The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with February STEAM Team Authors
Today I have the pleasure to introduce you to two authors from STEAM Team Books – a group of authors and illustrators who joined together to celebrate and help promote each others STEAM books. I hope you enjoy this peek at these delightful books and their fascinating creatives.
"STEAM Team Books is a group of authors [& illustrators] who have a STEM/STEAM book releasing in 2023. It includes fiction & nonfiction, trade or educational books.”
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?...)
Linda Marshall - Sisters in Science: Marie Curie, Bronia Dluska, And The Atomic Power Of Sisterhood (Knopf BYR 2/14/2023) – I started writing for kids about fifteen years ago. Prior to that, I wrote occasional newspaper and magazine articles. I love research. I’m very curious. I’m also persistent. And there’s a lot I don’t know. When you combine all those traits, writing STEAM books is the perfect fit.
When I write, I like to stretch out my legs and place my computer on my lap, so I often write while lying in bed or on a very soft chair. I keep promising to buy myself a serious desk chair (in the hopes of actually writing at a desk), but I haven’t yet done that. Someday…
My favorite type of book to write is one that starts somewhere deep in my soul. Maybe it comes from poem I read, a talk I heard, a phrase that sings to me…and then I think about it…and dig deeper.
[Author of 22 books, including Measuring a Year: A Rosh Hashanah Story, illustrated by Zara González Hoang (2022), Anne Frank: The Girl Heard Around the World, illustrated by Aura Lewis (2020), The Polio Pioneer: Dr. Jonas Salk and the Polio Vaccine, illustrated by Lisa Anchin (2020), Have You Ever Zeen a Ziz, illustrated by Kyle Reed (2020), Shalom Bayit: A Peaceful Home, illustrated by Ag Jatkowska (2020), Saving The Countryside: The Story of Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit, Ilaria Urbinati (2020), and Good Night, Wind: A Yiddish Folktale, illustrated by Maelle Doliveux (2019).]
Dee Romito - The Last Plastic Straw: A Plastic Problem and Finding Ways to Fix It (Holiday House 2/21/23) - I used to write in coffee shops, libraries, cafes … but times have changed a bit, so I now have a cozy office at home where my cats keep me company while I write. 😊 Realistic Fiction is my favorite type of story to write and I also love nonfiction picture books. I wasn’t a science kind of kid in school, but now I love learning about the environment (And advocating to protect it!), trying all kinds of technology, and finding out new things I’ve never heard of before. STEAM is such a fascinating world of possibilities and I love writing books with STEAM themes.
[Author of 10 books including, Tree House Station: Fort Builders Inc. 4, illustrated by Marta Kissi (2022), Battle of the Blanket Forts: Fort Builders Inc. 3, illustrated by Marta Kissi (2021), Happy Tails Lodge: Fort Builders Inc. 2, illustrated by Marta Kissi (2020), The Birthday Castle: Fort Builders Inc. 1, illustrated by Marta Kissi (2020), Pies from Nowhere: How Georgia Gilmore Sustained the Montgomery Bus Boycott, illustrated by Laura Freeman (2018), Postcards from Venice (2018), No Place Like Home (2017), Best. Night. Ever.: A Story Told from Seven Points of View (2017), and The BFF Bucket List (2016).]
What is the most fun or unusual place where you’ve written a manuscript?
Linda Marshall – A castle near Edinburgh, Scotland. While on a Literary Ramble through England with a group of children’s writers and illustrators from the Kindling Words organization, I learned about the numerous challenges that Beatrix Potter faced. I was blown away by how hard she worked and all the forces that conspired against her…and knew I had to tell her story. The next week, settled into my room in a hotel-turned-castle in Edinburgh, I wrote her story. That’s how I wrote the first draft of Saving the Countryside: The Story of Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit (Little Bee, 2020).
Dee Romito - How about a fun place where I came up with an idea … One of my favorite places in the world is London, England. More specifically, there’s a spot in Trafalgar Square where you can look down the street and see Big Ben, which is such a magical landmark for me. My husband and I were sitting there one night, looking down that street at Big Ben, and I came up with the seed of an idea. It’s not currently a published book, but I hope someday it will be.
Those both sound like amazing places to write a manuscript. Now that we know a little more about all of you, what inspired you each to write your book?
