Q & A: Session with author Don Corrigan
Q: Why a coloring book for kids with a main character that’s a turkey vulture?
A. Turkey vultures are the “Eagles of the Ozarks.” I learned this from my Ozarks expert and book producer, Jo Schaper. She said turkeys can be a dimwits and vultures can be scoundrels, but combined you get Missouri’s Ozark Eagle.
Q: That’s a stretch. But why an Ozark Eagle to talk road safety?
A. No creature keeps its eyes on the road like turkey vultures. They witness car collisions with squirrels and raccoons, with possums and armadillos, with pet dogs and cats. Turkey vultures are scavengers wanting an easy meal – roadkill. They’re always in search of highway fast food. Unfortunately, Ozark Eagles get run over, because they don’t pay attention to oncoming traffic when dining.
Q: Who is buying this “Ozark Eagle” coloring book?
A. I give book signing presentations at events like the College Women’s Club luncheons. Mothers and grandmothers are so concerned about the kids and road safety. They care about the safety of their pets. They like the idea of a coloring book that gets Billy and Sandy off the computer screen, to create visually, and to learn something that could save their lives. Using crayons can be cool. We need an MKCA baseball cap that says: “Make Kids Color Again!”
Q: How did you personally get interested in road safety issues?
A. Spending a lifetime as a reporter and newspaper editor, I’ve covered my share of roadway tragedies. One in particular in my newspaper’s circulation area involved a needless death near a crosswalk in Kirkwood in 2017. In 2022, St. Louis was shocked by residents killed while trying to cross Chippewa to get to Ted Drewes custard stand. Pedestrian deaths are a concern for everyone.
Q: You researched and wrote about road safety even before you did the coloring book. Can you talk about your “American Roadkill: The Animal Victims of Our Busy Highways” – and does that book connect to the coloring book?
A. After I wrote “American Roadkill” in 2021, I met an artist transplant from Texas, Laura Jackson, who wanted to know if we had any artwork needs at the newspaper. I learned she had a soft spot for animals, so I gave her my roadkill book. She read it and came back to me saying the book “was ahead of its time,” because people aren’t yet sensitized enough to the one-million highway wildlife deaths daily. Roadkill gets a shrug, but people do care about pedestrian deaths and loss of pets to accidents. So, that’s when we decided to do a coloring book together that covers road safety for everyone – wildlife, pets and humans.
Q: So “American Roadkill” led to Terry the Turkey Vulture’s road safety book?
A. That’s right. It just made sense. I cover both books at my signing events. In fact, you get a free coloring book with every “Roadkill” purchase, but you can buy the coloring books separately. They really complement each other. And the research for the roadkill book gave me knowledge for the coloring book.
Q: Road safety is the coloring book theme. What about “American Roadkill”?
A. “American Roadkill” is published by McFarland, the largest U.S. publisher of popular culture books. I look at all the animals in movies and TV, from Pepé Le Pew the skunk, to movie pink panthers, to frogs like Kermit. Then, I discuss the irony that we get our kids to love these animals, and then we run over them without much regret. That can’t be a good thing. When I started writing the book, people were sending me their gory roadkill photos for it. I told them to keep their photos, the book is a think piece, not some ghoul’s delight.
Q. How does “American Roadkill” sell? That title may turn people off?
A. I found “American Roadkill” sells better in rural areas, where people see more roadkill and have their own stories to tell about problems and accidents with roadkill. But “Roadkill” is selling better in the suburbs now that I offer the road safety coloring book as a thoughtful accompaniment.
Q. What is the message of the two books?
A. The coloring book’s message is that motorists must drive defensively and walkers must walk defensively. When you’re at a marked crosswalk, don’t assume that oncoming drivers will stop. The message of the 2021 book is that when we start caring about the million animals we turn into roadkill annually, we will start caring more about humans on the road. I think those messages come through clearly, and it’s why the books have received great support from roadway safety organizations and animal rights groups.