Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Welcome STEM Author Laurie Wallmark

Science rocks! And so do these new STEAM books from Laurie Wallmark highlighting extraordinary women in STEM – one looking to the sky and the other facing opponents across a chess board. Laurie is also the author several other biographies, so she isn’t new to introducing readers to fascinating women who have made an impact in our world.
Welcome, Laurie! Tell us about the inspiration for these latest biographies, HER EYES ON THE STARS and THE QUEEN OF CHESS. I keep an ever-growing list of possible women in STEM to write about. At the time I chose Maria Mitchell, there was only one picture book out about her. This was an older title which fictionalized some of her life story. I thought kids deserved to learn the facts. So, I dug in, did the research, and wrote my book. But before HER EYES ON THE STARS came out, two more picture books about her were published! As far as I’m concerned, though, there’s always room for more good books about an important woman in STEM like Maria Mitchell. The inspiration for THE QUEEN OF CHESS was completely different. In this case, an editor who knew about my other women in STEM biographies, asked me to write about Judit Polgár. The editor (and I) felt that it was important to showcase the achievements of a woman chess player. Since chess is so mathematical, I felt writing her story would be right up my alley.
These two biographies feature two very different women. Are there similarities that connect them? There is one big similarity between both women—passion. From a young age, both pursued their fields with intense focus. Night after night, Maria Mitchell looked through a telescope on her rooftop observatory and studied the heavens. Judit Polgár spent hours each day practicing her chess moves and studying the patterns the pieces made.
Judit certainly faced a number of challenges as she became the youngest grandmaster in the chess world. Did you face any challenges writing these biographies? Writing about Maria Mitchell wasn’t too challenging. There were plenty of reference materials and, for the most part, they agreed with each other. Judit Polgár was a different story, thought. Writing about her presented two challenges. First, there weren’t a lot of references I could use. Yes, her games were well documented. But a biography consisting only of game descriptions wouldn’t be that interesting. Second, she was such an amazing chess player that she rarely lost a game. It’s hard to add tension to a story when the person always wins.
Both books are such inspirational STEM titles, Laurie. Please tell teachers how they can use them in the classroom. Teachers can download a free curriculum guide for HER EYES ON THE STARS from my website THE QUEEN OF CHESS includes back matter that discusses the mathematics of chess.
These STEM ladies led extraordinary lives. You have a knack for digging these stories out of the past, these women out of obscurity. Who will you feature next, Laurie Wallmark? Can you give us a hint? I have another women in STEM title coming out next February—HER JOURNEY TO THE STARS: KALPANA CHAWLA, ASTRONAUT. Kalpana Chawla set her sights on flight at an early age. But achieving her dream of being among the stars took dedication, perseverance, and patience. Forging her own path, she became the first Indian American female astronaut, an inspiration for all girls to follow their dreams.
Check out Laurie's website for more about her and her books.

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Great Reads for National Dog Day

I hope this selection of nonfiction and fiction dog-centered kid lit gets you through these warm dog days of summer! 

Monday, August 21, 2023

World Water Week

Our vital resource is in serious trouble. There is often too much water or too little. Or it is unsafe for our use. I wrote WHEN THE WORLD RUNS DRY to inform and empower my readers to understand and act.
Here are more to add to your Water Week reading shelf.
In addition, check out this latest book from Margarita Engle, in both English and Spanish.

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Interview with Darcy Pattison

