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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - February 2024 Interview with STEAM Team Books Members

Whether you're here to support the STEAM Team authors, curiosity, or because you love nonfiction books, I hope you read to the end because you'll discover some amazing authors and super spectacular books! We have three books which released in February and two books from January which "snuck" in.

Steam Team Books Logo - Name ans a decending rainbow of books on a white grid globe and a black background.

Today I have the pleasure to introduce you to five authors from the STEAM Team Books – a group of authors who joined together to celebrate and help promote their STEAM books. I hope you enjoy this peek at these delightful books and fascinating creatives.

"STEAM Team Books is a group of authors who have a STEM/STEAM book releasing in 2023. It includes fiction & nonfiction, trade or educational books.” You can find out more about their books on the website:

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?...)

Laura Chamberlain Gehl - Who Laid These Eggs? (Abrams 1/9/2024) - I write board books, picture books, lift-the-flap books, early readers, and middle-grade nonfiction. I like writing all of them, and I really enjoy bouncing from fiction to nonfiction, and from board books to picture books.


I’ve always loved both writing and science. In third grade, I thought I was going to be a chemist, and I tried to memorize the periodic table…but I also worked on my first picture book. Flash forward almost twenty years, and I wrote my first published picture book, One Big Pair of Underwear, while working in a neurobiology lab. Many of my books have STEAM themes—not just my nonfiction books, but my fiction books as well.


[Author of over forty books for young readers. 15 Board Books, including Odd Beasts (11/2021), Brilliant Baby Fights Germs (9/2021), Brilliant Baby Explores Science (9/ 2021), Soccer Baby (2021), Brilliant Baby Plays Music (2021), Brilliant Baby Does Math (2021), Baby Paleontologist (2020), Baby Botanist (2020), Baby Oceanographer (2019), & Baby Astronaut (2019). And 22 Picture Books, including Bat Wings! Cat Wings? (2021), Who Is a Scientist? (10/2021), The Ninja Club Sleepover (2020), May Saves the Day (2020), Happy Llamakkah (2020), Juniper Kai: Super Spy (2019), Always Looking Up: Nancy Grace Roman, Astronomer (She Made History) (2019) and 6 Early Readers Goat Wants to Eat (2021), Cat Has a Plan (2020), Dog Can Hide, Frog Can Hop (2023), Cat Sees Snow (2023), Pig Makes Art; and 2 lift-the-flap books Who Dug This Hole? (2023) and Who Laid These Eggs? (2024) and one middle-grade nonfiction Climate Warriors.]

Megan Hoyt – A Grand Idea: How William J. Wilgus Created Grand Central Terminal (Harper Collins 1/23/2023) – I like to write first thing in the morning, with a cup of chai tea, in my little office—it’s probably meant to be a walk-in closet since it’s off the main bedroom of the house, but the previous owners put in floor to ceiling bookshelves. It was meant for me! I’ve been writing for around 15 years, but my early work was, let’s just say, not good. I needed to study the craft of writing in those first five years, which I did by attending SCBWI conferences and joining a critique group.


I love finding overlooked people throughout history who deserve to be remembered and then telling their stories in a narrative, lyrical style to hopefully draw readers into their lives—usually stories of courage or, in this case, the man who heroically found a better, safer way to transport people and freight through big cities! I am by no means an engineer or mathematician, but I am fascinated by those gifted people who viewed things from such a fresh perspective that they were able to invent or create new ways to benefit society, whether it be a train system or a large ornate building to house it. Architecture is important to me, too. It’s like art, but on a building in 3D instead of on canvas.


[Author of 8 books, including Kati's Tiny Messengers: Dr. Katalin Karikó and the Battle Against COVID-19, illustrated by Vivien Mildenberger (2023), The Greatest Song of All: How Isaac Stern United the World to Save Carnegie Hall, illustrated by Katie Hickey (2022), and Bartali's Bicycle: The True Story of Gino Bartali, Italy's Secret Hero, illustrated by Iacopo Bruno (2021).]

Christine Van Zandt – Milkweed for Monarchs (Beaming Books 2/6/2024) – Hello, fabulous reader! I’ve been writing as far back as I can remember, beginning with diaries and journals, always keeping a notebook nearby. My writing schedule is erratic but being in critique groups keeps me accountable and moving forward, revising, or writing new manuscripts.


