I am very pleased to announce that my new book, The Urban Bestiary: Encountering the Everyday Wild, will be published by Little, Brown this fall. If you read The Tangled Nest you’ve heard bits about it here and there, and if you follow me on Facebook, you’ve seen a glimpse of the gorgeous cover. Now I want to tell you a little about what’s inside.
It is my passionate belief that daily connection with the natural, wild world matters. It makes us more creative, responsive, responsible, imaginative, wild, and happy inhabitants of our home communities. It also allows these communities–made up of humans and myriad other animals—to flourish. The Urban Bestiary is a song—a symphony, really—in support of this belief.
In an homage to the medieval bestiary form, my modern bestiary mingles the many beautiful human ways of knowing. The creatures that live among us are explored not just through science and natural history, but also myth, memoir, story, philosophy. Through the activities of our own lives and homes, we are drawn into nature’s daily story, a story that is not always easy to navigate, and that in urban places includes a shaggy cast of characters: coyotes, hawks, raccoons, moles, rats, robins, chickens. Humans, and even trees have their own beastly chapters.
This book reflects countless hours spent with my nose buried in scientific research, interviewing wildlife professionals and biologists, exploring global animal traditions and mythologies, and of course observing and tracking urban wildlife on a daily basis. More than anything I’ve ever written, this book was composed outdoors, even when the weather wasn’t inclined to cooperate. Wanting to be in close contact with my urban-wild subject matter, I built backyard fires; learned to write neatly with fingerless gloves or while holding an umbrella; found a tree branch at the local park that could double as a writing desk; and singlehandedly kept the Rite-in-the-Rain notebook company in business.
On days when I just couldn’t work outside, I worked with my study windows open and discovered the truth of one of my basic tenets—that our homes are semipermeable to the wild. I discovered a very bold squirrel on my desk one day. And another day? A hummingbird flew in the window like a faerie apparition and then, thank god, out again.
The cover art is by the wonderful Swedish artist Olaf Hajek, who also did the cover of my last book, Crow Planet. Treat yourself to a visit to his website, where his influences are everywhere in evidence, including European folk art and Frida Kahlo. I love the cover—I love how it is full of whimsy and lightheartedness, and yet the scene is not merely lighthearted; the conflicts that can brew in the urban wilds are everywhere in evidence. I also love that it’s my favorite color of blue-green. The front cover is a delight, but more images wrap all the way around the back and onto the flaps—bears, opossums, and…well, you’ll just have to buy the book!
The interior art is the work of the wondrously talented Tracie-Noles Ross. You’ll see a profile of her life and work here on The Tangled Nest closer to the release date. For now let me say that the book is full of her detailed pen and ink illustrations that capture the spirit of this Bestiary perfectly. Here’s a sneak preview: an opossum track that is simultaneously accurate and magical. I don’t know how she does it, and I can’t wait for you all to see the rest!