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#19: Women Artists: April Pulley Sayre

By June 27, 2018May 13th, 2021The Kerlan Blog

#100 Women Artists

What Started Project


April Pulley Sayre  (is an award-winning children’s book author of over 65 natural history books for children and adults. Her read-aloud nonfiction books, known for their lyricism and scientific precision, have been translated into French, Dutch, Japanese, and Korean. She is best known for pioneering literary ways to immerse young readers in natural events via creative storytelling and unusual perspectives.

In 2008 Sayre accepted the Theodor “Seuss” Geisel Honor Award given by the American Library Association for her book, Vulture View. It was also named a finalist for the 2008 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books.

Stars Beneath Your Bed: The Surprising Story of Dust, won the 2006 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books and was named an 2006 ALA Notable Children’s Book

Sayre has followed lemurs in Madagascar, pursued army ants in Panama, and eaten piranha in the Peruvian Amazon. She and her husband, native plants expert Jeff Sayre, love science and adventure.

Sayre is an expert speaker in the fields of writing, science education, children’s literature, and wildlife gardening. Each year she speaks to over 15,000 students nationwide, introducing them to the writing process, the joy of words, the diversity of rain forests, and wacky things scientists do to find, follow, and study animals. Sayre writes in-depth about scientists in books such as Secrets of Sound: Studying the Calls and Songs of Whales, Elephants, and Birds, a starred review/ALA Editor’s choice book which was also honored as one of the all-time best children’s books about the scientific process.

Sayre holds a B.A. in biology from Duke University and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Vermont College.


I am here to talk about her art. Her photographs.

Best in Snow. Beach Lane Books, 2016

Can you name a children’s book illustrated with photography that won a Caldecott Award?

Yup, a big no. 

And when I think of great picture books illustrated with photography, I think of Nic Bishop’s Spiders 

or Walter Wick’s A Drop of Water

Walter Wick’s Drop of Water, Soap Bubble

Step Gently Out, Candlewick, 2012

“The soothing, meditative language bursts with beautiful imagery that begs to be read aloud—“The / creatures / shine with / stardust. / Then they’re / splashed / with / morning / dew”—and the photographs, taken at close range, magnify wings in flight and dewdrops on webs” From Booklist

Susan Kuklin’s All Aboard!


or Charles R. Smith’s My People

Photography is an art. It is not an accident. The creator has artistic knowledge and skill. They understand composition, lighting, color, balance, storytelling, and technique.

Back to April Pulley Sayre

A red squirrel in profile from Best in Snow

From Kirkus Reviews

“Be it a shivering, huddled squirrel or a cardinal posing as a vermilion exclamation point within a maze of snow-laden branches, the frost-flecked forest creatures gazing forth from Sayre’s compelling compositions contrast perfectly with the stark descriptions. “A freeze. / A breeze. / A cloud. / It snows.” The economically precise language entices and beguiles in a rhyming progression that accompanies a series of photos that range from dark gray clouds to drifting snowflakes to a brittle pane of ice fractals. The photos are stunning.”


From School Library Journal

“This first-rate book highlights the beauty and wonder of rain—a seemingly commonplace occurrence—and shows its effects upon the rest of the natural world. In general but lyrical terms, the work explains what raindrops do (“Raindrops settle. They slip. They dot.”). The text is accompanied by scenes from a forest rainforest (drops clinging to flowers or spider webs, insects and birds dealing with the downpour). Sayre has created a poetic atmosphere, using rhyming words (“Raindrop spangles/mark angles.”), and her vibrant, close-up photographs, which effectively complement the narrative and will engage children and adults alike.”

And new for  2018

From Booklist
“Spacious double-page spreads display their crisp, clean photos of these songbirds in woodland stopover sites. The enlarged, close-up pictures offer intimate glimpses of the colorful birds as they flit, walk, preen, sing, and forage for caterpillars, spiders, moths, and mosquitoes. For older readers, a four-page appended section discusses warblers and their migration: why they travel, how they find their way, and what enables them to maintain their energy during the long flights.” 

Join the discussion One Comment

  • kathy isaacs says:

    “Photography is an art. It is not an accident.” Thank you for this. Perhaps some day the Caldecott Committee will agree.

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