Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Internships Matter! --- Back to my roots

 While the pandemic is still raging in the United States the work of authors and illustrators continues. I'm at work on a few projects, including an exciting new #STEM book for HMHKids. 

Apart from answering last-minute notes from my editor, I'm enjoying one of the most rewarding and tedious tasks -- selecting the images and their placement in the book. 

This involves reviewing all of the photos taken for the book and doing research to provide additional photos that will enrich the story. It also means that I have to make sure that all the image files meet the publisher's requirements -- including transferring jpgs into tiff files for printing. I also have to write all the captions and provide the image credits. 

And while I take on this task I'm transported to my senior year of college when I spent a year at Audubon Magazine doing exactly the same thing -- well, almost. There were no digital files at the time. I had a lightbox and lots of slides and artwork to consider. 

Did I know then that my internship would matter so much to me as a kidlit author? Nope. Granted, I LOVED my internship. I loved everything about it, but I didn't have a crystal ball. I filed away that experience like so many others we have in our young lives. 

Those experiences, though, all play a part in who we become and what skills we pack in our suitcases for the journey through our lives. They don't necessarily lead to a job right away, but they might impact a job in the future. 

It's the same with an editor critique. An editor might provide you with valuable criticism that could launch your manuscript into a new direction, even if it isn't with their publishing house. It's a matter of taking these experiences and making them matter. 

Well, I need to get back to work. Thanks, Marty Hill, for being an incredible mentor at Audubon and for telling me I should become a writer. I can't tell you what it has meant to me. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Agriculture in the Classroom

It's spring and we're all living through a nationwide pandemic when our food security is even more important.

In the midst of this, librarians are working hard to provide books for young children who are struggling through homeschooling and virtual lessons.  Some, like the librarians in Missouri, are holding virtual book fests to present books and authors to school librarians throughout the state. I had the fun of participating in one of their virtual panels.

I'm happy to share the books of my fellow panelists and the resources with all of you.
Check these out!

Pre-order THE FARM THAT FEEDS US at your local indie or an autographed copy at Oblong Books & Music. The release is postponed until July.

Additional resources for your classroom: 

National Ag in the Classroom program:

American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture:

Feeding Minds Press:

Future Farmers of America:

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Earth Day 2020

Happy 50th Earth Day! 

      Today is the day to think of the ways we can contribute to the health of our planet. You can make a difference by helping endangered species. It doesn’t matter where you live or how old you are, every choice we make impacts our environment and the wildlife around us.
     Here are seven ways you can help today and every day:

Learn About Local Endangered Species — It is hard to help creatures we know nothing about. Find out what animals might be having trouble where you live. Pick one and become an expert. Spread the news about it and how we might be able to keep it safe! You might even be able to volunteer in a local nature center or wildlife refuge. 

Throw Micro Trash In The Trash!  — Tiny items of trash, like bottle caps and small pieces of plastic, are harmful to many species of wildlife. It’s hard for an animal to tell the difference between a piece of food and a piece of trash. Sea turtles and California condors are just two endangered species that suffer from tiny bits of litter. You can help by spreading the word and making sure that micro trash finds its way into the trash! 

Conserve Energy!  — Every time we use energy, we add pollution to the environment. You can help by turning off the lights when you leave a room, by carpooling with your friends when you go somewhere and even buying less stuff wrapped in plastic. Every small thing you do can bring big results if we all work together. 

Be Wildlife Friendly — Make your home wildlife friendly by placing decals on your windows to prevent birds from flying into the glass, planting native plants that provide food and shelter for wildlife, and by keeping your home pesticide and herbicide-free. Also, keep cats indoors. Many birds and small animals have killed cats each year. These easy steps make a huge impact in the lives of your local wildlife! 

Take the Plastic-Free Challenge —  Did you know that people produce millions of tons of plastic garbage every year? That includes plastic bags, plastic drinking straws, water bottles, coffee stirrers, and all sorts of packaging that we use only once and then throw out. All of this garbage ends up in our landfills and our waterways. It not only harms wildlife, but it also harms us. You can make a big difference if you swap out your plastic for reusable glass bottles, cloth bags, and recycle the plastic you do use. So the next time you order a beverage in a restaurant, ask for a glass and don’t use a straw.  

Campaign for Wildlife!  — Write a letter to your local newspaper about endangered species. Attend a town board meeting and speak up for wildlife. Create a website to promote conservation. Join an environmental organization. Become a voice for the creatures you care about. 

