q&a with the kids of mallinckrodt academy

At the end of my school visits, it always breaks my heart a little to have failed to answer all of the kids’ questions. I always make sure to tell them they can find my website and email me questions anytime. Well…BOTH schools from this week’s visits emailed me LOTS of questions.

So, without further ado, the wonderful questions from the kids of Mallinckrodt Academy!

Susan asks “When was the Zoo Built”

Our Zoo was founded in 1910. It is over 100 years old!

and “How do you get into the cages?”

Each animal has an exhibit (the area visitors see) and a “holding” room (like a bedroom) behind the scenes. We shift the animals into their holdings each morning so that we can safely enter the habitats. We usually just enter through a door!

Teddy asks “Why was Lily a helper?”

As a search and rescue dog, Lily helped Joplin by finding people who were hurt by the tornado. 

and “Why did Bubbles live in India?”

The real Bubbles never lived in India…in fact, I believe she was born in Illinois! In the book she comes from India so that kids understand that a dwarf zebu is a type of cattle from India.

Nate asks “Why did the cows tease her?”

The cows in the book teased Bubbles because she looked a bit different from them. Bubbles has a flap and a hump and she does not have black and white spots. The other cows did not understand why Bubbles was so different.

and “How did Lily train?”

Tara started training Lily in search and rescue by simply playing hide and seek with her children in the backyard! Eventually, Lily graduated to harder challenges…like searching for a single baby tooth in the middle of a field. Today, Lily can sniff out a person in the wood or even if they are underwater…but she still has to practice!

Kingston asks “Why is there only one zebu in the zoo?”

Bubbles is a whole lot of zebu! We only need one! She’s pretty special too.

and “is taking care of the snakes scary?”

I took care of some snakes in the Children’s Zoo, but they were not venomous, so it was not scary. The Herp keepers who care for most of the snakes are trained professionals–they know how to handle all sorts of snake species–so it is not scary for them either. Snakes are not scary animals, just different, if you learn all about them you can learn to love them!

Drew asks “Can you take care of any mammal?”

Zookeepers can learn to take care of any of the mammals that live in the Zoo. We study their natural history and learn from other keepers who have cared for them.

and “Do you teach any alligators?”

Nope! That would be the Herp keepers!

and “Are you teaching any bears?”

Yes, I am lucky enough to currently be training the Andean bears. We work on lots of behaviors that help keepers and vets take better care of them.

Izzy asks “Why do you like to read?”

I have ALWAYS loved to read! It is such a wonderful activity. I hope you like to read too!

and “Why do you like animals?”

I can’t really explain why I like animals. I have just always been very passionate about nature and the natural world. I am simply fascinated by each unique species. 

Penelope asks “Do the lions bite you when you touch them?”

We do not get to touch our lions, we keep our distance so that they do not have the opportunity to bite. Safety is a big priority in this job.

and “Why are the cows so mean?”

The cows in the book are just fictional (make believe cows). They are just bullies, I suppose.

Layla asks “Why do you like to write books?”

I have always loved writing! I like being creative and making up stories, as well as telling true tales. I hope I will always have the opportunity to write books. 

and “Are you going to write any more books?”

I am working on two books right now–one about neighborhoods in St. Louis and one about turtles.

Lilly asks “Why did you think her name (Bubbles) was cute?”

Because it is cute! What could be cuter than a 600 pound cow named Bubbles?!

and “Who came up with that name?”
One of Bubbles’ first keepers named her.

and “What does she eat?”

Bubbles eats something called ADF-25, which is basically “cow chow” and lots of hay. She loves sweet potatoes and bamboo for treats.

Griffin asks “Why do the otters blow bubbles in the story? Do they really blow bubbles?”

Of course! A trail of bubbles is always following a swimming otter!

Ansleigh asks “Why do you train the animals every day?”

Training is good for the animals! It is a form of enrichment and a way for them to exercise their minds and bodies. It is also a chance to bond with a keeper and get lots of treats–two things that make animals very happy.

and “What made you want to write books?”

Writing is something that I have always loved and always felt compelled to do.

and “How many years have you been a zookeeper?”

I have worked at the Zoo for 12 years and been a keeper for 5 years.

Matilda asks “Why are you a zookeeper?”

I sort of became a zookeeper by accident! After college I accepted a part-time keeper position in the Children’s Zoo and quickly fell in love with the animals–eventually leading to a full-time job.

and “What do you feed the animals?”

Each animal gets a specific diet. Right now I am working a lot with the Anteaters, Bushdogs and Capybaras. They get insectivore chow, oranges, bananas, avocadoes, meat, greens, rodent block, fruits and veggies, respectively.

Delaney asks “Why do you make up stories? Do you need to?”

Do I need to to pay the bills? No. But do I need to to satisfy my own creative brain? Yep, I would say I do need to.

Mila asks “Is Bubbles nice?”

Sure! Bubbles can be a very sweet cow. BUT she is 600 pounds, and she knows how to use it!

and “Why did Lily get sick?”

Lily has a condition called “Addison’s Disease” which means that her adrenal glands don’t function properly. They treat this disease with steroid injections, but before they knew how to treat her, Lily became very ill.

Lily asks “Why was all the books nonfiction?”

“Lily” and “Happy Birthday” are nonfiction, but “Bubbles” is not. There is no reason for that, I simply like nonfiction stories!

Connor asks “How much does Bubbles weigh?”

Bubbles weighs about 600 pounds!

and “Why was Bubbles nervous that the goat would be mean? Was that part real?”

The goat (Xavier) had black and white spots, so Bubbles though that he looked like the mean cows. She thought that Xavier might tease her (just like the cows did) because she doesn’t have black and white spots. That part was not real.

Aidan asks “Why did the goat pass away?”

Xavier simply died of old age. He was 15 years old!

and “Why do you give the animals toys?

They toys are enrichment items–just something different to make their day a little special and encourage them to play.

Noah asks "Can tornadoes go underground and if so will it crush the mice?”

No, tornadoes cannot go underground (as far as I know!) so I think the mice are safe…

and “How long have you been writing books?”

I published my first book two years ago, but have been writing for over twenty years now.

Sophia asks “What is Lily’s last name?”

Lily’s last name is Prosser.

and “Why did Lily help the town? How do you know Lily?”

Lily helped the town because she is trained to do a special job. She is a search and rescue dog and Joplin needed animals with these skills after the storm. I found out about Lily on Facebook and got to know her and her owner Tara by traveling to Joplin to interview them.

Chloe asks “When is the lion’s birthday?”

The lionesses we talked about were born on February 14, 2012.

and “How do you feed the crocodiles?”

That would be a question for the Herp keepers! They likely shift them out or simply toss food in with them.