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Phyllis Root - Author

About the Author

As a child
Phyllis picked up an early affinity for colloquial language whilst growing up in Indiana and southern Illinois, “where people actually say things like, ‘I got a hitch in my git-along’!” She decided to be a writer in the fifth grade, but it wasn’t until she was thirty that she took a writing course with an influential teacher who gave her “the tools” she says she needed. “That’s when I figured out that you could learn to be a writer,” she says.


As an adult
When she’s not writing, Phyllis teaches at Vermont College’s MFA in Writing for Children programme. She lives with her two daughters and two cats in a 100-year-old house in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and loves to read (mostly mysteries with female protagonists) or spend time outdoors gardening, camping, sailing or travelling. “One of the things I’ve learned about myself,” she confides, “is that when I get really stuck and can’t seem to get writing, it’s because I’ve forgotten to take time out to play.”


As an artist
“Picture books are performances,” says Phyllis, quoting some sage advice she once received. “They’re performances that involve a child – something both of you do. And once I started thinking of them that way, I started getting much looser about making up words and playing around with rhythm.” The author does “endless rewriting” before a book is finished, but often starts out by writing her stories in her head, a trick she learned as a time-pressed mother when her two daughters were very young. For example, Rattletrap Car – a joyful celebration of perseverance – began with her playing around with sounds (“clinkety clankety, bing bang pop!”) and calling up bits of old camp songs. A master of rhythmic read-alouds, Phyllis exhibits a range many writers would envy. Her counting book Ten Sleepy Sheep is as serene and lulling as One Duck Stuck is rambunctious. “Counting sheep isn’t always easy,” she notes. “Once, while we were farm-sitting, my daughter and I had to chase down two runaway lambs in the growing darkness, then count twenty-seven frisky lambs to make sure they were all safe for the night. Luckily, they were.”

Featured books by Phyllis Root

Other books by Phyllis Root

The Lost Forest

The Lost Forest

Author: Phyllis Root Illustrator: Betsy Bowen Format: Hardback Release Date: 02/04/2019

The story of a forest lost by a surveying error-and all the flora and fauna to be found there A forest, of course, doesn't need a map to know where to grow. But people need a map to find it. And in 1882 when surveyors set out to map a part of Minnesota, they got confused, or tired and cold (it was November), and somehow mapped a great swath of ancient trees as a lake. For more than seventy-five years, the mistake stayed on the map, and the forest remained safe from logging-no lumber baron expects to find timber in a lake, after all. The Lost Forest tells the story of this lucky error and of the 144 acres of old-growth red and white pine it preserved. With gentle humor, Phyllis Root introduces readers to the men at their daunting task, trekking across Minnesota, measuring and marking the vast land into townships and sections and quarters. She takes us deep into a stand of virgin pine, one of the last and largest in the state, where U.S. history and natural history meet. With the help of Betsy Bowen's finely observed and beautiful illustrations, she shows us all the life that can be found in the Lost Forest. Accompanying the story is a wealth of information about the Cadastral Survey and about the plants and animals that inhabit forests-making the book a valuable guide for readers who might want to look even deeper into the history of Minnesota, the flora and fauna of old-growth forests, and the apportioning of land in America.

Searching for Minnesota's Native Wildflowers A Guide for Beginners, Botanists, and Everyone in Between

Searching for Minnesota's Native Wildflowers A Guide for Beginners, Botanists, and Everyone in Between

Author: Phyllis Root, Kelly Povo Format: Hardback Release Date: 15/05/2018

A beautifully illustrated, family-friendly guide to Minnesota's native wildflowers and how to find them Once prairie grasses and flowers bloomed for hundreds of miles in the western part of what we now call Minnesota. Once tiny orchids grew among the roots of giant old pines, and fleeting blossoms sheltered in the shade of great maple and oak forests. These flowers that grew here for hundreds of years, though harder to find now, are still there, and this book shows you how to discover them. Searching for Minnesota's Native Wildflowers chronicles the ten years that Phyllis Root and Kelly Povo spent exploring Minnesota's woods, prairies, hillsides, lakes, and bogs for wildflowers, taking pictures and notes, gathering clues, mapping the way for fellow flower hunters. This book is a treasure trove of plant lore and information, the perfect companion for anyone who wants to find-or simply to find out more about-shooting stars and kitten tails, prairie smoke and Dutchman's breeches, blazing star and butterfly weed, and more native flowers than most Minnesotans imagine are blooming nearby. Readers of Searching for Minnesota's Native Wildflowers will learn where to look for wildflowers and how to identify them, whether in the woods, wetlands, peatlands, or the prairie in spring, summer, or fall; around the state's 10,000 (or so) lakes; on the North Shore; or, especially, in Minnesota's many great state parks. Featuring helpful tips, exquisite photographs, and the story of their own search as your guide, Phyllis and Kelly place the waiting wonder of Minnesota's wildflowers within easy reach.

