The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with May STEAM Team Authors
Today I have the pleasure to introduce you to four authors from the STEAM Team Books – a group of authors who joined together to celebrate and help promote their STEAM books. I promise, it's not too long a post. I do 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 2022. 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?...)
Karen Jameson –– Time to Shine: Celebrating the World’s Iridescent Animals (Groundwood Books 5/3/2022) I write lyrical picture books, mostly about nature and animals. My first books were bedtime books. Coming up, I have some nonfiction picture books in the queue.
Becoming an author has been a lifelong dream. As an elementary teacher and mom of three, I was enamored with picture books and aspired to create one of my own. I dabbled in it here and there, but didn’t seriously start writing until a friend encouraged me to join the SCBWI in 2012. Many writing classes and conferences later, I’m published and having the time of my life dreaming up books for kids, especially my two little grands!
[Author of 5 books, including Where the Wee Ones Go: A Bedtime Wish for Endangered Animals (4/22), Farm Lullaby (2021), Woodland Dreams (2020), Moon Babies (2019).]
Annette Whipple – Ribbit! The Truth About Frogs (Reycraft Books 5/15/22) - Hello! I think facts are fun, so I write informational books for kids. I’ve been a curious person for a long time, but I was not a writer as a child. It wasn’t until 2009 that I realized how much I loved to write about things I’m passionate about. I began blogging and took some writing courses. Early on I wrote for adults, but now I focus on writing informational books for children. Ribbit! The Truth About Frogs is my 11th book. The final book in the series will be out in the fall: Meow! The Truth About Cats. My goal is to celebrate curiosity while inspiring children to love science and history through my books and author visits.
[Author of 11 books, including Scurry: The Truth About Spiders (2021), Woof: The Truth About Dogs (2021), The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide (2020), Whooo Knew? The Truth about Owls (2020), and The Story of the Wright Brothers (2020).]
Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan – Animal Allies: 15 Amazing Women in Wildlife Research (Chicago Review Press 5/17/22) - I live in Pittsburgh, PA, with my family and our pet schnoodle. I love board games, birding, and baking. I’m a lifelong runner and avid community scientist.
I love all kinds of writing. I’ve written crafts, recipes, graphic novels, textbooks - I’ve even crafted fun stories for the backs of shampoo bottles! I love sports and being active and I was both a sports reporter and editor the sports section of my college newspaper. In addition to being an author, I’m also a teacher. For many years, I taught educational science stage shows for Carnegie Science Center. Now I teach writing in a graduate program.
I’m the Regional Advisor for SCBWI Pennsylvania: West and I was the 2016-2017 Pen Parentis Fellow. I’m proud to be represented by Miranda Paul from Erin Murphy Literary Agency.
[Author of 12 books, including The Science and Technology of Leonardo da Vinci (2021), Even Fairies Bake Mistakes (2021), Quest for the Unicorn's Horn (2021), Mermaid Midfielders (1/1/2021), Medical Mishaps! (Fantastic Failures Series) (2020), Gadget Disasters! (Fantastic Failures Series) (2020), and So You Want to Be President? (2019).]
Loree Griffin Burns – Honeybee Rescue: A Backyard Drama (Charlesbridge 5/31/22) – I’m a scientist by training, a naturalist by inclination, and a writer by profession. Each of these identities influences the books I make for young readers … and I think I have the most interesting job in the world. I choose topics that are fascinating to me but that I don’t know a whole lot about, and then I dedicate all my energy to learning about them. Sometimes this takes a year, sometimes it takes two or three years. Sometimes the research requires me to travel to faraway places and sometimes I’m able to do the work in my own backyard. Always, though, I’m learning, and always, at the end, I get to share what I’ve learn with others. I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing with my life.
[Author of 8 books, including Life On Surtsey: Iceland's Upstart Island (Scientists in the Field) (2021), You're Invited to a Moth Ball: A Nighttime Insect Celebration (2020), Beetle Busters: A Rogue Insect and the People Who Track It (Scientists in the Field )(2018), Handle with Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey (2014), The Hive Detectives: Chronicle of a Honey Bee Catastrophe (Scientists in the Field)(2013), Citizen Scientists: Be a Part of Scientific Discovery from Your Own Backyard (2012), Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion (Scientists in the Field Series) (2010).]
