GREAT PROTECTOR: Author tells students of ‘Sooper Yooper’ fight against invasive species

Addy Witkowski reacts to a sea lamprey during author Mark Newman's presentation on Friday at Kennedy Elementary School. Newman, author of the book series "Sooper Yooper" spoke to Matt Phillips' sixth grade science classes. (Michelle Graves/News Advocate)

Addy Witkowski reacts to a sea lamprey during author Mark Newman’s presentation on Friday at Kennedy Elementary School. Newman, author of the book series “Sooper Yooper” spoke to Matt Phillips’ sixth grade science classes. (Michelle Graves/News Advocate)

Michael Nickleson looks at a refractometer on Friday during a presentation by author Mark Newman. A refractometer is a device used for the measurement of an index of refraction. Newman told students that it's used to detect salt water and helps in the fight against invasive species in the Great Lakes. (Michelle Graves/News Advocate)

Michael Nickleson looks at a refractometer on Friday during a presentation by author Mark Newman. A refractometer is a device used for the measurement of an index of refraction. Newman told students that it’s used to detect salt water and helps in the fight against invasive species in the Great Lakes. (Michelle Graves/News Advocate)

MANISTEE — “We need to be superheroes to protect our Great Lakes.”

That’s the message that author Mark Newman conveys with his “Sooper Yooper” books.

Newman gave a presentation to all of Matt Phillips’ sixth grade science classes on Friday at Kennedy Elementary School.

He talked to the students about the importance of fighting against invasive species in the Great Lakes.

“My program is all about invasive species and guarding the Great Lakes from sea lampreys, zebra mussels, Asian carp,” said Newman. “It’s a very interactive program that kids really seem to feed off the energy of seeing the weird and creepy things that are threatening our fresh water.”

The Grand Rapids native attended Michigan State University for journalism and worked at the Grand Rapids Press, covering sports and entertainment before he started the book series.

He and a co-worker at the Grand Rapids Press developed the idea for the “Sooper Yooper” books, which feature Billy Cooper and his sidekick Might Mac — an English bulldog — as they take on threats to the Great Lakes.

Mark Newman is the author of the "Sooper Yooper" book series, featuring Billy Cooper and his sidekick Mighty Mac, an English bulldog. Newman spoke to Matt Phillips sixth graders throughout the day about invasive species at Kennedy Elementary School.  (Michelle Graves/News Advocate)

Mark Newman is the author of the “Sooper Yooper” book series, featuring Billy Cooper and his sidekick Mighty Mac, an English bulldog. Newman spoke to Matt Phillips sixth graders throughout the day about invasive species at Kennedy Elementary School. (Michelle Graves/News Advocate)

Mark Heckman illustrated the first book, but he died before it was printed. The sequel was self-illustrated using photos and a computer program.

Invasive species are getting bigger, stronger and meaner, Newman said, so the second book includes a team for help.

He told the students about invasive species and showed them examples of sea lampreys, zebra mussels, Eurasian Water-Milfoil, rusty crayfish, the Emerald Ash Borer and spiny water fleas.

Newman told the students that he didn’t care for science much when he was in school.

“I’m enthusiastic about science and the Earth,” he said. “But I’m not a scientist; I’m a writer.”

Phillips was very happy with Newman’s presentation.

“When you access knowledge they already have, it sticks,” he said.

After his presentation, students asked for autographs and took selfies with the author.

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Posted by Michelle Graves

Michelle is the managing editor of the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach her at (231) 398-3106 or mgraves@pioneergroup.com.

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