By Victoria Merlino
Something prehistoric is lurking in Jamaica Bay, and science educator and author Heather Feather wants you to know about it.
Feather will bring the mystery and magic of one of the bay’s oldest and mightiest residents, the horseshoe crab, to life with her new children’s book “Horseshoe Crab’s Crown,” illustrated by Valentina Gallup. The book will be released on June 9 during a party at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Broad Channel.
“Horseshoe Crab’s Crown” is another extension of Feather’s work as an art and science educator. In the past, she ran a children’s art education organization called ARTSinPARTS, has worked with the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance, as a seasonal park ranger and has recently redesigned curriculum for the Gateway National Recreation Area.
Horseshoe crabs have been around longer as a species than dinosaurs, according to Jamaica Bay’s website, and are more related to scorpions and spiders than crabs. Though their distinctive shell and many legs might look scary, they are actually harmless, and feed on mollusks, worms and seaweed. Every May and June, they climb onto the shores of Jamaica Bay to lay eggs and fertilize them.
The story follows a horseshoe crab who wakes up after the impact of the asteroid that caused the dinosaurs to go extinct. “I like to call it a story of re-creation,” Feather said told the Eagle.
Feather was inspired after she looked at a horseshoe crab and thought about myths of turtles or elephants with the world on their backs. “One of my biggest goals and intentions is to connect adults and children to their natural surroundings,” she said, noting that when she educates children about the horseshoe crab, it inspires a sense of awe within them.
Feather has also participated in horseshoe crab countings for three years with the New York City Audubon. Each year in May and June, volunteers spread along the shores of Jamaica Bay to count the number of horseshoe crabs and tag spawning ones to understand and monitor the population.
Though her book is categorized for children, Feather hopes that the book will serve to educate and enlighten people of all ages.
“If it helps people appreciate this natural wonder, it’s done more than I could ever ask.”
The Queens Arts Council gave Feather a grant to make the book and have the launch party. She called the council “a most excellent resource” and encouraged other artists to go to its trainings and apply to receive grants.
The book’s launch party will be held from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. on June 9 at 175-10 Cross Bay Blvd., and include an art show that will highlight the book-making process.