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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - January Interview with STEAM Team Books Member Saadia Faruqi

Today I have the pleasure to introduce you to an author from the STEAM Team Books group whose book released January 1, 2021.

STEAM Team Books is a group of authors who have Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math books, including fiction & nonfiction, trade or educational books, which "bring the spirit of inquiry, discovery, and creative problem-solving to learners while engaging them in rich literacy experiences." Follow #STEAMTeamBooks to catch all the info on the new STEAM/STEM children's books heading your way.

Saadia Faruqi is a Pakistani American author, essayist and interfaith activist. She is editor-in-chief of Blue Minaret, a magazine for Muslim art, poetry and prose, and was featured in Oprah Magazine in 2017 as a woman making a difference in her community. She resides in Houston, TX with her husband and children. Saadia writes the popular Yasmin early reader series, with 16 titles released so far. She's also written two middle grade novels, A Thousand Questions (2020) and A Place at the Table (co-written with Laura Shovan, 2020).

Her newest book, Yasmin the Scientist, released 1/1/21.

Welcome Saadia, 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?...)

Thanks for inviting me. I’ve been writing stories since I was in third grade. It was only when I became a mom decades later that I decided to try my hand at being a published author. Yasmin was my first children’s book in 2018, although I’d written fiction and nonfiction for adults before that. Now, I’m a full-time writer, so I write in my home office almost every day, or at least I try to. As anyone will tell you, being a children’s author is so much more than writing. Much of your time is spent on school visits, marketing your books, participating in conferences, etc. It’s really fun and invigorating! I don’t have any particular favorites, since I write for all age groups, but the Yasmin books have a special place in my heart.

Oh my word, I have to say 2020 was a great year for you, with the release of six Yasmin books and two MG novels. Can you tell us a bit about writing an early reader series and although they are fictional, what kind of research do they require (especially the STEAM ones)?

Early readers are fun to write, and especially if they’re a series like Yasmin. I get to see readers come back to the same characters over and over, enjoy different scenarios and of course learn from the stories. The main character Yasmin is a second grader, and in each book she tries a different (usually new) thing, such as painting, cooking, playing soccer, or even feeding animals at a zoo. It’s everyday scenes from a second grader’s life, and of course STEAM is a big part of that. There’s not a lot of research required in writing these books, because they’re short and sweet, but there is always great back matter which includes facts and activities related to the story.

I think Yasmin is a fun character and you've interwoven some great science into an entertaining story. What is something no one (or few) knows about you?

That’s a difficult question. I think a lot of people don’t know how bad I am at cooking. A lot of my books have food in them, delicious and mouthwatering, so my readers assume I can actually make all those things! The reality, however, is that I’m not fond of cooking, and I’ll take restaurant food over home-cooked any day of the week.

*Smiling* Thanks for sharing that. Now that we know a little more about you, what inspired you to write Yasmin the Scientist?

The aim of the Yasmin series is to write about every day occurrences in a child’s life that may be stressful, like participating in a science fair. I know my own kids would worry when they had to create a science experiment, even one they were familiar with. Something about the performance in front of your peers and teachers can cause stress. I wanted this story to be indicative of that, to assure readers that sometimes experiments go wrong, but that’s okay. Science can be fun, and creative. And science is everywhere around us, especially in the kitchen.

Kitchen science projects were some of the ones my kids enjoyed most. Who was a favorite/special author, illustrator, and/or favorite book as a child?

I grew up in Pakistan, so mostly read British authors. I don’t remember having a lot of favorites, but there was an author named Enid Blyton who wrote the best magical stories. I really enjoyed everything she wrote and am always looking for her books here.

I enjoyed reading some of Enid's Famous Five books with my kids. Is there anything special you want your readers to know about Yasmin the Scientist?

Text © Saadia Faruqi , 2021. Image © Hatem Aly, 2021.

Yasmin is bold and courageous, but she’s also worried about trying new things. I want all my readers to know it’s okay to fail when you try something new, and it’s definitely part of the scientific process.

That's a great reminder, for all of us. What was the hardest, or most challenging, part of writing, or researching, Yasmin the Scientist?

Coming up with a simple science experiment that could also be done in a kitchen situation was a little difficult. I wanted something that a lot of kids would identify with, like an erupting volcano, but could also relate to everyday science. It took a while to find the right experiment, but when we found it, the story wrote itself!

I'm glad you found something that almost any kid could do. Are there any upcoming projects that you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?

I have a middle grade novel Yusuf Azeem is not a Hero coming in Sept 2021 which is also a STEAM focused story. It revolves around the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and is set around a robotics competition. I’m really looking forward to this book. Also, in 2022 there will be more Yasmin titles which is always a good thing!

Excellent! If you could meet anyone (real or literary), who would that be?

Oh, there is such a long list, starting with President Obama. Also, if we can go back in time and meet dead people, William Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth I would be on the top of that list. I also wish I could meet some of my ancestors, such as my great grandfather, who seems like an amazing person from the family stories I’ve heard.

I'd love to join you for that tea. What is your favorite animal? Or one you are enamored with right now. Why?

I love cats. They have such a calm presence and aren’t needy. I’m a very self-sufficient person and don’t like too much attention, so I really identify with the aloofness of cats. Plus I always had cats around my house as a child, so they bring back very happy memories for me.

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

Synopsis: Everyone seems to have an idea for the science fair except for Yasmin! After some failed experiments, Yasmin's snack break with Nani inspires an idea. Together they use kitchen science for sweet success!

Pakistani American Yasmin is a plucky, spirited, and curious second-grader. Saadia Faruqi has skillfully interwoven Pakistani customs and Urdu words into the 16+ early reader texts. Yasmin uses her creativity and intelligence to explore, have adventures, and overcome dilemmas. Yasmin's issues and problems, such as in this book finding a science fair project that can be done in her mother's kitchen, are ones universally experienced by elementary-aged kids. The back matter includes discussion questions; an Urdu Glossary; Pakistan Fun Facts; and a fizzy lemonade recipe.

Thank you Saadia for giving us a little peek into you and your newest book. Wishing you great success.

To learn more about Saadia Faruqi or to get in touch with her:


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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