Anywhere Farm

Anywhere Farm

Author: Phyllis Root Illustrator: G. Brian Karas Format: Hardback Release Date: 01/04/2017

Anywhere can be a farm - all it takes is one small seed, and someone to plant it. In this celebration of green fingers and the thrill of nurturing new life Phyllis Root delivers a read-aloud rhyming mantra for planting your very own farm, while G. Brian Karas's joyful city illustrations sprout from every page. You might think a farm means fields, tractors and a barnyard full of animals. But you can plant a farm anywhere you like! A box or a bucket, a boot or a pan - almost anything can be turned into a home for growing things. Windows, balconies and front steps all make wonderful spots to start. Who knows what plants you may choose to grow, and who will come to see your new garden?

Lilly and the Pirates

Lilly and the Pirates

Author: Phyllis Root Illustrator: 0 Format: eBook Release Date: 01/09/2016

A sighting of the rare frangipani fruit fly sends Lilly's scientist parents off in search of the fabled Shipwreck Islands. In this Smithsonian's Notable Book for Children, Lilly awaits their return at the home of her great-uncle Ernest, the chief librarian of Mundelaine, a town that seems to have more than its share of piratical-looking characters lurking about. When news comes that her parents' ship has wrecked, she must overcome her fear of the sea, find the hidden island, and outsmart a bunch of treasure-hungry pirates to save the day.

One North Star A Counting Book

One North Star A Counting Book

Author: Phyllis Root Illustrator: Beckie Prange, Betsy Bowen Format: Hardback Release Date: 15/08/2016

Five toads hop, four brook trout swim, three elk graze, two loons call, and one beaver gnaws on a paper birch tree, all under one North Star. Through bog and marsh, along river and lake, across prairie and into the woods, children learn what lives where by counting the creatures on foot or in flight, swimming or perching in exquisite woodcut and watercolor illustrations created by Beckie Prange and Betsy Bowen in an artistic collaboration. For those looking for more about the pictured wildlife, Phyllis Root includes fascinating facts and information on the state's ecosystems and the plants and animals that make their homes there.

Snowy Sunday

Snowy Sunday

Author: Phyllis Root Illustrator: Helen Craig Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 01/11/2015

Phyllis Root, master of rhythmic read-aloud storytelling, and Helen Craig, of Angelina Ballerina fame, present the final farmyard adventure in their delightful Bonnie Bumble series. From Helen Craig, the illustrator of Angelina Ballerina, comes the seventh and final instalment in the popular Bonnie Bumble series. It's Sunday, and snowflakes as big as balls of wool are falling. The cow, the duck, the hens and even Spot the dog are freezing! So Bonnie, ever the problem-solver, is determined to heat them all up: This will never d-d-d-do, she says, with chattering teeth. Getting busy with needles and wool, she knits and knits and knits - hats and scarves, beakwarmers and tailwarmers... but the animals are still all shivery and cold! Just how can she get the sun to make everyone warm and toasty again? Helen's playful, signature artwork perfectly accompanies the rhythmical, read-aloud text of award-winning writer, Phyllis Root, and makes for a sweet and funny story sure to delight and tickle the youngest of readers.

Plant a Pocket of Prairie

Plant a Pocket of Prairie

Author: Phyllis Root Illustrator: Betsy Bowen Format: Hardback Release Date: 21/05/2014

Author Phyllis Root and illustrator Betsy Bowen last explored the vast, boggy peatlands of northern Minnesota in their book Big Belching Bog. Now, in Plant a Pocket of Prairie, Root and Bowen take young readers on a trip to another of Minnesota's important ecosystems: the prairie. Once covering almost 40 percent of the United States, native prairie is today one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world. Plant a Pocket of Prairie teaches children how changes in one part of the system affect every other part: when prairie plants are destroyed, the animals who eat those plants and live on or around them are harmed as well. Root shows what happens when we work to restore the prairies, encouraging readers to plant a pocket of prairie in their own backyards. By growing native prairie plants, children can help re-create food and habitat for the many birds, butterflies, and other animals that depend on them. Plant cup plants, Root suggests. A thirsty chickadee might come to drink from a tiny leaf pool. Plant goldenrod. A Great Plains toad might flick its tongue at goldenrod soldier beetles. An easy explanation of the history of the prairie, its endangered status, and how to go about growing prairie plants follows, as well as brief descriptions of all the plants and animals mentioned in the story. With Betsy Bowen's beautiful, airy illustrations capturing the feel of an open prairie and all its inhabitants, readers of all ages will be inspired to start planting seeds and watching for the many fascinating animals their plants attract. What a marvelous transformation could take place if we all planted a pocket of prairie!

Flip, Flap, Fly! A Book for Babies Everywhere

Flip, Flap, Fly! A Book for Babies Everywhere

Author: Phyllis Root Illustrator: David Walker Format: Board book Release Date: 07/03/2013

A delightful board book celebrating Baby's first steps in the world. What a wonderful thing it is to take your very first steps! Or to flap your wings for the first time if you're a baby bird, splash and swim if you're a baby fish and ziggle zaggle wiggle if you're a baby snake! On this beautiful sunny day there are babies everywhere, flying, swimming, wiggling, sliding, waddling and creeping - and giving Mum a kiss!

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