamental tenets of Democracy, and so is not likely to work towards remedies.

So I feel a different sense of urgency, today, as BAT COUNT is finally being released: I want the book to introduce kids — and adults — to bats and their struggles, and I want it to encourage them to get involved in citizen science — this amazing combination of science and activism — and to learn more about our natural world, care more about it, and make good choices.

And, I want people to feel hope. Because alongside all my fear, like Jojo, I am hopeful. Hope buoys Jojo as she gets ready to count her bats, and hope is where the book ends.

Writing for kids is, ultimately, a hope-filled endeavor. Kate DiCamillo describes it, aptly, as “a ridiculous, wonderful, powerful thing.” It is the balloon that kidlit writers never let go of.


When I need a dose of hope I sometimes retreat to central Pennsylvania with my family; the barn in this photo is where the bats that inspired BAT COUNT live. And I also do thingswrite, read, pen letters, sign petitions, and talk with people who see the world differently.

It is so important to have places — real and fictional, practical and metaphorical — to find and create hope, especially now. So please keep it up, whatever it is that you do!

And, thanks for stopping by.

You can find BAT COUNT on Amazon or order it through your local independent bookstore. In honor of BAT COUNT’s book birthday, I’m raffling off a signed copy — please leave a comment below or subscribe to Hmmmmm to enter!




  1. Hooray, I am ecstatic to be leaving a message for a friend’s debut book birthday! I consider myself very lucky to have you in my writing life and to have the opportunity to read some of your work before the rest of the world. You are an amazing writer and an inspirational person. I know you have had some difficult challenges over the time it took to get this book to print. You deserve all the success and fulfillment publication can bring you, and also the hope. Can’t wait to read this book and, if I do happen to win a signed copy, I’m giving it to my local public school. 🙂

  2. I loved reading about why BAT COUNT is so important, Anna! I hope its story reaches children all over the world. Congratulations on your wonderful book!

  3. This book sounds awesome! I am a 3rd grade teacher, but in college I actually got to work in my professor’s bat lab training baby bats to fly! I love them so much and white nose scares the daylights out of me! Thank you for writing this!

    1. Thanks! That’s cool Payton — I have so little hands-on experience with bats; I’m a little jealous! And teaching them to fly? How?
      WNS *is* horrifying. And the way it moves westward across the US each year too… AND the reality ofhow slowly bats will recover — if they even can — bc of having just one pup per year.

  4. Congratulations Anna! My third grade students share the same concern as you as we study bats in our area each year. Our research over the past 15 years has shown a decline in our bat population. I’m glad that you were able to find a publisher to share your work with others. 😊

  5. Hi Anna. I’d like to add my congrats on the debut release of Bat Count! Love the thesis and the diverse MC.lol I too had a rude awakening upon discovering that PBs should be 500 words. I’m also working on a story which touches on extinction of wildlife and climate change and want to add in a citizen science component attributed to you.Thanks for the book and the additional inspiration. Looking forward to reading it.

    1. Jean – Extinction, climate change etc. are SUCH tough things to tackle in children’s books b/c of the need for hope — but so important to try to address. Keep at it — and good luck!!

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