The Story Behind ‘One Pelican at a Time’ by Nancy Stewart

LS Story-Behind-Book4

The Story Behind the Book is Literarily Speaking’s newest feature. Here we find out either the inspiration behind authors’ books or how they got published. Today’s guest is Nancy Stewart, author of the bestselling children’s book, One Pelican at a Time.


Pelican cover

Let me begin by telling a bit about the book, One Pelican at a Time.  It is the story of two girls, Bella and Britt, who love living by the beach.  During an oil spill, however, they realize their old friend, the crooked beak pelican, is in grave danger. The girls, after having been told by adults that kids can do nothing to help, take matters into their own hands and try to save him from the oily gulf waters.

My husband and I bought a condo on the water in Clearwater Beach, Florida, three years ago.  Although I didn’t know it would, that decision had a profound effect on me.  I watched the Sea Turtle Summer and Bella Saves the Beach marine life on our daily walks and quickly grew to love it all, particularly the brown pelicans.  I found those walks opened up a whole new world for me.  I’d been along beaches many times in many places, but this time it was different.  It was personal.

Bella came to me in a sand heart that the tide was just beginning to take away.  Inside that heart was the name, Bella.  A nugget of a story stirred in me.  Britt came about two weeks later in the form of a lovely child splashing in the gulf with her parents.  I wrote the first two books, Sea Turtle Summer and Bella Saves the Beach.  They were both accepted by Guardian Angel Publishing and were scheduled to be published.

And then the oil spill happened.  That changed everything. I spoke with my publisher, Lynda Burch, about the spill.  She and her husband are in Florida several months, and she loves and respects all of it as well.  We both agreed a book about the spill had to happen, and Bella and Britt were the ones to do it.  The old crooked beak pelican that the girls had known all their lives was in the previous book, Bella Saves the Beach.  It was a natural fit.

The problem was that the first two books in the series were to be published soon.  They went on hold, and Pelican took over.  I wrote like a madwoman and finished the book in about six weeks, something I’d never done before.  Time, though, was everything.  We were determined to be first to get a book out about the event.  And we did it!

In retrospect, it was all worth the effort.  I know Lynda feels the same.  We were both on a mission to help, and this was the way we could do it.  And I think it may be working.  One Pelican at a Time has and continues to be on several Amazon bestseller lists:  Bestsellers in Children’s Books, Hot New Releases in Children’s Books and Most Wished For in Children’s Books.

It was a circuitous route to publishing One Pelican at a Time.  One might even call the book an unintended consequence of a global disaster.  But I want to thank my publisher and our wonderful illustrator, Samantha Bell, for putting so much love and effort into the book.  Britt, Bella and the old crooked beak pelican have a story to tell, a cautionary tale, and we are all so grateful that so many people are paying attention. Nancy Stewart photo

After having been an elementary school teacher, a management consultant with New Options, Inc. in New York City and a university professor of education, Nancy Stewart now writes children’s books full time.  She, her husband and three sons, lived in London for eight years, where she was a consultant to several universities, including Cambridge. 

 Nancy travels extensively throughout the world, most particularly Africa.  She is the US chair of a charity in Lamu, Kenya, that places girls in intermediate schools to allow them to further their education. 

Nancy is the author of One Pelican at a Time and two other Bella books:  Bella Saves the Beach and Sea Turtle Summer.  All three are published by Guardian Angel Publishers. 

She and her family live in St. Louis and Clearwater Beach, Florida. 

You can visit Nancy online at or at her blog

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