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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - June 2024 Interview with STEAM Team Books Members (Part 1)

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!

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

Today I have the pleasure to introduce you to four creatives from the STEAM Team Books – a group of authors and illustrators 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.” Check out their website for other interviews, activites, and bios.

Tell us a little about yourself. (Where/when do you write or illustrate? How long have you been writing or illustrating? What is your favorite type of book to write or illustrate? What drew you to STEAM books? etc.)

Abi Cushman – Flamingos are Pretty Funky: A [Not So] Serious Guide (Greenwillow/Harper Collins 6/4/2024) - I started writing and illustrating my own stories in earnest in 2015 after I had my first baby. Being surrounded by picture books reminded me that I loved them as a kid, and I still do. The stories I write tend to be humorous, both fiction and nonfiction. And I’ve always loved drawing animals and learning about them. So, it made sense to write informational books about really cool animals. I hope Flamingos Are Pretty Funky inspires kids to learn more about flamingos and take a closer look at the birds in their own communities.

[Author/Illustrator of 5 books, including The Quiet Forest by Charlotte Offsay (2024), Wombats are Pretty Weird: A [Not So] Serious Guide (2023), Animals Go Vroom! (2021), and Soaked! (2020).]

Maria Marianayagam – The Amazing Power of Girls: Meet the Universe's Most Powerful and Invisible Forces! (Sourcebooks Explore 6/4/2024) – My first career was as a chemical engineer and it wasn’t until 2020, after the birth of my second daughter, that I started writing with the intention to publish. I’ve loved reading and writing since I was young but hadn’t thought about pursuing it as a career until then. But I started drafting and digging into the craft, I found that this was something I really loved. I like writing stories that center my identities and their intersections. These are usually lyrical board or picture books that focus on STEM, faith, and South Asian culture, as well as high-concept middle grade grounded in culture. I love writing all types of stories (I’m currently working on a chapter book series!) and STEAM books come naturally to me because of my first career as an engineer.


[Author of 3 books, including Baby Hope, illustrated by Kat Uno (2024) and Baby Courage, illustrated by Kat Uno (2024).]

Laurie Ann Thompson –You Are a Garter Snake (Dial Books 6/4/2024) – I was one of those kids who asked, “Why…? Why…? Why…?”, and I never stopped. I love learning new things, and I love sharing what I learn with others, so writing, especially nonfiction, feels like a perfect fit for me. My curiosity leads me to many different subjects, but STEAM topics are some of my favorites. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a veterinarian when I grew up. Instead, I went to college for applied mathematics and my first career was in software engineering. All of those interests give me a good background for STEAM writing. I’m a slow starter in the morning, so afternoons are my best creative time, but I like to vary the location: in my office, on the couch, in a café. The variety helps keep it interesting for me. If I’m at home, though, my dog is never far away! He’s definitely my muse. 

[Author of 11 books, including You Are a Robin!, illustrated by Jay Fleck (2024), You Are a Honey Bee!, illustrated by Jay Fleck (2023), You Are a Raccoon!  illustrated by Jay Fleck (2023), Elizabeth Warren's Big, Bold Plans, illustrated by Susanna Chapman (2020), Two Truths and a Lie: Forces of Nature with Ammi-Joan Paquette, illustrated by Lisa K. Weber (2019), Two Truths and a Lie: Histories and Mysteries with Ammi-Joan Paquette, illustrated by Lisa K. Weber (2018), Two Truths and a Lie: It's Alive! with Ammi-Joan Paquette, illustrated by Lisa K. Weber (2017), Emmanuel's Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, illustrated by Sean Qualls (2015), My Dog Is the Best, illustrated by Paul Schmid (2015), Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something That Matters (2014).]

