The Scouts, however, offered hikes and camping trips that provided him the chance to explore the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. "We went to incredible spots," he says. "My favorite thing to do was to leave everybody ... and go off in the woods and look at things. I'd always be dragging things home from ponds, much to my parents' dismay."
Marstall loved to draw his discoveries. And he devoured both the drawings and text in nature books by authors Holling C. Holling and Jean Craighead George. His favorite book was by Holling. Called "Minn of the Mississippi," it was a story about a turtle's life journey from the headwaters of the Mississippi, where it hatched, to New Orleans, La., where it arrived as a full-grown snapping turtle.
Marstall loved to study the dozens of thumbnail sketches that lined the margins of the book. And he loved the whole notion of the turtle's journey, so much so he's picked the concept up in his own work, which combines his love of nature, drawing and children's literature.
Marstall, who lives in Northampton, now illustrates children's picture books with colorful, detailed and scientifically correct watercolor or oil paintings, and his most popular book to date, An Extraordinary Life: The Story of a Monarch Butterfly, is the first of what he calls his "journey" books. It's a story about a monarch butterfly's travels from a hayfield in Shelburne to its wintering grounds in central Mexico.