©Nancy F Castaldo

Pay Attention — Sometimes we just don’t know what’s going on until it is too late. If you start to pay attention to the plight of endangered species and other wildlife you’ll be one step ahead. Once we know what is happening we can take action and together we can make a difference. Become informed and stay informed. And when you are old enough — VOTE! Voting is an important way to make your voice heard. 

We can make a difference if we all work together. Perhaps, then we can even prevent animals from becoming endangered in the first place. 

Earth Day, Every Day! 

Sunday, March 22, 2020

#wildlifefrommywindow In The Time of COVID-19

I love to travel. I'm one of those people that get butterflies of excitement anytime I am near an airport.    I follow #roamtheplanet and #wandertheglobe with unbridled enthusiasm. And I'm fortunate in that my job as a STEM author allows me to travel for research to some amazing places to see some amazing wildlife.

That said, now is not the time for flying. The pandemic has dampened my wings, but not my spirit, because, as much as I love to travel,  I also know that I do not have to travel to see wildlife. We can see wildlife every day outside our own window. That's right– no matter where you live.

What do you see outside your window? Is it a pigeon soaking up sunshine rays? Is it a deer munching grass? Is it a lizard climbing a wall?

I'd like to know. Use the hashtag #wildlifefrommywindow. I've set up an Instagram account and hope to post some of your photos. You can also just share a list on Twitter using that hashtag like I did yesterday.

You can read it here.

Let's appreciate the wildlife inhabiting our home each and every day while we are staying safe and healthy.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Time Out - Financial Resources for KIDLIT Creators During COVID-19

As programs are canceled throughout the country and modes of revenue dry up during this pandemic, here is a list of resources for freelance kidlit creators. I'll keep this list going as more resources become available.

Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Emergency Fund
Grants up to $1,500 for members in time of hardship.
For more info.

PEN American Writers' Emergency Fund
Small grants are given to professional writers in acute or unexpected financial crises.
Apply here.

New York Foundation for the Arts
Emergency grant opportunities for artists by discipline.
For more info.

Boston Artist Relief Fund
Grants of $500-1000 for artists living in Boston.
Apply here.

Authors League Fund
No-string loans offered for health-related problems.
Apply here. 

Carnegie Fund for Authors
Grants to published authors in need of emergency financial assistance.
For more info. 

COVID-19 Freelance Artist Resources 
From assistance with rent to emergency grants.
For a complete listing. 

Wishing you all well. 

More STEAM Resources In the Time of COVID-19

Here are more STEAM resources for parents, teachers, and kids during this time of isolation. 

  1. Palm Oil Audit – Is your household making orangutan-friendly choices at the grocery store? Find out with this eye-opening activity.
  2. Happy Rhinos – Build a rhino-safe enclosure and connect kids to endangered species using design thinking and language arts.  
  3. Ocean Clean-Up Design Challenge – Create a device that will clean up our oceans.
  4. Aging Plastic Experiment – Does plastic every go away? Try this experiment to find out. 
  5. A Language of Your Own - Elephants use many different sounds to communicate emotion. Challenge kids to use sounds and movements to convey emotions (fear, greeting, sadness, excitement, warning, surprise, etc.) without using words. Guess what emotion they are trying to convey.
And for more --check out Patricia Newman’s LitLinks blog series that highlights the connection between STEM and language arts using children’s books:

Patricia and I contribute to another great resource  - STEM Tuesday, where you'll find middle-grade STEM monthly book lists and activities for home and classroom. 


Here's a great video from picture book author Randi Miller Sonenshine to pair with THE NEST THAT WREN BUILT:

And a STEAM activity too!



Be well, readers! 

Monday, March 16, 2020

STEAM Resources in the Time of COVID-19

Here is a list of resources for parents, teachers, and kids to use during (and after) this period of isolation. Let's explore the world from the comfort and safety of our own homes!

If you enjoyed reading about the recovery of wolves in BACK FROM THE BRINK: SAVING ANIMALS FROM EXTINCTION check these out:

The Wolf Conservation Center is offering FREE distance learning programs to schools across the US.  Sessions can be taught via SKYPE, Zoom, Google hangout and more!

While you are on the Wolf Conservation site - check out the 8 webcams! Here is one of my favorites. Can you howl like a wolf?

Here is a short reader's guide for BACK FROM THE BRINK.


Here is an engineering design activity from STEAM author Kirsten Williams Larson based on her book, WOOD, WIRE, WINGS.


Take a tour - VIRTUALLY - at these great institutions!

Smithsonian National Museum of History   My favorite spot is the Ocean Hall on the first floor. Check it out.

Here are a couple of great books to read for your journey:

Check out SCIENCE SNACKS at the Exploratorium! There are so many to choose from.
I like -- BEE HUMMER.

