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About Stephen Swinburne - In his own words

25stevewithcameraMy mother, Lily, had me at Marleyborne Hospital in London, England, at 11o'clock in the morning on November 8, 1952. My father, William Swinburne, worked on trains delivering mail to faraway places all over England. I think that's where I get my love of trains. I was the middle kid - my brother, Peter was a year older, and my sister, Madeline, a year younger. We lived at 7 Wolsey Road in north London, a poor neighborhood of attached brick houses, narrow streets and endless chimneys poking the sky. During World War Two, a bomb from a German plane made a direct hit on the only pub on our street. One person was killed and the pub was rebuilt into a new pub called The Lady Mildmay.

My best friend on 7 Wolsey Road was a kid named George. Mom considered him scruffy and nasty. She called him Dirty George. I was dubbed Wiff. It seems neither of us cared much for soap and water. When we weren't mucking about the streets, we fought other neighborhood kids. Sometimes we'd chuck stones at each other. Once, a well-thrown stone split open my upper lip.

When I was almost 8, we moved from England to America. Mom, Peter, Madeline and I boarded the Queen Elizabeth in Southampton in southern England on April 20, 1960. We landed in New York City five days later. Southampton was the same port the Titanic departed from on April 10, 1912. They hoped to arrive in New York City on April 15, but the ship struck an iceberg at 11:40 p.m. on April 14, 1912 and sank almost three hours later.

I remember two things about our passage on the Queen Elizabeth: sitting in the swanky dining room being served by waiters in their crisp white uniforms. I looked down at the table setting and saw a 100 knives, forks and spoons. Which ones did I use first? The other memory that stands out was when we were docking in New York City. My mother held my sister in her arms and stood at the rail, leaning over, searching for my father along the wharf. When the ships horn blasted behind us, my mother jumped nearly spilling my sister into New York harbor fall below. What a welcome that would have been!

Age 8 to 17 was a blur of moving houses (my dad liked to switch houses every two years), new schools, new friends and fights with my brother and sister culminating in my parents divorce in 1970. All those years I took refuge in listening to The Beatles and writing in journals. I remember yanking the bed sheets over my head, flipping on a tiny flashlight and scratching words into 5-cent journal. I've kept journals and dairies all my life and think it's a great place to fall in love with words.

Growing up, I wanted to be an adventurer (whatever that is!) or a naturalist or marine biologist. Ever since I can remember, I've put words on paper and I feel so fortunate to make a living writing, exploring new places, learning about the amazing creatures we share this planet with.

"I still would like to be an adventurer or marine biologist. One day. And I think a rock star would be kind of cool, too."


Additional Information about Stephen Swinburne

Stephen holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in biology and English from Castleton State College, Vt. He has worked as ranger in a number of national parks.

He loves to travel and observe nature and wildlife. A safari in Africa, hiking in Scotland, monitoring sea turtles on a Georgia island, a winter trek through Yellowstone and watching shorebirds in New York have all led to book projects.

He lives in South Londonderry, Vermont, with his wife Heather and daughters Hayley and Devon.

When Stephen is not writing and photographing children's books, he loves to sing and play Beatle songs on his Gibson guitar, garden, read, travel with his family and take pictures.

Stephen's photography has appeared in magazines such as Country Journal, Vermont Life, Garden Design, Family Fun and Highlights for Children.

He is the other of over 25 children's books, including several concept books such as Lots and Lots of Zebra Stripes; Patterns in Nature; What's Opposite?; What's a Pair?; What's a Dozen?; Guess Whose Shadow?; and What Color is Nature?

Stephen has written many books about wildlife, such as Armadillo Trail; Wings of Light: The Migration of the Yellow Butterfly; Turtle Tide: The Ways of Sea Turtles; Black Bear: North America's Bear; Coyote: North America's Dog; and Saving Manatees. In addition, he's written the novel Wiff and Dirty George: The Z.E.B.R.A. Incident.


 

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