Jeanne Walker Harvey – Else B. in the Sea: The Woman Who Painted the Wonders of the Deep (Abrams/Cameron 6/4/2024) – I’ve been writing children’s books since college, but it took quite some time to realize narrative nonfiction, in particular picture book biographies, is a wonderful genre for me. I love that it combines the literary devices of fictional storytelling with factual research. I enjoy writing about creative inspiring people. The story of Else Bostelmann is a wonderful connection to STEAM as she was a fine artist who painted the newly discovered deep sea bioluminescent creatures on a scientific expedition in the 1930s.


[Author of 8 books, including Dressing Up the Stars: The Story of Movie Costume Designer Edith Head, illustrated by Diana Toledano (2022), Ablaze with Color: A Story of Painter Alma Thomas, illustrated by Loveis Wise (2022), Boats on the Bay: A Picture Book, illustrated by Grady McFerrin (2018), Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines, illustrated by Dow Phumiruk (2017), Honey Girl: The Hawaiian Monk Seal, illustrated by Shennen Bersani (2017), Astro: The Steller Sea Lion, illustrated by Shennen Bersani (2013), My Hands Sing the Blues: Romare Bearden's Childhood Journey, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon (2011).]


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


Abi Cushman – I think for my informational books, what helps me feel inspired is learning something about an animal I didn’t know before. That makes me want to dive into research and find out more.


Maria Marianayagam – My kids are my inspiration. They’re still very young and I love watching them interact with the world, seeing what they observe, what they’re interested in, and what they want to learn more about. I like to say I write two types of stories: the ones I didn’t have growing up and the ones I wish my kids had now. Spending time with my kids will have me reaching for my notes to write down my next story idea.


Laurie Ann Thompson – Nature is really important to me. I get most of my ideas when I’m walking in the woods, whether they’re from what I’m observing around me or just the quite time to let my mind wander. Anything that makes me ask a question (there’s that “Why…?” again!) or have a strong emotional reaction to might be the inspiration for a new book. And I always take my phone so I can add them to my idea list! I also get a lot of inspiration from readers, whether they’re kids, teachers, librarians, bloggers, etc. I think we all have those times where we feel not good enough, or we ask ourselves, “Why bother?” Remembering an interaction with a reader or a positive comment someone said about the impact of my work really helps me remember why I do what I do… even if some days it feels impossible!


Jeanne Walker Harvey – I never lack inspiration in the form of topics because there are so many creative innovative people I’d like to write about. My primary limitation is how much information, particularly primary sources, I can find about them. But of course, I reach snags in my writing process, and I find that taking a dance class is the best way to clear my mind. I can’t think about anything but where my feet and arms should be!

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

Abi Cushman – Flamingos are Pretty Funky: A [Not So] Serious Guide (6/4/2024) – When Wombats Are Pretty Weird was acquired, I got a two-book deal. I always knew I wanted to make the second book about another animal in the same vein as Wombats. But the challenge was coming up with an animal that had just as many weird traits that wasn’t also a marsupial. When I read a National Geographic Kids article about how flamingos can live in extreme environments, I was hooked. I already knew they got their pink coloring from their food, but after I did more research, I discovered they also have very unique, specialized beaks. I realized that there was so much more to these birds than their dazzling pink color.

Maria Marianayagam – The Amazing Power of Girls (6/4/2024) – I have loved math and science since I was little. My dad is an engineer and my mom is an accountant, so a love of STEM was fostered from a very young age. When I started my first year of engineering, however, I was shocked by how few girls were there with me. I didn’t know at the time that there was a disparity. As I started my career, it became clear that this was something that many STEM fields experienced. I wrote The Amazing Power of Girls because I wanted to help change this pattern—research shows that if girls are introduced to STEM concepts early (like I was), they are far more likely to be interested in these subjects in the future. I’ve always loved the adage “I am a force” and the idea that we are unstoppable. In thinking about the phrasing, it made me wonder what it would look like if we were actually forces—forces of physics. I loved the play on words and as I started writing, I was inspired to continue using these play-on-words to simultaneously explain forces while empowering girls to pursue STEM.