Read this new picture book with your activity:


Saturday, March 7, 2020

Women's History Month - Reaching for the Stars

When I wrote Leap Into Space, I included many female scientists and astronauts -- Sally Ride, Maria Mitchell, Nahide Craig, Heidi Jo Newberg, and Annie Jump Cannon.  The truth is that women have been involved in exploring the universe for centuries.  Here are some books to add to your bookshelf that celebrates women who have reached for the stars! 


Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Women's History Month - Temple Grandin

Let's celebrate a woman who has impacted all of our lives -- Temple Grandin.

Mary Temple Grandin is a professor of animal science and consultant to the livestock industry on animal behavior. Dr. Grandin didn't speak until she was three and a half years old. Diagnosed with autism, she faced challenges growing up. Her life and the impact she has made in livestock practices are explored in these kidlit titles.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Women's History Month - Beneath the Waves

Women have been exploring life beneath ocean waves for centuries. These books examine those women and their discoveries. Choose a few to read to your budding oceanographers this spring.


Monday, March 2, 2020

Women's History Month - Ada Lovelace!

It's about time Ada got a little love. After all, Ada Lovelace is a major figure in the history of computers. AND she became part of this history before computers even existed.

I had a blast writing my own ADA LOVELACE book, published by DK Lifestories in 2019. Here are the others. Take a look at them all and compare and contrast how each author tackled the story of this amazing woman.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Women's History Month - Gene Stratton-Porter, Loree Griffen-Burns, and Moths

It's Women's History Month! Hurrah, an entire month to celebrate the accomplishments of women!

I'd like to start with a look at an author who was extremely popular in her day, so much so that she wrote five bestselling books, selling more than other authors of her time. Nine of her novels were made into movies.

Geneva (Gene) Stratton-Porter was also an influential naturalist and conservationist who fought to preserve the Limberlost of Indiana.  After the Swamp Act was passed in 1850 government-owned wetlands that were "worthless" in the eyes of the government were granted to anyone who drained them. These natural areas were given to settlers who logged, farmed and drilled the land. Stratton-Porter wrote and photographed these lands before they were "shorn, branded, and tamed."

You might know her best from her book, Girl of the Limberlost. It's already celebrated its 100th anniversary (2009) and was made into a movie. It's the story of a young girl named Elnora who collects moths in the marsh Stratton-Porter worked to preserve.

Stratton-Porter then worked on the perfect companion book - a photography book that captured the moths she had written about in the place she loved. It became Moths of the Limberlost

Dig around the shelves of your local library this spring for these two wonderful books.

A portion of Stratton-Porter's Loblolly Marsh is preserved today in Indiana. When a 24-hour biodiversity survey was carried out on the site volunteers recorded 545 species: two bees, 55 birds, 29 dragonflies and damselflies, 24 moths and butterflies, one fish, 25 fungi, 15 reptiles and amphibians, two insects, five mammals, 376 plants and 11 sciomyzid flies. Although those numbers seem respectable, the quantities of Stratton-Porter's beloved moths and butterflies were much lower than she had experienced. This species decline has, sadly, been felt all over America.

This leads me to another author and another book celebrating moths. Loree Griffen-Burns has written a book Stratton-Porter would surely have loved. You're Invited to a Moth Ball releases in April! The book is beautifully illustrated with photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz.

This spring pull out a copy of Girl of the Limberlost (or watch the movie) with your young readers, hold your own nighttime celebration with Loree Griffen-Burns' You're Invited to a Moth Ball and spend an evening celebrating these fabulous women and the moths they love! Perhaps it will inspire you to help in their preservation too.


Thursday, January 30, 2020

American Dirt and The Death of Monarch Activist

I found two news items on my feed today that I found equally disturbing. One was the death of missing monarch activist Homero Gómez González, and the other was the book tour cancellation of American Dirt author Jeanine Cummins due to threats against her life and the lives of booksellers carrying her book. 

What is going on here? No, this is not okay. It is incredibly frightening. 

You might not find these on an equal basis, but they are. Silencing people who we don't agree with or are threatened by is censorship in the worst form. 

We are better than this...aren't we? 

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Researching STEM Kidlit - Welcome Guest Blogger Patricia Newman

Two Friends Who Want to Change the World

     When Nancy invited me to participate in this Behind the Story blog series, I immediately said yes, but I confess I didn’t know which book to write about. She had already featured Eavesdropping on Elephants,  Zoo Scientists to the Rescue, and Plastic, Ahoy! so her readers know many of my backstories. But then I realized there is one back story no one knows, and it centers around a special friendship.

