Nonfiction author Nic Bishop visits Evanston schools, talks nature at EPL

Susan Du

Globe-trotting writer and photographer Nic Bishop lived alternately in Bangladesh, Sudan, Papua New Guinea and the United Kingdom, growing up with tigers in his garden and falling asleep to jackals howling outside his window.

As a professional author of nonfiction picture books based on the marsupials, amphibians and creepy-crawly passions of his youth, he told a group of about 95 at the Evanston Public Library on Tuesday that the object of his work is to impart upon children the same appreciation for visual art, nature and scientific knowledge he valued throughout his life.

“In some ways I’m probably still a kid,” Bishop said at the library, 1703 Orrington Ave.

Bishop was the Evanston/Skokie District 65 librarians’ choice for this year’s Family Author Experience program, which arranges for an author to speak to students at one local middle school and its feeder elementary schools throughout a weeklong visit. Foundation 65, an independent nonprofit that provides grants for D65 educational projects, sponsored Monday’s library event as well as the school visits.

Lise Jinno, executive director of Foundation 65, said one primary goal of the Family Author Experience is to invite authors who will excite students about literature and learning.

“(The D65 librarians) wanted to focus on a nonfiction writer,” Jinno said. “Nonfiction is something that is a big part of education, but we don’t often have visiting writers that are nonfiction writers. I think they also wanted to bring in a component of art, and since Nic Bishop is also a photographer, it brought in an extra element.”

Bishop’s hour-long talk consisted mostly of him clicking through a photo slideshow and telling side stories of inadvertently stepping on snakes and standing waist-deep in flooded rivers on his many photo adventures to cries of glee and disgusted fascination from his pre-adolescent audience.

“I always hope the kids get excited by the visual side, and I really think visuals, seeing things, the beauty of animals is really important, so I kinda like to take these really nice pictures so they can see the animals themselves and the intrinsic beauty to them,” Bishop said. “Even if they’re scary, they’re sort of amazing, beautiful things to look at.”

Leslie Lule, the mother of an eight-year-old who attends Walker Elementary School, said she jumped at the opportunity to take her son to see one of his favorite authors.

“He’s a huge fan,” Lule said of her son. “He liked bugs a little bit – well, he’s a boy, and at the school library he saw Nic Bishop books, and he’s always been interested in photography so it just kind of clicked. He takes pictures of everything: doorknobs, the garden, the zoos, museums. He brought all his books so Nic Bishop would sign them.”

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