What’s your favorite thing to do outside?
Karen Jameson –– I love to explore nature trails whenever I have the chance! We live about an hour from the beach, and one of my favorite things is to stroll along the shoreline and take in all the sights and sounds. Hunting for shells, driftwood, and sea treasures is the best! The beach is my happy place.
Annette Whipple – Sometimes you’ll find me weeding my flowerbed or sitting under a tree with my nature journal, but most of my outdoor time is spent walking for exercise. (As a writer I sit too much!) Most of my walks are in and near my neighborhood, but I appreciate the opportunity to get wander around local parks or hike new trails.
Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan – I love to go birding! I also love to go for a run and play with our dog. But I make time to get outside and bird even when the weather is bad.
Loree Griffin Burns – My favorite thing to do outside is walk and watch. I love unhurried time to simply notice what’s new in my corner of the world, which birds are back from their winter migration, which plants are leafing out, or starting to fruit, or going to seed, how the air smells on a given morning, or what planets are visible on any given night. There is so much change going on all around us day-to-day and paying attention to it makes me happy.
Now that we know a little more about all of you, what inspired you to write your book?
Karen Jameson –– Time to Shine: Celebrating the World’s Iridescent Animals (5/3/2022) – I was a classroom teacher for over 30 years and regularly used picture books in my science units. (They’re so much more kid friendly and accessible than textbooks). But, in all my years teaching animal adaptations, I never found a book explaining how and why iridescent animals sparkle. So, I decided to write that book!
Annette Whipple – Ribbit! The Truth About Frogs (5/15/22) – Since Whooo Knew? The Truth About Owls became a series, I knew I wanted to write about frogs. They’re incredible creatures—and there are so many species! Did you know scientists find about 100 new species every year? (At the time of this writing, 38 new species have been found in 2022.) I had so much fun researching and writing about frogs. Of course, I had to meet with an expert to get some hands-on time with frogs, too.
Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan – Animal Allies: 15 Amazing Women in Wildlife Research (5/17/22) – I remember when I was a senior in high school, I fell in love with the fieldwork experiences provided by my high school biology teacher. I had always intended to be a history major, but after that class I decided I wanted to do biology, too. I love learning about the natural world and I wanted to share true stories of real scientists working in the field. I also wanted to help young women to see and learn from these incredible mentors.
Loree Griffin Burns – Honeybee Rescue : A Backyard Drama (5/31/22) – I first wrote about honeybees in a book called The Hive Detectives, which is part of Houghton Mifflin’s ‘Scientists in the Field’ series. Researching and writing that book opened my eyes to the life of the honeybee; I was mesmerized by them and worried for them at the same time. When I visited schools, I could see that students were, too. Especially kids in the younger grades, who often learn about insect life cycles in the classroom. These second and third graders wanted to read more, but The Hive Detectives is a bit old for them. I began thinking hard about a honeybee story written especially for younger kids. And then one day, years into the search, I met a painter who told me about a house he’d recently painted: he and his fellow workers were surprised by a colony of bees living in the roof, just next to the chimney. The bees did not like the painters so close to their hive, and the painters didn’t like to work around angry bees. To end the stalemate, the homeowners were asked to hire an exterminator. But they refused! Instead, they talked to local beekeepers until they found one that was willing to come to their house, climb up to the roof, and remove the hive … bee by bee, honeycomb sheet by honeycomb sheet. I knew I’d found my honeybee story for younger kids.
[That's really an amazing story!]
I love how so many things can inspire an book. Who was a favorite/special author, illustrator, and/or your favorite book as a child?
Karen Jameson –– I loved Little Women and Little House on the Prairie, as I was especially fascinated with historical fiction. Plus, being the only girl in a family with two brothers, I craved stories about sisters.
Annette Whipple – Our family didn’t have a lot of books, but I did collect The Baby-Sitters Club books by Ann M. Martin from our Scholastic book flyers back when they were new.
Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan – I loved all of Madeleine L’Engle’s books. Her mix of science, fantasy and faith in humanity made me feel inspired and loved.
Loree Griffin Burns – I was a huge fan of Nancy Drew mysteries. I promised myself I’d grow up to be a detective myself. (And I sort of did!)
All great books! Is there anything special you want your readers to know about your book ?
Text © Karen Jameson, 2022. Image © Dave Murray, 2022.