Laurie Ann Thompson –You Are A Garter Snake (6/4/2024) – This is the fourth book in the Meet Your World series. I’d already featured an insect, a mammal, and a bird, so I knew I wanted this one to be either a reptile or an amphibian. The goal of the series is to help young readers get more familiar with the animals that live all around them—no matter where they live in the United States—so I needed an animal with a broad distribution range and habits that put it into frequent contact with humans in urban, suburban, and rural settings. When I considered the garter snake, I knew I had the perfect subject… even though I am irrationally terrified of snakes!


Though I was a little nervous about my subject, my hope was that doing the book would help ease my fears (it did!) as well as those of my young (and not-so-young!) readers. Now I look for garter snakes on all of my walks in the park near my house. I may even be brave enough to pick one up!

Jeanne Walker Harvey – Else B. in the Sea: The Woman Who Painted the Wonders of the Deep (6/4/2024) – I first learned about Else Bostelmann when I read a comprehensive 2016 article by the oceanographer, Dr. Edith Widder, in Oceanography magazine titled “The Fine Art of Exploration.” Dr Widder, CEO and Senior Scientist for the Ocean Research and Conservation Association, described Else Bostelmann and her deep sea painting adventure. Dr. Widder is not only an incredible scientist (who thankfully reviewed the descriptions in the back of Else B. in the Sea about bioluminescence and the underwater color spectrum) but a terrific writer. She included so many fascinating details about Else Bostelmann and the related science that I knew I wanted to write about her.


I always love learning what triggered the start of a book. What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of being a children’s author or illustrator?


Abi Cushman – I think this industry is tough. You face a lot of rejections and negative feedback. It can be difficult to push all that to the back of your mind and continue making stories and art that you love, knowing that some people will hate it, and will be vocal about it.


Maria Marianayagam – For me, engineering was so black and white; science and math are like that. But, writing and publishing are not. Writing is an art and art is subjective. We all have different tastes; one person’s favorite book can be another’s least favorite. That’s something I’m still getting used to. Although I understood the subjectivity as a consumer (before becoming a writer), now that I’m on the other side, knowing that people will have different opinions on my work is something I’m learning to let go of. All I can do is put my best work forward and hope my books will find their people.


Laurie Ann Thompson – Rejection, no question. It’s difficult to work hard on something and then have it not be received in the way you intended or hoped, whether that’s by industry professionals (agents, editors, book reviewers), by consumers, or by readers. There’s a certain amount of optimism and hope necessary to do the work in the first place and a certain level of vulnerability required to put your work out into the world, so it’s definitely painful when things don’t go quite the way you wanted. But it’s all part of living a creative life. I try to keep in mind that I created something that didn’t exist before, and I stretched myself and grew as a writer and as a human. That has to be enough, even if no one else ever sees it. I can only control my part of the equation by doing the best work I possibly can.


Jeanne Walker Harvey – Time. I spend so much time doing research on each book and sometimes I reach a roadblock and realize there isn’t enough reliable information about the person I want to feature. And then I need to begin again. But I try to view it as all in the process. But I thoroughly enjoy learning about these creative people and the topics that inspire them so it’s not time lost.


Definitely, not a career for the 'faint-of-heart.' Is there anything special you want your readers to know about your book?

Abi Cushman – Flamingos are Pretty Funky: A [Not So] Serious Guide (6/4/2024) – Joey the snake, also seen in Wombats Are Pretty Weird, is back with even more funny commentary as he learns all about these color-eating, one-leg sleeping birds. [😊]

Maria Marianayagam – The Amazing Power of Girls (6/4/2024) – While this book showcases science, it also uses a lot of literary devices: double entendres, idioms, puns, and personification. It can be really fun to dig into those and practice writing your own personification poems—something I like encouraging kids to do. There are also lots of resources available on my website: coloring sheets, posters, word searches, a fun personality quiz (What force are you?), and more. Check it out at [Great activities!]