It’s great that kids today have access to interesting nonfiction books. I enjoy making learning more entertaining, engaging, and fun.


My journey with STEAM books began in 2018 when my (then) third grader suggested I write about underpants. Yes! —education with humor! Once I started digging up underwear facts, I got hooked reading about things like frozen 5,300-year-old underwear, the interesting materials that have covered our buns, and how inventions propelled underwear and clothing production forward. While I also write fiction, I’m especially excited about how nonfiction books for kids continue to evolve their inclusivity. There truly is a nonfiction book for every reader!


[Author of A Brief History of Underpants, illustrated by Harry Briggs (2021).]

Melissa Stewart – Shape Search (Reycraft 2/6/2024) – Many writers know what they want to do from a very young age, but I never considered writing as a career option until a college professor suggested it. Up until then, I didn’t even know writing was a job. No one I knew was a writer, and my school didn’t host author visits. I’ll always be very grateful to that professor for seeing a talent in me and letting me know.​​


I do most of my writing in a spare bedroom in my house. My husband leaves for work at 5:45 a.m., so that’s when I start to write. When I get stuck, I stop to take a shower. Something about the steam and running water frees my mind, and I usually solve the problem. After lunch, I switch my focus to researching, planning school visits, and taking care of business tasks. I stop working at 4:30 p.m., so I can start making dinner.


Rachel Carson once said, “Science gives me something to write about,” and I couldn’t agree more. I enjoy writing at a variety of different levels, from board books to books for adults, but grade 3 is really my sweet spot.


[Author of more than 200 science-themed nonfiction books, including Thank You, Moon: Celebrating Nature's Nightlight, illustrated by Jessica (2023), Lanan Whale Fall: Exploring an Ocean-floor Ecosystem, illustrated by Rob Dunlavey (2023), Tree Hole Homes, illustrated by Amy Hevron (2022), Sibert Medal Honoree Summertime Sleepers: Animals that Estivate, illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen (2021). She also co-wrote 5 Kinds of Nonfiction: Enriching Reading and Writing Instruction with Children’s Books and edited the anthology Nonfiction Writers Dig Deep: 50 Award-winning Authors Share the Secret of Engaging Writing.]

Laurie Wallmark – Journey to the Stars: Kalpana Chawla, Astronaut (Beaming Books 2/13/2024) – I usually write on my computer or scribble on Post-it notes when I’m lying in bed and can’t get to sleep. I started writing about 20 years ago (I’m a late bloomer). Picture books are by far my favorite category of books to write, although I’m presently working on a biography in verse for older children. I write books about scientists and mathematicians because I love science and math. Maybe my books will excite children about these fields. And if they learn a little bit about STEAM, all the better.


[Author of 10 books including The Queen of Chess: How Judit Polgar Changed the Game, illustrated by Stevie Lewis (2023), Code Breaker, Spy Hunter: How Elizebeth Friedman Changed the Course of Two World Wars, illustrated by Brooke Smart (2021), Numbers in Motion: Sophie Kowalevski, Queen of Mathematics, illustrated by Yevgenia Nayberg (2020), Hedy Lamarr's Double Life: Hollywood Legend and Brilliant Inventor, illustrated by Katy Wu (2019), Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code, illustrated by Katy Wu  (2017), and Ada Byron Lovelace & the Thinking Machine, illustrated by (2015).]


What helps you to be inspired? (perhaps a certain place, music, activity, etc.)


Laura Chamberlain Gehl - Nature and my kids are my biggest sources of inspiration by far. 


Megan Hoyt - I am most inspired while sitting in a music hall waiting for a concert, ballet, or opera to begin. The orchestra warm up softens, and there’s this hush that falls over the audience, followed by the conductor’s upraised baton. All sorts of ideas fly through my head while everyone around me is talking in low tones about the cost of parking or how the person in front of them is so tall they can hardly see the stage. I used that feeling as inspiration for my other STEAM book, THE GREATEST SONG OF ALL, which is the story of how Carnegie Hall was saved from demolition—another architectural beauty!