Science rocks! And so does this latest STEAM book from Darcy Pattison highlighting how one woman invented aquariums to observe marine life. Darcy is also the author of several other STEM picture books that belong in every classroom library. AQUARIUMS is illustrated by Peter Willis.
Welcome, Darcy! Tell us about the inspiration for this latest picture book, AQUARIUM: HOW JEANNETTE POWER INVENTED AQUARIUMS TO OBSERVE MARINE LIFE.
I write the eight-book Moments in Science series which is about a moment when science changed in some way. The series is always tied to the NSTA/NextGen science standards, and I try to find a fun story about an interesting scientist. In this case, when Jeannette Power invented the aquarium, it transformed marine biology. Before the aquarium, scientists could only study dead specimen. After the aquarium, they could observe live creatures across their whole life cycle. One simple invention—the aquarium—changed the world.
Jeannette Power discovered her love of the sea while in Sicily. As a Sicilian-American who loves the ocean, I can relate. How did you relate to the story of this extraordinary woman? I loved Jeannette’s personal story. She was French but moved to Sicily to get married. Her husband was involved in communications, putting underwater cables across the Mediterranean Sea. They lived in Sicily for about 25 years and Jeannette threw herself into the community. With a priest at her side as chaperone, she traveled across the island and wrote a guidebook about Sicily, its geography and biological life. She studied caterpillars, octopuses (Argonauta Argo, as discussed in the book), and kept chinchillas as pets. In her house, she grew a tree where the chinchillas climbed and played, and they often slept with her. Think about her household full of animals: butterfly caterpillars, aquariums full of octopuses, and chinchillas running around. While I don’t want a house full of such animals, I admire her passion for life. At a time when women were not accepted as scientists, she followed her interests and changed the world of marine science.
Did you face any challenges writing this biography for young readers? The biggest challenge was languages. Jeannette wrote in her native French or in Sicilian. With internet archives, it was relatively easy to find her published journal articles, but then I had to use Google Translate to read them in English. At every step, I had to rely on translations by using technology.
Aquariums can make for wonderful classroom field trips. Please tell teachers how they can use this book in the classroom. Whether a classroom aquarium or a visit to a large aquarium museum, this book is a great introduction to marine studies because Jeannette passionately believed in observation. Jeannette’s most famous study was of the weirdest octopus in the world. The Argonauta Argo is a small octopus (10-12” for the female, “0.5-1” for males) that lives in the middle to upper part of the ocean, as opposed to the ocean floor where most octopuses live. Using her aquariums, she observed over 1000 individual Argonauta Argo octopuses as she studied the question of how they create their shells. Yes! An octopus that has a shell! She said, “I did not study this marine animal…using the imagination, but by experimental observations.” Jeannette discovered that the octopus had two arms with special anatomy that allows them to build their own shell. This discovery was only possible because of 1) dedication to observation, and 2) the aquarium, an artificial habitat for marine life. In the classroom or on a field trip, spending time writing observations is time well spent. Build into students the habits of observation.
This is one of two great STEM picture book titles from you releasing this year. What is next for you, Darcy Pattison? Can you give us a hint? Coming next year is Book 9 of the Moments in Science series, MAGNETS: How William Gilbert Discovered that the Earth is a Great Magnet. This is a look at the early study of magnetism and how Gilbert found that Earth has a magnetic field.
Also coming in 2024 is Book 6 in the Another Extraordinary Animal series. It already features a mammal, reptile, amphibian, spider (arachnid) and a bird. PELORUS JACK, THE NEW ZEALAND PORPOISE will add the story of a marine animal who was so amazing that the New Zealand government passed a law to protect him. It stands as a groundbreaking legislation in our pursuit of conservation of species.
DARCY PATTISON Children’s book author and indie publisher DARCY PATTISON writes award-winning fiction and non-fiction books for children. Five books have received starred PW, Kirkus, or BCCB reviews. Awards include the Irma Black Honor award, five NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Books, three Eureka! Nonfiction Honor book (CA Reading Assn.), two Junior Library Guild selections, two NCTE Notable Children’s Book in Language Arts, a Notable Social Studies Trade Book, an Arkansiana Award, and the Susannah DeBlack Arkansas Children’s History Book award. She’s the 2007 recipient of the Arkansas Governor’s Arts Award for Individual Artist for her work in children’s literature. Her books have been translated into ten languages. FOR MORE: See

Monday, August 7, 2023

Welcome, Carrie Pearson!

Science rocks! And so does this new book from Carrie Pearson highlighting Dr. Virginia Apgar and her lifesaving test for newborn babies. Carrie is also the author of REAL PRINCESSES CHANGE THE WORLD, so she isn’t new to writing wonderful biographies.
Welcome, Carrie! Tell us about the inspiration for this latest biography, VIRGINIA WOULDN’T SLOW DOWN. Thanks, fellow STEM author! I first learned about the APGAR Score eons ago in college in my field of study (early childhood education with minors in social and natural science). For a time, I was interested in pursuing neonatal psychology and APGAR Scores were referenced. When each of our three daughters were born, the APGAR Score took on a whole new relevance but I wasn’t a book writer yet. Then, in 2015, I read that the APGAR Score used worldwide to assess newborn health was invented by a woman – Dr. Virginia Apgar -- and that she was born in 1909, a time when most women did not pursue a medical career -- AND that she was a powerhouse of energy, intellect, and moxie. My interest was piqued!
Dr. Virginia Apgar faced many challenges along the way to this discovery but yet she persevered. What was her most daunting? I imagine she would say that one of her darkest times was having to alter her occupational path dramatically. When she had almost completed her surgical residency (a huge accomplishment, especially in a milieu dominated by sexism), her mentor told her that she’d likely not make it as a female surgeon during the Great Depression. She should shift to being an anesthesiologist, which was a completely new and unknown field. But the decision proved to be the right course for her, for many reasons.
Did you face any challenges writing her biography? The largest challenge was distilling Virginia’s big life story and essence into a limited word count. One of my crit buddies kept reminding me through drafts, “You don’t need this for your thesis. Trim.” And my agent, Kelly Sonnack, brought her big picture thinking to the project. After many attempts, we arrived at a story that, with Nancy Carpenter’s amazing illustrations, brings Dr. Apgar to life on the page.
This is such a great STEM title, Carrie. Please tell teachers how they can use this book in the classroom. Thank you. This book will model and encourage a problem-solution mindset which is crucial for all STEM thinking and doing. On the SEL side, Dr. Apgar gave a voice to the voiceless -- a worthy ambition for all of us, even from a young age.
Virginia Apgar never slowed down and neither do you. What’s next for you, Carrie Pearson? Slightly off tangent from my recent bios, I’m working on an unannounced middle grade nonfiction book about animal gestation. The book will offer little known information about how highly adaptive body parts are formed and give us yet another reason to be in awe of – and hopefully want to protect – our animal neighbors. I also have other nonfiction projects in the pipeline. Stay tuned! To learn more about Carrie's books check out her website.

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...