Laurie Ann Thompson –You Are A Garter Snake (6/4/2024) – I want kids to know that even though snakes seem so alien—and perhaps frightening—to us, they’re the same in one key way: they’re trying to survive and thrive, just like we are. And to do that, they need the same things we do: food, water, and a safe place to live. I hope this inspires readers to protect snakes, specifically, but also to protect the environment as a whole. My grandest hope, however, is that it engenders an even broader sense of compassion and empathy for anything—or anyone—that/who is different from us. We all deserve a chance to thrive. [We can certainly use more compassion & empathy!]


Jeanne Walker Harvey – Else B. in the Sea: The Woman Who Painted the Wonders of the Deep (6/4/2024) –The illustrations created by Melodie Stacey using gouache, watercolor, pastels, and colored pencils are gorgeous and truly capture the wonders of the deep-sea adventure and creatures, especially on the page with all the bioluminescent creatures. I hope our story invites readers to want to learn more about the ocean (and protect it and the fascinating creatures who live there). I also hope they are drawn to the science of bioluminescence. I was certainly fascinated to learn that scientists have used what they’ve learned to help study diseases. For example, green fluorescent protein, first obtained from a jellyfish, is used to light up and track diseased cells, such as cancer. [Wow, that's cool!]


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

Text and Image © Abi Cushman, 2024.

Abi Cushman – Flamingos are Pretty Funky: A [Not So] Serious Guide (6/4/2024) – The hardest part about writing and illustrating this book was trying to make things easy to understand but also not oversimplifying things. There was a lot of nuance to the science. For example, the algae flamingos eat can turn the water red, though it can also look green, blue, purple, or brown or you might not even be able to see it at all. But regardless of the color, when flamingos eat it, it turns their feathers pink. But only certain feathers, because one species of flamingo looks mostly white except for their wings. So, finding that balance between explaining the science, but keeping everything snappy was tricky.

Text © Maria Marianayagam, 2024. Image © Skylar White, 2024.

Maria Marianayagam – The Amazing Power of Girls (6/4/2024) – The hardest part of writing this book is that every single line of this book is a double entendre. The text works to simultaneously describe what the force does while also sharing the personality traits of girls. On top of all this, I wrote it to rhyme. So, balancing all those different components made it a lot more challenging—but also so much for fulfilling when it came together in the end.  

Text © Laurie Ann Thompson, 2024. Image © Jay Fleck, 2024.

Laurie Ann Thompson –You Are A Garter Snake (6/4/2024) – The hardest part about writing this book was trying to get inside the mind—and body!—of a snake. All of the books in this series are written from the point of view of the animal, and readers are invited to pretend they are that animal by acting out their actions. But snake anatomy and senses are very different from ours, and almost defy imagination… and imitation! It was very challenging to try to explain to young children, in limited vocabulary, how snakes perceive the world. And it was difficult to think up actions that kids could do while sitting down or standing up, which is how they’ll usually be engaging with the book. Also, snakes are carnivores. They spend a lot of time hunting—and eating—other animals! I wanted to portray that reality without making them seem scary or mean. This book was definitely the most challenging of the four, but I really hope it can help kids better understand and appreciate snakes. They’re pretty incredible!

Text © Jeanne Walker Harvey, 2024. Image © Melodie Stacey, 2024.

Jeanne Walker Harvey – Else B. in the Sea: The Woman Who Painted the Wonders of the Deep (6/4/2024) –Researching Else Bostelmann who worked in the shadow of the famous scientist, William Beebe, was challenging. However, with the help of the amazing librarians at the Library of Congress locating pieces written by Else B. and the firsthand reports by William Beebe and others, I was able to find the nuggets of Else B.’s story.


Those were all some interesting challenges to overcome. Are there any upcoming projects that you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?

Abi Cushman – I’m currently sketching out a bunch of ocean creatures for an upcoming project scheduled for 2026.