I am also inspired watching videos on Youtube that show the actual time period, like early twentieth century NYC when motion pictures were new and kids stepped in front of the camera waving excitedly, wearing knicker length pants and caps. It’s real life captured on film! That really takes me to another place and time and inspires me.


Christine Van Zandt – I haven’t yet run out of interesting subjects that inspire me to write—the world is a fascinating place. It may just be a hint of an idea that I follow and begin gathering facts about. From there, I try fitting those pieces together, using different structures until I find one that feels right.


Melissa Stewart – The natural world. When I’m stuck on a manuscript, spending time in nature is the best way to rejuvenate my mind and my spirit. And so many of my book ideas have come from experiences I’ve had or questions I’ve asked while exploring fields and forests near my home as well as new-to-me habitats around the world.


I’m lucky to have taken many amazing trips throughout my career, to places like East Africa, the Galapagos Islands, Hawaii, the American Southwest, Botanical Beach on Vancouver Island, and more. I record my experiences in nature journals, and then I can refer back to these notes later as I write books. Recollecting my raw experiences in the field brings a richness, a vibrancy to my text, which makes it more engaging.


Laurie Wallmark – I give an author presentation about story origins to kids. In it, I discuss the many ways to receive inspiration for writing. These include current events, keeping your eyes open, keeping your ears open, travels, historical people and times, and mash-ups. Inspiration is all around us. You just have to be open to receiving it.


Now that we know a little more about all of you, what sparked your interest and caused you to write this book?

Laura Chamberlain Gehl - Who Laid These Eggs? (1/9/2023) – My new book with Loris Lora is a companion book to our first lift-the-flap book, Who Dug This Hole? When I started thinking about which topic to cover next, eggs came to mind immediately. Way back in 2016, I published a book called Peep and Egg: I’m Not Hatching, about a little chick who is scared to hatch. That year, I talked to kids at my school visits about all the different creatures that hatch out of eggs. I also showed them photographs of real eggs, from snake eggs to salmon eggs to alligator eggs to ostrich eggs to stink bug eggs. So, I think the spark for this book was already in my brain back then!

Megan Hoyt - A Grand Idea: How William J. Wilgus Created Grand Central Terminal (1/23/2023) – I initially wrote this book as a companion to GREATEST SONG OF ALL—two books about two stunning NYC historical landmarks that both had incredible back stories. Then, once I started researching, I discovered that there was a terrible train collision. Many died, and many others were injured. It was caused by the thick smoke blocking the train engineer’s view as he went (probably too fast) around a curve in a tunnel. Going down this rabbit trail of research, I discovered that William J Wilgus, an engineer who was sad about this train crash, designed an electric train system and voila! No more smoke! Who was this man I had never heard of who made trains safe for passengers? I had to know!

Christine Van Zandt – Milkweed for Monarchs (2/6/2024) – During the pandemic, we bought our first milkweed plant with this vague idea that we were somehow helping butterflies. We didn’t realize the plant had lots of monarch eggs; soon we had baby caterpillars! From there, I fell down the rabbit hole of research about the severely declining populations of monarch butterflies. I watched the monarch’s life cycle happening in my yard and rooted on every little caterpillar, hoping it made it to a chrysalis, and then on to launch into the world as a butterfly.

Melissa Stewart – Shape Search (2/6/2024) – This book was inspired by a Twitter conversation with authors Linda Sue Park and the late April Pulley Sayre. But in many ways, it traces back to childhood walks in the woods with my father and brother.

My father always encouraged us to look around and think about what we were seeing. I hope this poetic invitation to hunt for shapes in nature will pique the curiosity of young readers and encourage them to see the world in a whole new way. 

Laurie Wallmark – Journey to the Stars: Kalpana Chawla, Astronaut (2/13/2024) – My friend and agent-mate, Raakhee Mirchandani, has always been interested in and inspired by Kalpana Chawla. She even put a poster of Kalpana in her daughter’s room. There was no kids’ book about this amazing woman, and Raakhee thought there should be. Although Raakhee is a children’s author, but she had never written a biography. So, she suggested we collaborate on this book. And I’m so glad she did. It’s been a joy to have her as a co-author. Our work together has made for a much better book than either of us could have written alone.


