Fan Mail Wednesday #154: Cardinal and Sunflower

Here’s a letter inquiring about my first hardcover book, a quiet story that quickly went out of print, Cardinal and Sunflower, illustrated by Huy Voun Lee.

Dear Mr. Spreller,

I am a 2nd grader from Indiana. I am very interested in birds, and cardinals particularly. I just read your book, Cardinal and Sunflower, and love it.

I have a couple questions about the book and cardinals, and wonder if you could answer them.
1. Why do you like cardinals so much? Is there a story behind it?
2. Do cardinals build nests every year? Where can they hide when raining?
James W.
I replied:


I am so glad to get a letter about my book, CARDINAL AND SUNFLOWER. It came out a while ago and, to be honest, just kind of disappeared from stores. I guess there’s some copies floating around in libraries.

Yes, sure, who doesn’t like cardinals? Such beautiful birds. Somehow I got interested in them, so I went to the library and began reading. I remember reading an expert who transcribed their song as, “What cheer! What cheer! Birdie, birdie, birdie. Cue, cue, cue, cue!”

At the time when I wrote that book, a few different things were happening in my life. For one, I had a dog that I brought to the park twice a day. And also, I’d been through a long, hard journey with my son, Nicholas, who had been very sick for several years. He had cancer. The good news is, Nick is now fully recovered and in college. But at that time, back in the late 90’s, I guess I thought a lot about life, and nature, and new beginnings. I dedicated the book to Nick’s primary doctors and nurses.

Yes, cardinals build nests every year. But in the rain, they carry umbrellas. Haven’t you seen them? For a more detailed answer, click here.

Actually, like us, they try to find a dry-ish place. Sheltering up in trees or in thick bushes. Birds can fluff up their feathers, and that also helps protect them from the cold and wet.

Thanks, it was nice to hear from you!

P.S. I stumbled across a blog, Adventures-In-Mommy-Land, where a mother and her son, Nathan, created their own fabulous artwork inspired, in part, by the illustrations in my book. Here’s some terrific pictures. Maybe you might want to try it yourself?

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