Maria Marianayagam – I’m currently working on another picture book with Sourcebooks eXplore called Wait Till You’re Older, illustrated by Irina Avgustinovich. It’s a fictional story about a girl named Reha who, when she’s told she’s too little to play with her brother’s big toy, attempts to build a time machine to get older. While it’s fiction, all the things Reha does to build her time machine are grounded in science (moving faster than light, looking for wormholes, etc.). I love combining SEL with STEM in books, and this has been a fun project to showcase both the science of time travel while also navigating a sibling relationship. It’s coming out in June 2025.


Laurie Ann Thompson – I’m really excited about my next picture book, Let the Light In, which comes out in September. It’s a social-emotional learning (SEL) tool full of examples of how we can take care of ourselves when we’re experiencing sadness, grief, or depression. I’ve heard from so many people—young and old alike—who are struggling right now, and I hope this ode to the many forms of self-care can be a balm to those who need it. I’m also putting the finishing touches on an informational picture book about Newton’s Laws Paws of Motion, inspired by my cat, who was clearly a physicist in a previous life. I’m working on two different manuscripts about climate change for very young readers. And I’m researching a more serious middle-grade nonfiction about the Earth’s past—and present—mass extinction events. So, lots of different projects in various stages of development… just the way I like it!


Jeanne Walker Harvey – Yes! I’m excited to share that my next picture book biography is another STEAM based book. The Glass Pyramid – Architect I.M. Pei and the Louvre Museum will be illustrated by the talented Khoa Le and published the summer of 2025 (Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster). The story focuses on the power of I.M Pei’s creativity, problem-solving, and persistence while facing objections and challenges to building his now famous pyramid design for the Louvre. The back matter includes the various technology challenges and solutions connected to constructing the glass pyramid.

That's so exciting! We'll have to keep our eyes open for these books. How do you deal with, or celebrate, rejections?

Abi Cushman – Usually by feeling sad and moping.

Maria Marianayagam – Ah, rejection! I didn’t realize how much of it this career would involve and I think for most, if not all authors, it’s a guarantee. I think realizing that receiving passes is part of the process has made it easier, over time. I tell myself that I’ve been through this before and it just needs to find the right champion. And then I hold on to the faith and hope that it will.


Laurie Ann Thompson – As I said above, I think rejection is the hardest part of being a creative person. Unfortunately, there’s no way to avoid it. For me, it’s important to recognize that they do hurt, no matter how much of a professional you are. I make sure to allow myself time to grieve. In those times, I focus on self-care and doing things that bring me joy. I spend time with friends who can help me pick my self-esteem up the floor, especially writer friends who’ve been there and can remind me that it’s only temporary. Then I remind myself that I did my part—I did the work—and that’s all I can do. Then I get back to work. I found the book The Bulletproof Writer: How to Overcome Constant Rejection to Become An Unstoppable Author by Michael Alvear to be really helpful in setting up and maintaining a healthy mindset around rejections.


Jeanne Walker Harvey ––  I’ve received so many rejections over the years that after I have that “oh phooey” moment, I try to move on. I know that it just takes one editor/one publisher to love a book (and feel it will fit their list at that particular time). And I know it takes time to find (if ever) that one right fit. I value any comments shared about my submission as it gives me guidance as to what is or isn’t working about the piece. The kidlit writing world is definitely one of patience and persistence.

Thanks for the wonderful ideas and suggestions. Last question, is there a plant or flower you love growing, or wish you could grow, in your yard or garden?

Abi Cushman – I have always loved the pink flowers on weeping cherry trees. We had one at my childhood home with a swing attached to one of the branches. So, I planted one in my yard 8 years ago. Unfortunately, a few years ago, at a grand height of 4.5 feet tall, it decided it was done growing taller, and only grows wider. I suppose it provides shade for very short animals.