What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of being a children’s author?


Laura Chamberlain Gehl – I find all the waiting very challenging. It is common to wait months or a year to hear back from an editor. Sometimes, it can even be two or three years from when a manuscript is sent to an editor to when that editor makes an offer to publish the book. And then it’s another two or three years (or four or five!) before the book is actually available to readers!


Megan Hoyt - For me, the most challenging part is pouring your heart into a story, submitting it, and having it not sell. You have then used up a lot of time and energy only to never see that person’s marvelous story in the hands of children. I do not fault editors for this at all, though. Publishing is a business, and they know what kids will love far better than I do. I just wish I could get a couple of my stories out that meant a lot to me but that may not exactly be top sellers.


Christine Van Zandt – I find the slow speed of publication challenging because I keep writing but hardly anything goes out on submissions. I’m creating a backlog, and that can be a damper on my desire to create.


Melissa Stewart – Rejections. It never gets easier, but you just have to keep trying.


Laurie Wallmark – For me, the most challenging part of writing for children is to remember to think like a child. Children are not just short adults. They have their own interests and ways of looking at the world.


Is there anything special you want your readers to know about your book?

Text © Laura Chamberlain Gehl, 2024. Image © Loris Lora, 2024.

Laura Chamberlain Gehl - Who Laid These Eggs? (1/9/2023) – This is a lift-the-flap book, which I think is a super fun format. Readers can guess who laid each type of egg, then lift the flap to find out if their guess is correct. And beneath each flap is an interesting, age-appropriate fact to give the reader a little more information about each type of egg.

Text © Megan Hoyt, 2024. Image © David Szalay, 2024.

Megan Hoyt - A Grand Idea: How William J. Wilgus Created Grand Central Terminal (1/23/2023) – I hope this book makes them want to go to New York City and see Grand Central Terminal for themselves! It’s this enormous—cavernous—building with such an incredible history. Did you know there was a high wire act there at one point, way up high in the giant lobby of Grand Central? And presidents and celebrities can still come and go without anyone even knowing they are there, because they can get off the underground train and go directly to the hotel next door, while passengers above them have no idea anyone famous has arrived!

Text © Christine Van Zandt, 2024. Image © Alejandra Barajas, 2024.

Christine Van Zandt – Milkweed for Monarchs (2/6/2024) – I care about the interconnectivity of life on our planet and hope that a takeaway for readers is that what we do (or don’t do) impacts our world. I’m happy to find plants with chewed up leaves in my garden because I know that means bugs are munching away. It’s getting harder for insects to survive; people want perfect plants and spray to keep the bugs away. The food web is affected whenever another species becomes extinct.

Text © Melissa Stewart, 2024.

Melissa Stewart – Shape Search (2/6/2024) – I’ve created a Read Aloud Guide to go with it. I hope it will inspire families to go outdoors and look closely at the world around them.

Text © Laurie Wallmark & Raakhee Mirchandani, 2024. Image © Maitreyi Ghosh, 2024.

Laurie Wallmark – Journey to the Stars: Kalpana Chawla, Astronaut (2/13/2024) – Kalpana’s story shows kids that having dedication, perseverance, and patience will help them to follow their dreams.


What was the hardest, or most challenging, part of writing or researching your book? Was there a bit of your research you didn’t get to include?


Laura Chamberlain Gehl - Who Laid These Eggs? (1/9/2023) – The hardest part of writing this book was choosing which types of eggs to include. There are so many interesting eggs, and I couldn’t include them all! I wish I could have included octopus eggs, for example.


Megan Hoyt – A Grand Idea: How William J. Wilgus Created Grand Central Terminal (1/23/2023) –There was so much wonderful information that it would have been impossible to include it all in one book. Fortunately, my amazing editor at Quill Tree Books, Karen Chaplin, had the wise idea to expand it to 48 pages! The back matter is expansive, too, which I am so happy about. But I would have liked to include more about William J Wilgus himself, about his childhood and early life as an engineer. That wasn’t the focus of the book, so it would not have worked, but as an example, he also invented a system of immersed tube underwater tunneling that is still used today. If you ever drive through the Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel in Virginia, remember William J Wilgus made that possible!