Linda Marshall - Sisters in Science: Marie Curie, Bronia Dluska, And The Atomic Power Of Sisterhood (2/14/2023) – My husband and I have cousins (actually, they’re his cousins, but I love them dearly and have adopted them as my own) who live in Paris. One evening, our cousins invited friends to join us at dinner. One of those friends – the brilliant historian and writer Natacha Henry – had researched and written a book (Les Soeurs Savantes, Albin Michel, 2018) about Marie Curie and her sister, Bronia. Natacha’s work was the inspiration! Our discussions that evening kicked off what eventually became Sisters in Science. I also did an enormous amount of my own research – visiting sites in Paris, like the Curie Museum, doing a self-guided walking tour of places Marie Curie had lived, and reading, reading, reading.
Dee Romito - The Last Plastic Straw: A Plastic Problem and Finding Ways to Fix It (2/21/23) - I always look back and wish I’d paid more attention to exactly where ideas came from, but so many of them start with me reading an interesting tidbit and then diving deeper and deeper until I realize I just have to write a book about it. I believe it was some kind of straw holiday that got me reading about the topic and I became fascinated by the history of the straw and how single use plastics are affecting our environment. At the same time, my daughter’s class was working with their librarian to make eco-friendly changes at school. I knew I had to write it and share it with kids.
It's always so fascinating to discover what sparked a writer's initial curiosity. What do you like to do outdoors by yourself or with your family and friends?
Linda Marshall – I like hiking and swimming and taking walks and sitting by trees and looking at the sky. I love to be by the ocean. I need to be in nature. A lot.
Dee Romito – I love to go for walks. We have some really nice paths and ponds by my house and it’s such a nice break to put in my Air pods, turn on an audiobook, and enjoy being outside. But I also love the beach and the ocean!
I agree with you both; I love time at a beach and being near the ocean. Is there anything special you want your readers to know about your book ?
Linda Marshall - Sisters in Science: Marie Curie, Bronia Dluska, And The Atomic Power Of Sisterhood (2/14/2023) – Sisters in Science was inspired by the brilliant research of my friend, historian Natacha Henry whose many books include: Les Soeurs Savantes: Marie Curie et Bronia Dluska, deux detins qui ont fait l’histoire (Paris, La Librarie Vuibert, 2015) and Marie et Bronia: Le pacte des soeurs (Paris, Albin Michel Jeunesse, 2017). I am grateful to Natacha for guidance, research, and for consulting on draft after draft.
Text © Dee Romito, 2023. Image © Ziyue Chen, 2023.
Dee Romito - The Last Plastic Straw: A Plastic Problem and Finding Ways to Fix It (2/21/23) - I hope that looking at the plastics problem through a narrow lens gets people’s attention, but ultimately the book is about so much more than the straw. I want readers to see that we can all make a difference and that making small changes leads to bigger changes and much-needed conversations.
I hope these both inspire kids (of all ages) to ask questions and try to make a difference. What was the hardest, or most challenging, part of writing, or researching, your book? Can you share something from your research you didn’t get to include?
Text © Linda Marshall, 2023. Image © Anna & Elena Balbusso, 2023.
Linda Marshall - Sisters in Science: Marie Curie, Bronia Dluska, And The Atomic Power Of Sisterhood (2/14/2023) – Deciding what to put in – and what to leave out – was the hardest part. Marie had a lot of deaths in her family – her mother, then her sister. The everyday political situation was difficult, too. Russia controlled Poland and, because of Russian control, Polish people were not allowed to celebrate their heritage. I tried not to be too heavy-handed about that. I also tried not to focus on the unfair situation that money was available for their brother’s education, but not for the girls’ education. In addition, I omitted some of Marie’s major disappointments, especially after she was dumped by a boyfriend. I had to keep reminding myself that I’m writing for children.
Dee Romito - The Last Plastic Straw: A Plastic Problem and Finding Ways to Fix It (2/21/23) - Sometimes a book has so much information to research that it can get overwhelming and you have to make decisions on what to include, but other times it’s more like being a detective and tracking information down. There isn’t a whole lot out there on the history of the straw so I had to keep digging and digging. One thing I found really interesting but didn’t include was the 1992 Friendly Floatees incident. A cargo ship spilled almost 30,000 plastic bath toys in the ocean and through the years they’ve been able to learn about ocean currents from the ducks that wash up on beaches all over the world!
Those are very interesting facts, but I can see why they couldn't be included. Are there any upcoming projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?
Linda Marshall – I have a book forthcoming this fall entitled BRAVE VOLODYMYR: The Story of Volodymyr Zelensky and the Fight for Ukraine. Being Jewish, with part of my family coming from the area that’s now Ukraine, and having been in Prague when Russian tanks rolled down the streets, I felt compelled to write about brave President Zelensky.