Karen Jameson –– Time to Shine: Celebrating the World’s Iridescent Animals (5/3/2022) – Kids should know that iridescent colors are NOT the same as bioluminescent colors. Iridescent colors are a result of structural coloration, caused by sunlight bouncing off of animal feathers, scales, shells, or skin. Bioluminescent color, the glow seen on fireflies, cephalopods, and deep sea creatures, is caused by a chemical reaction inside the animal, not sunlight.
Text © Annette Whipple, 2022. Image © Juanbjuan Oliver, 2022.
Annette Whipple – Ribbit! The Truth About Frogs (5/15/22) – This stunning question-and-answer book answers kids’ big questions about frogs and toads. The photographs, illustrations, and text celebrate these amazing amphibians. The hardcover edition includes a poster featuring an amazing glass frog—with transparent skin. You can actually see its organs!
© Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan, 2022.
Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan – Animal Allies: 15 Amazing Women in Wildlife Research (5/17/22) –One thing that I found fascinating is that many of these scientists didn’t know they wanted to do fieldwork when they were very young. They discovered that they loved it while they were in high school, college, or even graduate school. I think it’s important for us to keep that in mind and keep an open mind about what inspires us.
Text © Loree Griffin Burns, 2022. Photos © Ellen Harasimowicz, 2022.
Loree Griffin Burns – Honeybee Rescue a Backyard Drama (5/31/22) – The book is illustrated with luscious photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz, a talented artist and friend. Honeybee Rescue is the sixth book Ellen and I have made together. (Visit Ellen online here: https://www.ellenharasimowicz.com/index)
Okay, so what was the hardest, or most challenging, part of writing, or researching, your book?
Karen Jameson –– Time to Shine: Celebrating the World’s Iridescent Animals (5/3/2022) – The fact that I couldn’t find any books written about this exact topic meant that I had to dig deep and look at a lot of different kinds of resources. A scientific study on iridescence was a great starting point, along with books about colors and how animals use color. Ultimately, I had to research the individual animals and piece that information together with the study findings. It took several drafts before I settled on a kid friendly story structure – comparing the animals’ “sparkling costumes” to clothes.
Annette Whipple – Ribbit! The Truth About Frogs (4/15/22) – My biggest challenge while writing Ribbit! The Truth About Frogs was limiting my word count so it could fit into a picture book. I had so much fun researching and learned so much that I wanted to include ALL the facts and highlight ALL the frogs. But that’s just not possible. So, I had to pick and choose. I love how Reycraft designed Ribbit! The photographs and Juanbjuan Oliver’s illustrations are incredible and compliment the text perfectly.
Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan – Animal Allies: 15 Amazing Women in Wildlife Research (4/17/22) – I did all my interviews via Zoom during the winter of 2020 to 2021, when we were in COVID lockdown and my kids were doing school from home. It was challenging balancing my work with their needs. But everyone was really patient and we figured it out together!
Loree Griffin Burns – Honeybee Rescue a Backyard Drama (5/31/22) – Once I found Jon Nelson, the book came together rather quickly. The hard part, honestly, has been waiting for the finished product to wind its way through the long publication process. The homeowners I mentioned above—the ones who hired a bee rescuer to remove the bees that were living in the roof of their house, instead of exterminating them—had two young children. I got to meet Eilidh and Millie on the day of the rescue and a picture of them ended up in the book. They were 9 and 8 when Ellen took that photo and by the time I put a copy of the published book in their hands they’ll be 14 and 13!
Have you discovered a routine or “trick” to keep yourself motivated and creative?
Karen Jameson –– My best motivation is critique groups! Just like having a workout buddy gets you to the gym, having a regular critique meeting on the calendar keeps me on track with my writing goals and helps me stay connected with my writing buddies.
Annette Whipple – I’m not sure I have a trick, but I keep a notebook full of writing ideas. After I turn in a project (or sometimes when I just need to noodle a different project), I browse my notebook and have fun thinking about possibilities. I consider the audience and text structure. I look into other books on the same/similar topics. And sometimes I even take next steps and begin researching and writing. I love the energy that comes with a new project!
Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan – Physical activity - either a walk, run, swim, or some playtime is important and necessary for me. It helps get my blood pumping and ideas flowing.
