Chatham Author Fascinated By Nature's Weird Creatures

By: Ed Maroney

Topics: Local authors

Author Jenna Grodzicki. COURTESY PHOTO

 The sometimes weird and sometimes spectacular adornments of wild creatures inspired author Jenna Grodzicki of Chatham to write “Wild Style: Amazing Animal Adornments” (Millbrook Press, 2021).

“Hats. Jewelry. Makeup. Perfume. People wear accessories every day. But humans aren’t the only ones with a flair for fashion,” Grodzicki writes. For wild creatures, “The right look, though, can make all the difference.”

While the illustrated book is billed as being for ages 4 to 9 or grades two to three, readers of any age might enjoy the book and Grodzicki’s imaginative interpretations of the animals’ and insects’ adornments. Younger readers will no doubt savor the beautiful and yes, sometimes icky, photos while learning about the creatures’ survival techniques.

Take the assassin bug. “The assassin bug sucks out the insides of an ant. Before moving on to its next meal, it lifts up the ant’s corpse and drops it on its back! The assassin bug glues the dead ant to the dozen other corpses it’s already carrying…”

These are yucky and fascinating details.

Grodzicki grew up in Connecticut and lived there with her husband and two children (Tessa, 12 and Tanner, 10) until the family moved to Chatham last July. They were already well-acquainted with Chatham, after spending over 10 summers in town and eventually buying a second home here in 2018.

“This spring, there were some changes at my husband’s job which required us to move out of Connecticut to a different spot in New England,” Grodzicki said in a recent email interview. “Because we love it here, Chatham was the obvious choice.”

Grodzicki graduated from Boston College with a B.A. in elementary education and spent over 10 years teaching kindergarten, first and third grades. She later earned a master’s in education from the University of New England.

“After my children were born, I went back to school to get my library media certification. I then worked as a library media specialist in a K-5 school. My favorite part of teaching was sharing books with my students,” she says. “I loved picture books so much that I started to seriously consider trying to write one myself. I started writing picture books in 2015 and haven’t stopped since. In 2017, I left my teaching position to focus on writing full time.”

Grodzicki’s first non-fiction book was “I See Sea Food: Sea Creatures That Look Like Food” (2019). She says that both that and “Wild Style” “shed light on creatures young readers may not be familiar with.” For example, in “I See Sea Food” she sheds light on the egg yolk jellyfish, the lettuce sea slug, the chocolate chip sea star and more. The book won the 2020 Connecticut Book Award for Young Readers Nonfiction.

And in “Wild Style” we meet the sponge crab, which appears to be wearing a hat. “The sponge crab uses its front pincers to snip off a chunk of a sponge from the coral reef. A few more snips and the sponge crab has a colorful cap,” she writes. The sponge has a practical purpose, of course, as it “provides camouflage, helping the crab hide from hungry fish, octopuses, and other crabs looking for their next meal.”

Or take the carrier crab, which places a sea urchin on its back. “It’s an underwater piggyback ride! The needles on the sea urchin help shield the crab from predators.” But the relationship is a symbiotic, not parasitic one. “By hitching a ride with the carrier crab, the sea urchin gets a free trip to new feeding grounds.”

So how did Grodzicki happen to write books about these unique animals, insects and sea creatures? She says she looks for topics that “grab my attention and won’t let go.”

It was a 2018 National Geographic article titled “Natural Bling: 6 Amazing Animals that Decorate Themselves” that led her to research and write “Wild Style.”

“I couldn’t stop thinking about these animals, so I dove headfirst into research. As part of this research, I connected with scientists who study these animals. It’s fascinating to talk to people who are so passionate about their work,” she says. “And I think having my research vetted by experts adds a layer of credibility to my writing.” In fact, in her book Grodzicki thanks 11 scientists, including entomologists and marine biologists, for lending their expertise. The book ends with “Wild Facts,” a glossary, and suggestions for further reading.

Grodzicki also writes fiction. She is the author of the illustrated books “Finn Finds a Friend” (2017), about a lemon shark who tries to make friends with some humans on a beach, and “Pixie’s Adventure” (2017) about a curious cat who gets lost outdoors during a thunderstorm. “Harmony Humbolt: Perfect Pets Queen” will be released later this year by Clear Fork Publishing. Her short story “Me and My Special Guys” is included in the anthology “A Hug for the World.” Proceeds went to victims of Hurricane Harvey.

Grodzicki’s books can be ordered personalized through Where the Sidewalk Ends in Chatham. To order, call the store at 508-945-0499.

For more information about Grodzicki and her books, visit www.jennagrodzicki.com.