Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fifth-Grader's E-Mail Pays off; Author Pays Visit to School

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fifth-Grader's E-Mail Pays off; Author Pays Visit to School

Article excerpt

Byline: Sandy Strickland, Times-Union staff writer

Mary Ann McDonald has photographed hippos in Africa, red-footed booby birds in the Galapagos Islands and a pet bullfrog in Pennsylvania.

She's had a cheetah perch on her vehicle while looking for food. She's had a giraffe lick her face with his 19-inch-long black tongue. She's had her eyelashes freeze in 30-degree-below-zero weather in Yellowstone National Park, and she's had an elephant charge her car.

McDonald, who has written 29 non-fiction children's books, recounted her adventures as a professional wildlife photographer and author at Hendricks Avenue Elementary School on the Southside recentlyast Friday.

Though not particularly glamorous, it's "a really, really fun life," said McDonald, who has been everywhere "except Antarctica."

What drew her to Jacksonville was an invitation from 10-year-old Emma Flanders, a fifth-grader at Hendricks Avenue with whom she has established a pen pal relationship. It started when Emma checked out McDonald's book Horses.

"I had read her books before and really liked them," said Emma, adding that she loves horses and has always wanted to live on a ranch. "I just like the way she writes. It's not just fact, fact, fact, and it's not just fiction. She backs up what she's saying with something a child would understand."

The young girl went on the Internet, found McDonald's e-mail address in July, told her she had all her books and was her biggest fan. Then she invited her to come to Hendricks Avenue Elementary.

McDonald said it's not unusual to get letters from children. But she was touched, flattered and impressed by Emma's e-mail.

"I knew she was a special young woman when she said how glad she was that somebody was writing in this genre for her age group," said McDonald, whose books about cows, ducks, reindeer, chimpanzees, toucans, garter snakes and other animals are published by The Child's World.

McDonald, who lives in Hoot Hollow, Pa., with photographer husband Joe, has been visiting schools for the past six years but limits her trips to March and April because of her travel schedule as a photographer. …

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