Maria Marianayagam – I love the rose bushes that grow outside our front window. I’ll admit that my husband is the one who cares for and nurtures all the plants inside and outside our house. (He’s really good at it!) And then I get to join vase after vase of beautiful roses through the summer 😊.


Laurie Ann Thompson – My entire front yard, literally, is a giant sequoia tree. It is around 150 feet tall, and the view from my wall of living room windows is all branches. It feels like I’m living in a treehouse (except much drier, warmer, and cozier)! I LOVE my giant sequoia. When we first bought the house, it was a very competitive real estate market. There were multiple offers besides ours, some even at a higher price, but ours was the only one that didn’t come with a contingency to cut down the tree prior to transfer. The previous owners loved the tree as much as we did, so we got the house! Now I feel a bit like I’ve been entrusted with its care and preservation, and it’s not always easy. I have to have to get it treated regularly to slow its growth and “soften” the roots, so it doesn’t destroy the foundation, the driveway, the street, and everything else in its path. It constantly drops needles and cones that need to be cleaned up. And it sometimes needs pruned so the branches don’t scrape against the house. But it’s worth it. It sequesters a whole lot of carbon from the atmosphere, it’s a spectacular landmark in the center of my neighborhood, it keeps the house cool in the summertime, and it’s a sight to behold when we point the projector at it during the holidays.


Jeanne Walker Harvey – Oh, I love to garden! It’s so tangible and satisfying to be outside digging, clipping, planting, watering, weeding. Although fragrant colorful summer flowers (roses, lavender, bougainvillea, jasmine) are my favorite, I’m quite pleased with my citrus (lime, lemon, orange, and blood orange) trees. I squeeze the juice and put them in ice cube trays that I can enjoy for a long time. I’m having a glass of sparkling water with blood orange cubes right now!


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

Flamingos are Pretty Funky: A [Not So] Serious Guide by Abi Cushman (Greenwillow/Harper Collins 6/4/2024) - A super fun combination of nonfiction facts about flamingos from their coloring to their unique anatomy and humorous, punny speech bubbles by the birds and an interrupting snake named Joey, make this a fabulous way to learn about these funky birds. Engaging sidebars, a photo illustrated 'rollcall,' glossary, and additional resources further expand the STEM element of the book. This is a wonderfully humorous way to make nonfiction fun.

Synopsis: Flamingos Are Pretty Funky introduces young readers to flamingos and their fantastic and (truly) fabulous traits. A companion to Wombats Are Pretty Weird, this funny, reader-friendly narrative nonfiction picture book about the natural world features sidebars, comic panels, and extensive back matter.

Flamingos are tall, wading birds known for their bright pink color. Their nests look like tiny volcanoes, and they live in areas that are considered extreme—from nearly boiling bodies of water filled with corrosive chemicals to cold, mountainous regions where ice freezes around their feet. And if you ask their snake friend, Joey, those aren’t the only things that are fabulous about flamingos!

Abi Cushman’s Flamingos Are Pretty Funky contains informative, expressive, and funny illustrations of flamingos in their natural habitats. This enlightening picture book offers an entertaining blend of narration, sidebars, speech balloons, and dialogue and is a refreshing departure from traditional nonfiction. Flamingos Are Pretty Funky serves up a child-friendly guide to the fun and fancy world of flamingos and the mystery, beauty, and science of the natural world.

The Amazing Power of Girls: Meet the Universe's Most Powerful and Invisible Forces! by Maria Marianayagam, illustrated by Skylar White (Sourcebooks Explore 6/4/2024) – This is an amazing, dynamic book exploring the strength of girls within the context of physics. Using a double entendre on "force,"' the gorgeous illustrations help expand upon both the scientific elements of forces, as well as the personal aspects of each of the diverse girls in the science club. Ultimately showing them all as "a force…that changes the world." It is a stunning and empowering STEM book for girls!


Synopsis: An accessible and beautiful picture book about our universe's most powerful and invisible forces: girls.

