The John Burroughs awards are given at the Museum of Natural History in New York City, and it was wonderful to be honored in such a famous museum. I also did an important part of the research for the book at the New York Public Library. They have thousands of newspapers on microfilm, and I read actual accounts of this 1982 storm from every major city the country. All the small details, like robins huddled in the snow, came from newspaper articles.
Many of the illustrations in the book required a lot of research, too. I spent a whole morning at the NOAA facility outside Washington, DC, drawing this sketch, taking pictures, and talking with the staff. They were very helpful. The New York City illustration was done from sketches and photos I made on Lexington Avenue. I have never seen an actual tornado, so I drew those pictures from photos I found in my National Geographics. I also spent hours just painting different cloud forms as practice. It was a wonderful way to spend the afternoons, just watching and painting clouds.
Since I travel quite a bit, I was familiar with many of the places where the storm hit. I included several maps, which always fascinate me, and are helpful in following the track of this powerful weather system. As the storm leaves the east coast, it dumps a foot of snow on New York City on the opening day of baseball season; a perfect non-fiction ending.
The Big Storm is a book about weather and geography. I wanted a real storm that was very dramatic and crossed the entire United States bringing wind, rain, hail, snow, tornadoes, and thunderstorms. I began my search by asking TV and radio weather forecasters about their favorite storms. Believe me, they have favorites! I chose one and then did intensive research before I began to write. The book has been very well received by both kids and the weather community and has won some awards, too:
The John Burroughs Association Children's Book Award List 1993
Outstanding Science Trade Book of 1993 The Children's Book Council   
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