Christine Van Zandt – Milkweed for Monarchs (2/6/2024) – Early feedback on this topic was that there were a lot of butterfly books; to land a sale, my book had to be different. Beyond researching and reading every book I could find about monarchs, I also wrote this manuscript many different ways: fiction and nonfiction; prose and verse. The version that resonated the most (and ended up winning a first-place SCBWI award) was a short, lyrical poem with sidebar facts.


There are so many fantastic facts about monarchs that I didn’t have space to include. My book gives a glimpse into what happens when the butterflies come back from overwintering and the life cycle begins again. I continue to read up on the latest news, volunteer, and attend webinars to see what’s going on. The western monarch was near extinct. I included a few lines about this but that’s a huge topic to cover, and one that keeps changing as new data comes in.


Melissa Stewart – Shape Search (2/6/2024) – I often spend 5 or more years writing a manuscript, but this one came more quickly. I got the idea in February 2021 and had a solid first draft by mid-April. This is partially because I was writing from experience rather than research. And partially because I knew the structure immediately. The biggest hurdle was finding the right ending.


I took it to my critique group in May, and they helped me see a few things that needed work. I didn’t have an immediate solution, so I set the manuscript aside.


A year later, I felt ready to take a hatchet to the trouble spots and rebuild them. About a month later, I sent the sixth draft to Reycraft as an exclusive submission. I loved the photo selection and design of Footprints Across the Planet by Jennifer Swanson and Whooo Knew?, Woof!, and Scurry! by Annette Whipple, so I thought Reycraft would be the perfect home for Shape Search. They accepted it about 6 weeks later.


Laurie Wallmark – Journey to the Stars: Kalpana Chawla, Astronaut (2/13/2024) – There are very few books written about Kalpana, so researching her was a challenge. Also, many of the articles written about her were not in English. After doing the research, it was then difficult to decide what to include, especially about the tragic accident that took her life.


Are there any upcoming projects that you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?

Laura Chamberlain Gehl – I am so excited for two upcoming board books that celebrate the love between a parent (or grandparent/aunt/uncle/other loving adult) and a child. The first is called You’re the Sprinkles on my Ice Cream, and the second is called You’re the Pumpkin in my Pie. As you can probably guess, the first has a summer theme, and the second has a fall theme. If the series does well, there might be a winter book next. The illustrations are by Vanessa Port, and they might actually be the cutest illustrations ever. The cover of You’re the Sprinkles on my Ice Cream has adult and child ice cream cones that are 100% guaranteed to make you smile.


Megan Hoyt - I have two more books coming out that I can’t talk about just yet, but I also have been watching videos and researching the Mars rovers. I find it so fascinating that we can watch these machines roam another planet! I want to share that joy with young readers.


Christine Van Zandt – The timing isn’t right for me to officially announce anything. The best I can say is that more of my lyrical or funny picture books are underway!


Melissa Stewart – Right now, I’m working on a manuscript that draws heavily on journal entries recording observations close to my home in Massachusetts. I think we’re even going to include sample pages from my journals in the backmatter.


Laurie Wallmark – For my next two books, I’m taking off my nonfiction hat and switching back to fiction. All I can say at this point is that they are picture books written in rhyme for littles.


Cute books Laura! And I can't wait to see what other treasures you're all creating under wraps! How do you deal with, or celebrate, rejections?


Laura Chamberlain Gehl – I do two things when I get a rejection: consume chocolate in some form (could be hot chocolate, a brownie, a hot fudge sundae…) and work on a new project.


Megan Hoyt - I view rejection as a very subjective choice on the part of a specific editor. It’s not the book for them, and that’s okay! It may be the perfect fit for someone else and go on to spark new ideas in the minds of children. It just feels like part of the business to me now, although earlier in my career I took it more personally.


Christine Van Zandt – Rejections are part of the process. When they happen, I accept them and don’t let them slow me down. An aspect of writing is tenacity: we need to keep trying. Rejections aren’t personal.


Melissa Stewart – It depends on the rejection. Sometimes editors say something like “your manuscript isn’t a good fit for our list.” There isn’t much you can do with that.