Light-hearted, I go with the flow.

Feel weighed down? Just let it go.

Scientific forces are part of your everyday life, but you can't see them! How do you know they are there? Follow seven girls in this unique spin on introductions to STEM, as they personify and explain each force in their own words, bringing science to life. 

This exciting and beautiful girl-powered, STEM-focused picture book celebrates the strength of girls and their importance to science.

You Are A Garter Snake by Laurie Ann Thompson, illustrated by Jay Fleck (Dial Books 6/4/2024) – Employing the same format as the previous books in this series, succinct scientific text explores the life cycle and habits of garter snakes, while spot illustrations on the spreads show kids acting out highlighted words - such as "STALK! SNEAK! SWIM!" It is a great book for interactively exploring garter snakes with young children.

Synopsis: The fourth in the adorable, STEM nonfiction picture book series that encourages very young readers to learn—through gentle interactivity and play—about the animals who share their world

Stretch, slip, twist! You may have seen a small, sleek garter snake disappear amid rocks or flowers. Did you know that garter snakes sniff with their tongues, huddle together for winter, and spray smelly stuff to scare off predators? From birth to first shedding and beyond, discover all that goes into being a garter snake in this charming picture book, the fourth in the Meet Your World series.

This playful and informative series invites you to take a closer look at the amazing animals that live right alongside you in rural, suburban, and urban landscapes across North America. In each book, words and art inspire you to act out animal actions that are not so different from your own habits. And robust backmatter offers even more facts and fun. From the animals’ families and foods to their environments and behaviors, let’s meet your world!

Else B. in the Sea: The Woman Who Painted the Wonders of the Deep by Jeanne Walker Harvey, illustrated by Melodie Stacey (Abrams/Cameron 6/4/2024) – Stunning watercolor illustrations carry the reader under the ocean in this lyrical biography of a determined, brave, and talented female artist who captured the mysterious, bizare, and beautiful life deep in the sea. Back matter further explores the science of depth, the color spectrum, and bioluminescence and provides additional information on Else B. It is a gorgeous STEAM tribute to a persistent and ingenious artist.

Synopsis: Else B. in the Sea is a poetic picture book biography about a daring and pioneering woman artist that combines themes of art and science from author Jeanne Walker Harvey and illustrator Melodie Stacey.

Else Bostelmann donned a red swimsuit and a copper diving helmet and, with paints and brushes in hand, descended into the choppy turquoise sea off the coast of Bermuda. It was 1930, and few had ventured deep into the sea before. She discovered a fairyland six fathoms below the surface—fantastic coral castles, glittering sunbeams, swaying sea plumes, and slender purple sea fans. And fish! Flashy silverfish, puckering blue parrotfish, iridescent jellyfish.

Else painted under the sea! She painted what she saw with her own eyes, and, back on land, she painted the never-before-seen deep-sea creatures described by world-renowned scientist William Beebe on his momentous 1930s bathysphere expeditions for the New York Zoological Society’s Department of Tropical Research. It was a daring and glamorous adventure and a dream come true for Else B., who shared this new, unfathomable world with humankind.

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


Cheers to you, Maria! Thanks ever so much for this wonderful opportunity. I so appreciate all you do to champion all the writers and illustrators of these amazing STEAM books. Best wishes to YOU!


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

Abi Cushman – Flamingos are Pretty Funky: A [Not So] Serious Guide (Greenwillow/Harper Collins 6/4/2024) -Website:


Maria Marianayagam – The Amazing Power of Girls: Meet the Universe's Most Powerful and Invisible Forces!  (Sourcebooks Explore 6/4/2024) – 


Laurie Ann Thompson –You Are A Garter Snake (Dial Books 6/4/2024) – 


Jeanne Walker Harvey – Else B. in the Sea: The Woman Who Painted the Wonders of the Deep (Abrams/Cameron 6/4/2024) –


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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