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Highlights for Children: Red Crab Invasion

Highlights Author of the Month
Highlights World Cultures Feature of the Year
SCBWI Letter of Merit (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators)

As my three sons were growing up they loved watching National Geographic documentaries. Their all time favorite was the annual migration of the red crabs of Christmas Island. Fascinated, the boys followed the dangerous journey of the crabs. Down mountains, across roads, into homes, even invading the school. The boys thought the crusty critters were “really cool” and wished we had them in New Jersey. I wondered what it would be like to share space with millions of clattering crabs.

When I took my first writing course with the Institute of Children’s Literature I thought it would be great to write about the annual migration. I wrote my story through the eyes of Jake Baker, a fictional character, and mailed it off to Highlights For Children. The science editor, Andy Boyles, liked my idea. But Andy suggested I interview a real child on Christmas Island instead. Someone who would know exactly what it was like living among all those crabs.

My research led me to Jan Sullivan, a teacher in the District Island High School. It was the perfect time. The height of the migration. And Jan was the perfect contact, emailing updates and photographs several times each week. Rainy day reports of crabs scuttling merrily along, and dry day reports of crabs scurrying to find shade.

When the preponderance of crabs finally crept into the schoolyard, camera crews from around the world, ready to document the event, met them. But without permission from authorities, the crews were escorted off school property and led across the street.

I was lucky. Jan went through proper channels, and I was granted permission to interview a student in the school. Highlights accepted my story, and the red crabs of Christmas Island marched their way across the pages of the magazine.

I hope you enjoy their journey…

After my story appeared in Highlights for Children, the students on Christmas Island received a surprise. Kent Brown Jr, whose family started the magazine over sixty years ago, sent 100 copies to Jan’s school. The students enjoyed their gift very much!
Article published by permission of Highlights for Children, Inc.
Background Image: "Red crab migration" by Max Orchard, Christmas Island National Park, Parks Australia.

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