Loree Griffin Burns – I choose topics that truly intrigue me and then challenge myself to consider new approaches to sharing them with kids. This can mean trying new formats, or addressing new audiences, or using storytelling approaches I’ve not played with yet.
Those are all such great ways to keep developing ideas. Are there any upcoming projects that you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?
Karen Jameson –– I’m experimenting with some board book ideas at the moment. Reading (or should I say devouring) board books with my grandkids has truly deepened my appreciation of the genre. My grands LOVE their board books so much that they hug them and sleep with them. That’s book love at its finest!
Annette Whipple – YES! As mentioned, in the fall Meow! The Truth About Cats will be out with Reycraft Books My own kitties, Kiwi and Soka, are grateful I took the time to dive deep into understanding them better. I’m also completing a manuscript that combines science and faith! It’s called Wild Wonders: Animal Devotions for Kids will be published by Tyndale House in 2024. It’s been so much fun focusing on more than 50 animals and considering which fun facts to include in this book.
Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan – I’ve got some books about birds in the works. I love writing about nature!
Loree Griffin Burns – My next book for kids is a young middle grade nonfiction called One Long Line. It’s the story of a very unusual caterpillar species and two scientists who studied them in different centuries. It’ll be the first book I’ve written to be illustrated with art instead of photographs and I can’t wait to see what the artist does with these magnificent creatures and their story! And, of course, I can hardly wait to share it with all of you. Look for it in 2024.
We'll need to keep our eyes open for these books. If you could meet anyone (real or literary), who would that be?
Karen Jameson –– Some of my favorite stories are the Frog and Toad series by Arnold Lobel, the Frances books by Russell Hoban, and the Little Bear series by Else Holmelund Minarik. I’d love to have a tea party with these authors, and chat about their delightful and timeless characters.
Annette Whipple – I’m so grateful to all the authors I’ve been able to meet over the past few years. But if I could go back in time, I think I’d like to have a theological chat with C. S. Lewis or a book chat with Louisa May Alcott or Harper Lee.
Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan – While I have interviewed all of the scientists in my book via Zoom, I can’t wait to meet each of them in person one day!
Loree Griffin Burns – My mom! She died when I was a little girl, and there is no one I’d rather spend time with if I could.
Last question, what is your favorite National Park or Forest, regional park, or city park? Or the one you’re longing to visit. Why?
Karen Jameson – Yosemite has a special place in my heart! We’ve been there as a family over the years, and its majestic beauty never ceases to awe and inspire.
Annette Whipple – I visit my local Chester County, Pennsylvania parks the most. Through their programming I’ve gone bird watching and night hiked in hopes of spotting owls. Earlier this year I visited the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. It was my first redwoods experience, and I loved every minute of it. I was on my way to a writing conference so I couldn’t stay long. However, it took us about two hours to walk less than a mile. We may have stopped to take a “few” pictures and just appreciated the beauty surrounding us.
Visiting the waterfalls of Watkins Glen State Park (New York) takes me back to my childhood. I also love the historic national parks including Gettysburg and Independence in Pennsylvania. I’m eager to visit a few more national parks including Grand Canyon, Redwood, Yosemite, and Acadia.
Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan – My favorite park is the one next to my house, Tyler Park. It has an astonishing number of birds during spring and fall migration.
Loree Griffin Burns – Redwood National Park! I visited with my husband and three kids about a decade ago, and I will never forget the feeling of complete awe I felt there. I hope to go back some day.
So many great parks! NOW, let me take a moment to introduce you to these amazing STEAM books!
Synopsis: Let yourself be dazzled by creatures around the world in this brilliant nonfiction picture book about iridescence.
Have you ever noticed the rainbow-like shimmer on certain bird feathers, insect bodies and animal scales? This effect, called iridescence, changes depending on the angle from which its viewed, and animals across the globe use the effect to both blend in and stand out.
In playful rhyming couplets, Time to Shine takes a closer look at these creatures and their sparkly “clothes,” from the mallard duck’s shining green flying “cap,” which allows the birds to coordinate flight movements, to the reed frog’s heat reflecting “vest,” to the hummingbird’s sequinned “costume,” which helps to attract a mate. A secondary level of prose text on each spread gives further context for each animal’s particular environment and adaptation.
