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Madison children’s book author discusses new book 'What Can You Do With A Rock'

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Katie Kath
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Pat Zietlow Miller
Book cover of "What Can You Do With a Rock?"

At one time or another, many of us have bent down to take a second look at a rock that caught our eye on a beach or trail. Rocks can be especially fascinating for kids — whether it’s collecting, skipping, sorting, or sharing them.

Madison children’s book author Pat Zietlow Miller’s new book, What Can You Do with a Rock? explores how rocks spark creative play and curiosity in kids.

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Katie Kath
Turquoise illustration

Zietlow Miller shares that her youngest daughter, Sonia, was the inspiration for her book.

"[Sonia] was just into the wonder of them. How did they look? How did they feel when she held them? How did they make her feel inside? And it was that wonder, that a really cool rock can evoke, that I really wanted to share in the book that I wrote," says Zietlow Miller.

Zietlow Miller shares that her daughter was not necessarily interested in the science, but rather fascinated by the wonders of the rocks. Her books focuses on this wonder of how a rock can evolve, and the illustrations help to convey that.

The book is illustrated by Katie Kath. Zietlow Miller says she never worked with her before. Although Kath based her illustration on a geology museum near where she lives, it bears a striking resemblance to the UW-Madison geology museum.

Miller worked with UW-Madison geology museum to make sure her facts were solid. She calls it a happy coincidence that the museum in the book is a look alike.

"If you haven't been to the UW geology Museum, it's gorgeous. It was closed a bit during the pandemic, [but] it's open again. And if you love rocks, it's just the coolest place to be," says Zietlow Miller.

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Katie Kath
Tiger eye illustration

The book includes rocks across the spectrum found in Wisconsin. Some are ordinary and others are flashy, she says. Zietlow Miller also included two pages in the back of the book that cover all the science topics for readers who are particularly interested in that aspect of rocks.

Zietlow Miller says there are so many different ways to love a rock, whether it is admiring its beauty or its scientific history.

"I hope it encourages them [readers] to notice things both in the natural world: rocks, and sticks, and shells, and that kind of thing, but also when they look around at the people next to them," says Zietlow Miller.

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