But other times, editors will offer a bit of advice or constructive criticism. These brief notes can shed light on why they rejected it and help you move forward. Can you address their concerns? Is the manuscript salvageable? This kind of thinking can spur a round of revisions that significantly improves the manuscript.


Laurie Wallmark – Rejections are tough, but after all these years, I’ve learned to accept that they are part of this business. I wouldn’t say I celebrate them. Instead, I use them as an incentive to keep on writing. If one book doesn’t sell, maybe the next one will.


Last question, is there a plant or flower you love growing, or wish you could grow, in your yard or garden?


Laura Chamberlain Gehl – I would love to have an avocado tree in my backyard! I don’t live in the right climate, unfortunately. But when I studied in Ecuador in college, my host family had an avocado tree. It was so magical to be able to pick a perfect avocado to eat with dinner every night.


Megan Hoyt - Ooooh! I am a big fan of gardenias. When I was little, we had gardenia bushes on either side of our front porch, and every time we walked out the door, this luscious, sweet fragrance wafted up at us.


Christine Van Zandt – Milkweed, of course, to help the monarchs. (It’s the only plant their caterpillars can eat.) My garden’s a caterpillar-growing and butterfly-feeding zone. I have several species of milkweed for the monarchs and many native flowering plants to support butterflies and other pollinators. In general, I love all kinds of plants and creatures.


Melissa Stewart – We have some stargazer lilies that my mom planted in our front yard when we moved into our house 19 years ago. Seeing them bloom each year reminds me of her. It’s comforting to know that a little piece of her lives on in those beautiful blooms.


Laurie Wallmark – I’m not at all a gardening person, but I’ve always loved sunflowers. They make me smile. Sunflowers are so cheerful.


NOW, let me take a moment to introduce you to these amazing STEAM books!

Who Laid These Eggs? by Laura Chanberlain Gehl, illustrated by Loris Lora (Abrams 1/9/2023) - Using a "lift the flap" guessing format, this book examines eight eggs found in a tree, a swamp, the dirt, underwater, on a leaf, in the sand, under a log, and finally in a coop. An enthusiastic answer names the parent and offers additional information on the egg or the nesting materials. The simple text, combined with bight, collage-like illustrations, creates a wonderful NF #STEM board book for young kids.

Synopsis: From science teacher Laura Gehl and award-winning illustrator Loris Lora, Who Laid These Eggs? invites children to lift the flaps on every page of this board book to learn about eight animal species and their nests!

In this innovative nonfiction board book, young readers will see eggs in different environments on each spread. They can lift the flaps to discover all of the different animal nests and eggs—and learn a simple fact about each species. Featured creatures include robins, alligators, ostriches, salmon, butterflies, seagulls, snakes, and chickens, plus the kids who gather the eggs from the coop!

A Grand Idea: How William J. Wilgus Created Grand Central Terminal by Megan Hoyt, illustrated by David Szalay (Harper Collins 1/23/2023) – This gorgeous biography of William J. Wilgus corrects a historic slight and shines a light on the man (and his benefactor) responsible for creating the spectacularly stunning New York City's Grand Central Station. This enticing nonfiction book follows Wilgus' initial inspiration, the awe-inspiring engineering and carpentry feats involved in the construction, Grand Cental's fascinating features and facets, and its eventual declaration as an historic landmark, The author's note and timeline offer lots of additional information on the ingenuity of William J. Wilgus and the grandeur of Grand Central Station.

Synopsis: Written by award-winning author Megan Hoyt, this thoughtful STEM picture book biography about the brilliant architect of Grand Central Terminal is a celebration of resilience in the face of adversity, creative problem solving, and, of course, trains!

There was once a place in New York City that had a tennis club, movie theater, and art gallery—all in the same building! It also had a secret passageway, a huge library, and even a ski slope.

This astounding building is Grand Central Terminal, and it was the work of one brilliant man: William J. Wilgus. When William, an experienced engineer, wanted to create a new electric-powered train system, he knew he needed to house this special fleet somewhere exceptional. His grand idea of a solution? An underground multilevel train station that would become an iconic New York landmark, and one that is still an integral part of the city over a century later.

