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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - December Interview with STEAM Team Books' Ruth Spiro and 2021 Books Wrap Up

Today I have the pleasure to highlight an author from the STEAM Team Books – a group of authors who joined together to celebrate and help promote their STEAM books.

"STEAM Team Books is a group of authors who have a STEM/STEAM book releasing in 2021. It includes fiction & nonfiction, trade or educational books.”

Ruth's book makes 80 books published by STEAM Team Books members in 2021. At the end of the post, I have a look back at all the STEAM Team books released throughout the year!

Welcome Ruth, tell us a little about yourself. (Where/when do you write? How long have you been writing? What is your favorite type of book to write? What drew you to STEAM books?...)

I started writing about twenty years ago when my two daughters were very young. It was something I squeezed in when time allowed, so my career didn’t start to pick up until they were older and I had the time and mental energy to really focus. Now, one works full-time and lives in her own apartment and the other is off to graduate school, so as an empty-nester I’m thankful to have my work to keep me busy!

I guess I’m writing the kind of books I wish were available when they were little. We’re a reading family and I’m happy to say that as young adults my daughters still enjoy reading. STEM/STEAM wasn’t really a “thing” back then, though I’m glad it is now.

[Author of 21 books, including - Baby Loves Electrical Engineering on Christmas! (Baby Loves Science)( (2021), Baby Loves Angular Momentum on Hanukkah! (Baby Loves Science)( (2021), Baby Loves Taste! (The Five Senses) (2020), Baby Loves Smell! (The Five Senses) (2020), Baby Loves Touch! (The Five Senses)(2020), Baby Loves Political Science: Democracy! (Baby Loves Science) (2020), Baby Loves the Five Senses: Hearing! (Baby Loves Science)(2019), Baby Loves the Five Senses: Sight! (Baby Loves Science)(2019), Baby Loves Scientists (Baby Loves Science)(2019), Baby Loves Green Energy! (Baby Loves Science)(2018), Baby Loves Structural Engineering! (Baby Loves Science)(2018), Made by Maxine (2018), Baby Loves Coding! (Baby Loves Science)(2018), Baby Loves Gravity! (Baby Loves Science)(2018), Baby Loves Thermodynamics! (Baby Loves Science)(2017), and Baby Loves Quantum Physics! (Baby Loves Science)(2017).]

What is something no one (or few) knows about you?

Many people who know me for my current work don’t know about my first book, Lester Fizz, Bubble Gum Artist. It was the first manuscript I ever wrote, the first I submitted and was acquired by the first editor who read it. (I don’t share this story often because it’s a rare occurrence!) I sold it as a result of a manuscript critique at the 2003 SCBWI Annual Conference. I patiently waited five years for it to come out in 2008, just as the bottom dropped out of the publishing industry. Needless to say, sales were disappointing. It’s since gone out of print but still has a bit of a cult following among educators and librarians.

Now that we know a little more about you, what inspired you to write Baby Loves Lunar Phases on Chinese New Year! (Baby Loves Science)?

The idea was collaborative with my agent Susan Hawk, as well as my editors Alyssa Pusey and Monica Perez. The first two holiday themed books about Christmas and Hanukkah were still in progress but they were turning out great. Response from the sales and marketing teams was enthusiastic and we thought about other holidays that could provide a STEM connection. Lunar phases was a perfect fit!

Since it takes a team to make the book, it's fun that it was a team that imagined it. Who was a favorite/special author, illustrator, and/or favorite book as a child?

I was a big fan of Judy Blume. I regularly checked the shelf at my school library every week, just hoping to find a new book had been added to the collection!

She's influenced the lives of many kids. Is there anything special you want your readers to know about Baby Loves Lunar Phases on Chinese New Year! (Baby Loves Science)?

Text © Ruth Spiro, 2021. Image © Irene Chan, 2021.

Because it’s not a holiday I grew up celebrating, I worked closely with friends who did. I loved hearing their stories about how their families celebrated Chinese New Year, especially their customs, traditions, and cherished memories.

That must have been an interesting challenge. What was the hardest, or most challenging, part of writing, or researching, Baby Loves Lunar Phases on Chinese New Year! (Baby Loves Science)?

As I’ve mentioned before, these books are truly a team effort. I research the topics and write the stories, but at every step we consult science experts. (Dr. Fred Bortz has been invaluable and has a keen eye for detail… even while that eye is undergoing corrective surgery!) When appropriate, authenticity readers ensure both text and illustrations are just right. So, while each book is only ten spreads long it goes through multiple reviews and revisions. Sometimes questions come up as Irene Chan works on the illustrations, which means I may need to do additional research or revise some text. I never consider the book finished until I’m holding a printed copy in my hands!

It's amazing how much work goes into these 10 spreads! Are there any upcoming projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?

The fourth book in the Baby Loves holiday grouping is Baby Loves Photosynthesis on St. Patrick’s Day, which comes out in January. Baby Loves fans will be happy to know I’m currently working on books #22 and #23 in the series. The topics are fun but still under wraps!

That one sounds fun! We'll have to stay tuned and see what you've got up your sleeves. If you could meet anyone (real or literary), who would that be?

A few years ago I did get to meet someone from my “Literary Bucket List” – Jane Yolen. Because I’ve always been a fan of her work, it still feels surreal to recall that I spent a long weekend at her home while attending her inaugural Picture Book Boot Camp. It was three days of pure magic, as she shared insights about the writing and publication process and gave me personal feedback on some of my work. One of the highlights of my weekend was a late-night excursion into the woods in search of owls with Jane’s daughter Heidi Stemple. Heidi is also an author, as well as the small child in the red coat pictured in Owl Moon!

That would definitely have been a magical time. Last question, what is your favorite animal? Or one you are enamored with right now. Why?

I have always been fascinated by flamingos. I have fond memories of childhood vacations in Florida, and flamingos remind me of sunshine and warm weather.

NOW, let me take a moment to introduce you to this amazing STEAM book!

Synopsis: While celebrating Chinese New Year, Baby discovers the science behind lunar phases! Accurate enough to satisfy an expert, yet simple enough for baby, this clever board book explores the lunar calendar, the moon's orbit, and the reason the moon seems to change shape. Beautiful, visually stimulating illustrations complement age-appropriate language to encourage baby's sense of wonder. Parents and caregivers may learn a thing or two as well.

The newest member of the Baby Loves series of board books. As with the others, I love the bright, boldly colored illustrations. Irene Chan's subtle inclusion of the Chinese zodiac characters as small-hand friendly toys is a nice touch, tying beautifully into full sized images when the text notes that "'Each new year honors an animal," as well as the celebratory parade and lanterns. It's a great early introduction to Chinese New Year and a fun explanation of why the moon appears to change. The ending mirrors the two previous ones - friends don't have to share a belief to share time and part of someone's celebration.

Thank you Ruth for giving us a little peek into yourself and your gorgeous new book.

To learn more about Ruth Spiro, or to contact her:

Now, as I promised, here is a look at all the other amazing STEAM Team books from 2021. Have you read them all? Here's a great list for your winter reading or gifts.

Be sure to come back for more wonderful STEAM Team Books in 2022!

Happy Holidays.


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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