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When I was twelve-years-old, Sister Miriam Thomas kicked out half the class for not doing our spelling homework. She made us sit on the bench in the schoolyard to finish the previous day's assignment.That wasn't punishment enough. One by one, she called us into the office to call our parents to tell them that the next time we skipped an assignment, there would be a parent-teacher-student meeting. I finished my spelling exercises quickly, but did not return to class. Instead, I sat on that hard bench and completed Sister Maureen Lawrence's creative writing assignment. It was due the next day.That was my favorite class in seventh and eighth grade.

I began writing short stories and poems in my seventh grade creative writing class, but I never aspired to be a writer. Because my parents were from Puerto Rico, Spanish was my first language. At age twelve, the two things I knew I would do some day would be travel and learn foreign languages. I was influenced by  books, that included slide presentations  of countries around the world through a book club my mother subscribed to, and my merchant-seaman father's tales of all the countries he had visited. I learned Portuguese in college and became fluent. Many years after college, I began organizing cultural and educational group tours to Brazil during Carnaval to study Afro-Brazilian music and dance. Those tours enhanced my interest in the culture of Brazil and ultimately led to my writing "The Cry of the Jabiru". I became a middle school teacher and some of the amusing antics of my students and my own middle school memories, inspired some of the events in my debut novel.

Two important ecological areas of Brazil are the Pantanal, the largest wetlands in the world, and the Amazon rain forest. The fauna and foliage of these places are unique and can be of great interest to young readers if introduced through fantasy and real places. It is my hope that by reading "The Cry of the Jabiru", the tween/middle grade reader will embark on an independent journey, expanding his or her knowledge about this vast country through the wildlife, language, and culture conveyed in this story. May it also fuel a desire to travel some day and to learn and speak a foreign language.

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