Milkweed for Monarchs by Christine Van Zandt, illustrated by Alejandra Barajas (Beaming Books 2/6/2024) – This lovely, rhyming, nonfiction focuses on the desperate need of migrating monarchs to find milkweed. Using a fun, different rhyming scheme - "Perching, searching, / scanning the ground, / a hunt never ending . . . /. . . ’til milkweed is found." (AABCB), the main text lyrically follows the butterfly's migration and reproduction. Accompanying the main text are vibrant, colorful illustrations and succinct sidebars which offer lots of additional information on the monarchs and their life cycle stages. An author's note, plus facts and suggestions offer fun learning opportunities and ideas for helping out Monarch butterflies. It's a fun #STEM picture book for a range of ages.

Synopsis: Every year, monarch butterflies migrate to warmer climates for overwintering months. However, changing environments make it continually more difficult to find food and places to lay eggs. In this nonfiction picture book, the monarch's life cycle is detailed in lyrical verse as stunning art accompanies each stage in the butterfly's life.

The most recognizable butterfly, monarchs are classified as a vulnerable species by the IUCN, and face drastic challenges when it comes to locating food sources—milkweed. Milkweed for Monarchs is the perfect resource for young readers to learn more about these beautiful insects and how they can foster monarch-friendly environments in their own backyard. Backmatter includes actionable ways for readers to help this vulnerable species.

Shape Search by Melissa Stewart (Reycraft 2/6/2024) – Awesome photographs (either zoomed in close or in colorful collages), accompany and highlight the premise that "Shapes in nature -/ they're EVERYWHERE!" Using succinct, rhyming text, this book examines the numerous shapes of items like animals, plants, geologic features, foods, and many more. It's an excellent introduction to shapes for both young kids and those young at heart. With an additional section on how to be a shape spotter (or ways to use the book) and a find the shape collage (with an answer key), this NF book is sure to have kids spotting shapes everywhere.

Synopsis: Nature is full of shapes. You can find a circle in a spider web, a rectangle in a bug's body, and a star in a blooming flower. Look around. What shapes can you find?

Journey to the Stars: Kalpana Chawla, Astronaut by Laurie Wallmark and Raakhee Mirchandani, illustrated by Maitreyi Ghosh (Beaming Books 2/13/2024) – A wonderful biography of an Indian American aeronautic engineer and her life-long goal of flying to the stars. Holding fast to her dream, Kalpana studied, learned to fly, and refused to give up, weathering naysayers and disappointments to participate in a NASA shuttle mission. An author's note by co-author Raakhee Mirchandani, further explores the determination, perserverance, and influence of Kalpana Chawla. Not addressed in the text, Kalpana's untimely death during her second mission aboard the Challenger shuttle explosion is briefly noted in the timeline. It's an empowering #STEM book for kids encouraging them to stick to their dreams.

Synopsis: A powerful story of hope about a woman who fought against all odds to become the first Indian American female astronaut.

Kalpana Chawla set her sights on flight from an early age. She was told "no" many times in life: No, girls don't study aerospace. No, women don't become astronauts. No, you won't succeed in the United States. But Kalpana didn't listen—she was too busy forging her own path to the stars. And after a long journey of dedication, perseverance, and patience, she finally made it to space. Her inspiring story is a powerful reminder for girls all over the world to never, ever give up on their dreams.

Based on the true story of the first female Indian American astronaut, Journey to the Stars details the challenges and triumphs of Kalpana Chawla's life up through her first journey into space. Her story is sure to inspire educators and parents interested in encouraging curiosity and a passion for STEM in girls and boys. Backmatter includes an author's note and a timeline of Kalpana's life and awards.

Thank you all for giving us a little peek into yourselves and your books. Wishing you all enormous success.


To learn more about these writers, or to contact them:

Laura Chamberlain Gehl - Who Laid These Eggs? (Abrams 1/9/2023)


Megan Hoyt - A Grand Idea: How William J. Wilgus Created Grand Central Terminal (Harper Collins 1/23/2023) –


Christine Van Zandt – Milkweed for Monarchs (Beaming Books 2/6/2024) – 


Melissa Stewart – Shape Search (Reycraft 2/6/2024) –


Laurie Wallmark – Journey to the Stars: Kalpana Chawla, Astronaut (Beaming Books 2/13/2024) –


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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