Light seems to dance off of the book's vibrant pages, with illustrations that bring us up close and personal with animals both exotic and familiar to young readers. An author’s note provides additional information about the science of iridescence.
Using both a rhyming couplet and more informative sidebar on each spread, this book highlights some of the stunning birds, insects, fish, and amphibians who use bright iridescent colors to communicate, protect themselves, and even create energy. The bold, bright illustrations are captivating. And an ending note expanding on iridescence, a fun dinosaur discovery, and scientific experiments extends this book beyond a fun read aloud to a useful introduction to further investigation of these interesting animals.
Synopsis: Where do frogs live? What sounds do frogs make? How do frogs eat? These and other questions are answered by the author, along with some extra information provided by the frogs themselves.
In addition to being full of stunning photographs, illustrator Juanbjuan Oliver created some adorable, cartoon-like, interactive, and humorous sidebar segments called "Leaping Legs." Each spread poses a questions, like "What Sounds Do Frogs Make?" and then 2 or 3 short paragraphs, along with spot photos, answer the question culminating in an understanding of why frogs and toads are important. Wonderful additional back matter includes a true or false spread, descriptions (and photos) of some "freaky, funky frogs," and a "DIY Toad House." Overall, a really fascinating book about frogs for kids and adults.
Synopsis: These 15 women work with animals on land, air, and sea.
Corina Newsome is saving seaside sparrows while Michelle LaRue uses satellites to study Antarctic birds. Lizzy Lowe takes on what many fear in researching spiders, and Erin Ashe lives out the dream of many studying dolphins and whales. Kristen Hecht chases the elusive hellbender amphibian while Enikö Kubinyi uses robots to get information on wolf pups.
These women are working on issues that intersect with biodiversity, species conservation, biology, and more. They stand out for their work in their fields and are also dedicated to science communication to share their knowledge with others. They challenge the assumptions of who a scientist is and what a scientist looks like.
These diverse, modern women are pushing the boundaries of their scientific fields while empowering others to pursue their dreams.
Divided into five sections - birds, bugs, sea creatures, reptiles and amphibians, and mammals - it highlights three women in each section and invites the reader to "learn about the science, wonder why, ask questions" and be "an animal ally too." With an easy, conversational tone and a mixture of narration and engaging, direct commentary by these scientists, it highlights their research and issues important to them, as well as the gender, racial, and social discrimination they've overcome. And most importantly shows how they have and are working to ensure that others, especially kids, get excited and inspired to study and work in STEM fields. Detailed sidebars delve into numerous other female scientists, as well as the Antarctic Treaty, DDT, climate danger and camera traps. This exciting collection of dedicated, determined, and strong scientists will inspire tons of kids to follow their passions and explore science.
Synopsis: Fans of the Scientists in the Field series will love discovering ways to save and protect bees through the eyes of a honeybee rescuer.
Follow honeybee rescuer Mr. Nelson as he expertly removes a colony of bees from Mr. Connery's barn (with a vacuum!) and helps it relocate back to a hive. Photographs of Mr.Nelson’s relocation of the colony help bring the honeybee rescue to life.
Nature lovers and scientists-to-be will be abuzz as they learn all the ways to keep honeybees (and our ecosystem) safe.
A fascinating, gorgeously photographed, and detailed description of the removal (rescue) of a gigantic honeybee hive. Intertwining explanations of the process of swarming, hive construction, and the inner workings of a specially designed bee-vac (the "Honeybee Sucker-Upper") with a riveting narrative of two men painstakingly capturing 35,000 bees, carefully relocating the comb into a new hive box, and releasing the bees into their new home. Described as a "simple plan," it takes hours (4-8 hours). A wonderful interview with the "bee rescuer" and a wealth of information round out this engaging nonfiction look at honeybees and those determined to save them.
Thank you all for giving us a little peek into yourselves and your books. Wishing you all great success.
To learn more about these writers, or to contact them:
Karen Jameson –– Time to Shine: Celebrating the World’s Iridescent Animals (Groundwood Books 5/3/2022) -
Annette Whipple – Ribbit! The Truth About Frogs (Reycraft Books 5/15/22) -
Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan – Animal Allies: 15 Amazing Women in Wildlife Research (Chicago Review Press 5/17/22)
Loree Griffin Burns – Honeybee Rescue a Backyard Drama (Charlesbridge 5/31/22) –