Dee Romito – There will be another book in the “Books for a Better Earth” series to follow The Last Plastic Straw. We’ll see another seemingly simple thing that we use everyday and explore how our actions are changing it.
Oh Linda, that will be an interesting, and I imagine poignant book. And Dee that is certaintly tantilizing. We'll have to keep our eyes open for these books. Is there something you can’t do without either for your writing or for yourself?
Linda Marshall – Quiet. Nature. Solitude. And my many friends and family members.
Dee Romito – Cats. 😊
* Smiling* Last question, what is the best advice you’ve ever gotten - whether it’s regarding writing/ illustrating or not?
Linda Marshall – I think the best advice I ever got came from The Little Engine that Could. “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.”
Dee Romito – Someone once critiqued some early work of mine and said “I know you needed to write this chapter, but now you need to cut it.” It was so important because she acknowledged that sometimes writers need to put what they’re thinking on the page, but also that not everything we’re thinking needs to be on the page. That applies whether it’s fiction or nonfiction—although in nonfiction we get to put those “extra” thoughts in the backmatter!
NOW, let me take a moment to introduce you to this amazing STEAM book!
Sisters in Science: Marie Curie, Bronia Dluska, and the Atomic Power of Sisterhood by Linda Elovitz Marshall, illustrated by Anna And Elena Balbusso (Knopf BYR 2/14/2023) – This dual biography gorgeously explores "“the power of SCIENCE—and the power of SISTERS.”
"The life of Marie Curie is viewed through the lens of her relationship with her sister and fellow trailblazer Bronia Dłuska. Raised in Poland, the two were determined to have an education....The story delves into Marie’s accomplishments but never strays far from Bronia, showing how these two lives consistently informed and relied upon one another. Appropriately illustrated by the Balbusso twins (sisters themselves), the artwork is a glorious amalgamation of math, science, and illustration. Everything from atoms to numerals and even radiation symbols are worked seamlessly into the highly detailed images." - Kirkus Reviews
Synopsis: Discover the fascinating true story of Nobel Prize winner Marie Curie and her sister Bronia, two trailblazing women who worked together and made a legendary impact on chemistry and health care as we know it.
Marie Curie has long been a well-known name around the world. Though Marie made extraordinary scientific advances discovering new elements with her husband, Pierre, many students do not know about the powerful bond that propelled her into science: her sisterhood with Bronia! A force in academia and health care herself, Bronia made significant contributions to the scientific world, along with her loving support of sister Marie.
Sisters in Science is a compelling biography of two sisters who created their own paths while keeping the atomic bonds of sisterhood strong.
The Last Plastic Straw: A Plastic Problem and Finding Ways to Fix It by Dee Romito, illustrated by Ziyue Chen (Holiday House 2/21/23) - Beginning with a fascinating look at the history of the straw from the Summarians intial use of hollow reeds to the patent for a bendy straw and the first creation of plastic straws. But while straws solved the problem of filtering or reaching deep into containers, they created a huge crisis. After showing the extent of the damage straws and plastics to wrecked on the environment and all living creatures through straight forward text and bold illustrations, this book finishes with a call to action. Offering concrete and doable actions that everyone can take and a plea for readers to step up and "refuse, reduce, reuse, and recycle."
Synopsis: Learn how and why a useful, 5000-year-old invention has become a threat to our planet--and what you can do about it--in this history of the simple straw.
From reeds used by ancient Sumerians to bendy straws in World War II hospitals, people have changed the straw to fit their needs for 5000 years. Today however, this useful tool is contributing to the plastic problem polluting our oceans. Once again, the simple straw needs a reinvention.
With bright illustrations and well-researched text, children can read about the inventors behind the straw’s technological advancements, including primary sources like patents, as well as how disposable plastic harms the environment. See the newest solutions, from plastic straw alternatives to activism by real kids like Milo Cress who started the Be Straw Free campaign when he was 11 years old.
Learn about what kids can do to reduce plastic waste. The backmatter includes more information on the movement to stop plastic waste, action items kids can do, a bibliography, and additional resources on plastic pollution.
Books for a Better Earth are designed to inspire children to become active, knowledgeable participants in caring for the planet they live on.
Thank you Linda & Dee for giving us a little peek into yourselves and your books. Wishing you both great success.
To learn more about:
Linda Marshall - Sisters in Science: Marie Curie, Bronia Dluska, And The Atomic Power Of Sisterhood (Knopf BYR 2/14/2023) –
Dee Romito – The Last Plastic Straw: A Plastic Problem and Finding Ways to Fix It (Holiday House 2/21/23) -