36 Finalists Blog 2024: Laura Purdie Salas

Laura Purdie Salas, author of Finding Family: The Duckling Raised by Loons

Children’s Literature Category

Each week leading up to the 36th annual Minnesota Book Awards, we are featuring exclusive interviews with our finalists. You can also watch the authors in conversation with their fellow category finalists here.

What is one detail you wanted to include in this book, but couldn’t find a place for?   

I so wished I could include an ending that would reassure readers of a happily-ever-after for both the loons and the duckling. But it’s a nonfiction book, and we don’t know how their story played out after that summer. Eventually, that theme of finding joy and family exactly where you are…that became central to the book. I guess it’s the truth I needed to hear as I wrote this during the pandemic. 

Tell us about someone who proved instrumental to the creation of this book.   

So many people contribute to a book, but there are three (sorry!) I’d like to publicly acknowledge. Dr. Walter Piper leads the Loon Project in studying the decline in Wisconsin and Minnesota’s loon populations. This unusual family wouldn’t have been discovered without him. Linda Grenzer (also with the Loon Project) takes and shares amazing loon photos and videos. This family wouldn’t have gone viral without her. And Carol Hinz, Associate Publisher of Lerner’s Millbrook Press, looks at something magical in the world and thinks, “This should be a picture book.” (And, “I wonder if Laura would want to write it.”) This book wouldn’t exist without her. I’m grateful to all three of them—plus everyone else who had a hand in the creation of this book. 

Tell us about a favorite read from the past year. Why did you find it enjoyable, insightful, or memorable?  

What an impossible question! But one of my favorite books was Light Speaks, by Christine Layton and Luciana Navarro Powell. It’s a fabulous blend of science, lyrical writing, and stunning illustrations, and it makes me look at something common and ordinary (light) and see all the different ways it’s spectacular. The book expands my understanding of and awe for the world around me – just what I love in a picture book. 

Please tell us something about yourself that is not widely known.

I have a morbid curiosity and often think about dark topics. (This could explain a lot of the unpublished picture book manuscripts I’ve written!) But I think a real awareness of how brief and random life can be makes me appreciate it even more. 

Share your thoughts about the role and value of libraries.   

The library was my safe space as a child. At home, I could never live up to my parents’ standards, and we had a lot of rules that made it difficult to have normal friendships. But at the library, all that fell away. Librarians and books welcomed me. Such different people gathered in one space, separate but connected to each other, like knots in a delicate net. In Finding Family, I say, “The future is a perfect mystery of possibilities, like an unhatched egg.” I feel like that’s a pretty good description of libraries, too. They’re a mystery of possibilities for every single person who enters.  

Laura Purdie Salas has written more than 135 books, including Lion of the Sky, Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten, and Snowman-Cold=Puddle. Salas loves nature, donuts, and playing with words. She also loves to get kids excited about reading.