     On a sweltering August day in 2009, I first read about a group of graduate students sailing to the North Pacific Central Gyre (aka The Great Pacific Garbage Patch) to study the plastic accumulating there. As I dug deeper, I discovered the expedition also included Annie Crawley as the official photographer and filmmaker. As the first ripples of an idea for Plastic, Ahoy! gathered momentum, I knew I would not only need the scientists’ endorsement, but Annie’s as well. Annie was as pivotal as the scientists because the expedition traveled 1,000 miles from land. Without Annie, there would be no photos for my book idea.

     I remember rather nervously cold-calling Annie to pitch my idea (which hadn’t yet sold). Already an important ocean advocate and member of the Women Divers Hall of Fame, Annie used her cameras to tell the ocean’s story. Her social media feeds (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter) and YouTube channel are filled with astonishing images and short videos.

     In these early days of Plastic, Ahoy!, few people were even aware of our ocean’s plastic problem, let alone discussing it, so Annie was intrigued by my idea. Well, maybe more than intrigued. “I was full-on in from the get-go,” she says, “because by the time you contacted me, I had already been up against nobody wanting to talk trash [literally] I was ecstatic you wanted to pitch a book idea. I knew kids would get it.”

Annie (R) and I met for the first time in the summer of 2014 on the banks of the Puget Sound in Washington.

     As we moved forward, Annie became a valuable partner in telling the story of Plastic, Ahoy! visually. If you’ve read the book, you’ve seen her compelling photos!

     We bonded over the book’s layout, the trailer, blog posts, and sharing our love of the sea. We knew we had to work together again!

     When Annie and I traveled to Washington, D.C. to receive our Green Earth Book Award for Plastic, Ahoy!, we already had our next book in mind: Zoo Scientists to the Rescue. While in D.C., we stopped at the Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park to interview Meredith Bastian, the orangutan scientist featured in Zoo Scientists to the Rescue.

     But that wasn’t all. Next, we traveled to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and the National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center in Colorado and the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. We navigated a Colorado blizzard, were scolded by an angry black-footed ferret, charged by Maku the black rhino, and stayed at Annie’s childhood home in Chicago. We laughed, hoped for good photo weather, shared frustrations, and solved problems as we created the text and photo story together.

 Annie (L) at work on Zoo Scientists to the Rescue in Dr. Rachel Santymire’s (R) lab

     The friendship has blossomed. I’ve met her family; she’s met mine. We’ve presented together at various events, shared news stories about the ocean, and searched for another book idea.

     Which turned out to be right under our noses. Annie’s work as a scuba diver, dive instructor, photographer/filmmaker, and ocean educator/advocate became the foundation for Planet Ocean: Why We All Need a Healthy Ocean (Millbrook Press, October 6, 2020—available for pre-order on Amazon).

My first scuba lesson with Annie (R).

      In the book Annie and I demonstrate how we are all inextricably linked to the sea—the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat. We take a deep dive into three of Annie’s favorite ocean regions—the Arctic, the Salish Sea in the Pacific Northwest, and the waters around Indonesia in the heart of the Coral Triangle—to understand how pollution and climate change affect the sustainability of each region. We also introduce readers to local people fighting to save the ocean. Planet Ocean mixes STEM, current events, and global cultures, with a strong message of empowerment. We want young readers to use their storytelling skills to be the voice of the ocean. (I’m sorry I can’t yet share a cover or a trailer yet—we’re still in production mode! Stay tuned for lots more about Plant Ocean this fall.)
Annie and I interview Meg Chadsey (L) with Washington Sea Grant for PLANET OCEAN

     Meeting and working with Annie Crawley is one of the most satisfying “backstories” of my life. We’re two friends who want to change the world

Annie in her element

   Patricia Newman's books inspire young readers to seek connections to the real world. Titles such as Planet Ocean; Sea Otter Heroes; Plastic, Ahoy!; Eavesdropping on Elephants; and Zoo Scientists to the Rescue encourage readers to use their imaginations to solve real-world problems and act on behalf of their communities. A Robert F. Sibert Honor recipient, Patricia’s books have received starred reviews, Green Earth Book Awards, a Parents’ Choice Award; been honored as Junior Library Guild selections; and been included on Bank Street College’s Best Books lists. Patricia frequently speaks at schools and conferences to share how children of any age can affect change. Visit her at

Nancy Castaldo has been writing about the planet for over 20 years. Learn more about her award-winning books at Purchase and pre-order autographed copies of Nancy's books here. 

Good News and Bad News ---For Wolves

There was good news and bad news recently for our country's gray wolf population, as you see below. While the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Ser...