Former Dare educator now teaches about nature in her books

By on May 26, 2024

Author Adrienne Palma,  left, and illustrator Dawn Van Ness.

Maggie Miles | Outer Banks Voice

There’s a new Under the Sea and Wildlife themed children’s book series on the Outer Banks, written by a local educator and former vice principal of Manteo Elementary School, Adrienne Palma. The series also incorporates the expertise of respected local maritime and wildlife experts, including the staff at the Aquarium on Roanoke Island; volunteers at NEST (Network for Endangered Sea Turtles); staff at the Dolphin Research Center in Grassy Key, FL; US Fish & Wildlife program managers; and tour guides at the Ghost Crab Quest.

“I really want my books to be entertaining, educational, and factual,” Palma told the Voice.

Since October 2020, Palma has published seven books through Yorkshire Publishing in Tulsa, OK, with an eighth soon to come. The Under the Sea series includes Lola the Loggerhead, Dawson the Dolphin, Crystal the Crab, Oliver the Otter, Shalim the Shark and the forthcoming Willa the Whale.

The Wildlife series includes Willie the Red Wolf and Bella The Black Bear. Each book takes children on a first-person journey along with the animal to see what their life is like. In the back of each book, there is a list with fun facts.

Palma retired from Manteo Elementary School in December 2021 after 25 years as an educator, and the book series was born out of her lifelong passion for learning and an urge to teach children about the natural world.

“As a teacher, I always wanted to expose children to the natural wonders beyond the classroom walls,” says Palma, recalling one Bright Ideas Education Grant through North Carolina’s Electric Cooperative to build bluebird houses with her students, and one to create a butterfly garden. She also took students on trips to the zoo, and brought guest speakers to come to her class to talk about wildlife. “So this is really an extension to that.”

After using an artist contracted by her publisher for the first three books of the series, Palma met local artist Dawn Van Ness at Manteo Elementary School where her son attended. Palma loved Van Ness’s work and was excited by the idea of having a local artist. Palma and Van Ness have now collaborated on the last four books and the forthcoming Willa the Whale.

Van Ness had just begun painting again and had turned her garage into a studio. At the time she met Palma, she had begun challenging herself to enter her work in local art shows and submitting it online.

“And then [Palma] gave me the chance to illustrate children’s books, and at first I was intimidated by it. But I did the first book and then did the second book. And, you know, it started to feel much more comfortable and natural. And it’s like I almost had a system down,” says Van Ness. “It was a really great exercise for me and a really good way for me to challenge myself and to learn.”

For the first book in the series, Palma started with a loggerhead turtle because it’s an animal she’s had a lifelong fascination with. “I’m still to this day determined to be at a nest when the hatchlings emerge. I still haven’t been fortunate enough to do that,” says Palma.

For the research, she went to volunteers at NEST to make sure the book was factual. “They fact checked everything and made sure that the illustrations were correct,” says Palma. “And so that’s what started it. And it was really fun. And so then I just continued on.”

For Shalim the Shark, she went to experts at the Aquarium on Roanoke Island. She chose the tiger shark to be the main character because tiger sharks are a more docile shark and can typically be found at aquariums. Crystal the Crab is about a ghost crab, so she went to tour guides at Ghost Crab Quest. For Willie the Red Wolf, she went to Joe Madison, the North Carolina Program Manager for the Red Wolf Recovery Program.

A volunteer at the Coastal North Carolina Refugees Gateway Visitor’s Center known as the “black bear guru” helped her with her book on black bears. And for her upcoming book Willa the Whale, which centers on a beluga whale, she went to the Roanoke Island Aquarium.

But for Oliver the Otter, she went to a different type of expert—the third graders at Chesapeake Academy in Irvington, VA. Palma led a writing workshop with the students and they voted on what her next animal should be and its name. The students then collected research on otters and created some illustrations which Palma included in the back of the book.

“So that was really fun,” she recalls.

“As an educator, my goal is always for children to develop a love of reading and increase their knowledge and awareness of sea creatures and wildlife—which hopefully will continue throughout their lives,” Palma says.


Locally, the series is available at Downtown Books in Manteo and Duck, Buxton Village Books, Beach Books in Corolla, Oregon Inlet Fishing Center Ship Store, and the USFWS Gateway Visitor Center. The books are also in bookstores from Vermont to Key West, FL, and are expanding to zoos and aquariums across the country.

Palma and Van Ness will be at Dare Days 2024 in downtown Manteo on June 1 at the Downtown Books tent from 3 to 5 p.m. with their books and original artwork displayed.



Barnhill Building Group has been selected as the Construction Manager @ Risk by the College of the Albemarle and is seeking to pre-qualify construction trade contractors to submit bids for the furnishing labor, materials, equipment, and tools for the new College of The Albemarle – Allied Health Sciences Simulation Lab (COA Health Sciences) located in Elizabeth City, NC. Please note: Only subcontractors who have been prequalified by Barnhill will be able to submit a Bid.

The project consists of the new construction of a 38,000-sf, 2-story expansion to the existing Owens Health Sciences Center and will house classrooms, labs, and a simulation lab. The site is just over just over 4.5 acres and is located on an active campus. This new construction will be a steel structure with a brick and metal panel veneer, curtainwall, and storefront glazing with a PVC roof membrane.

Principal trade and specialty contractors are solicited for the following Bid Packages:

BP0100: General Trades

BP0105: Final Cleaning

BP0390: Turnkey Concrete

BP0400: Turnkey Masonry

BP0500: Structural Steel & Misc. Steel

BP0740: Roofing

BP0750: Metal Panels

BP0790: Caulking / Caulking

BP0800: Turnkey Doors/Frames/Hardware

BP0840: Glass & Glazing

BP0925: Drywall

BP0960: Resilient Flooring

BP0980: Acoustical Ceilings

BP0990: Painting & Wallcovering

BP1005: Toilet Specialties / Accessories / Division 10

BP1010: Signage

BP1098: Demountable Partitions

BP1230: Finish Carpentry and Casework

BP1250: Window Treatment

BP1400: Elevators

BP2100: Fire Protection

BP2200: Plumbing

BP2300: HVAC

BP2600: Turnkey Electrical

BP3100: Turnkey Sitework

BP3290: Landscaping

Packages may be added and/or deleted at the discretion of the Construction Manager. Historically underutilized business firms are encouraged to complete participation submittals.

HUB/MWBE OUTREACH MEETING: Barnhill Building Group will be conducting a HUB/MWBE Informational Session. You are encouraged to attend the following session to learn more about project participation opportunities available to you. These seminars will help to: Learn about project and scope; Inform and train Minority/HUB contractors in preparation for bidding this project; Assist in registration on the State of North Carolina Vendor link; Stimulate opportunities for Networking with other firms. Location and time TBD. Please visit our planroom at for more information.

Interested contractors should submit their completed prequalification submittals, by July 22, 2024, to Meredith Terrell at or hardcopies can be mailed to Barnhill Contracting Company PO Box 31765 Raleigh, NC 27622 (4325 Pleasant Valley Road, NC 27612).


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