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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - June Interview with STEAM Team Books Member Darcy Pattison


Logo image - the words STEAM Team Books And a rainbow of books set on a globe.

Today I have the pleasure to introduce you to an author from the STEAM Team Books group whose book was released yesterday, June 13, 2023.

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.

Author photo of Darcy Pattison.

Welcome Darcy Pattison,


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?...)


I write daily, but I find each day is different and challenging. Multiple projects are in various stages, from first drafts to looking over proof copies. The constant is the desire to provide kids with fascinating, factual stories. I love stories of scientists who struggle, persevere, and finally win through to an amazing result. Equally, I love writing fantasy such as the Kittytubers series, about kittens who act in videos hosted on the imaginary network, Kittytube. The stories are grounded in facts about cats but allows my imagination to have fun. I love the variety of going from fiction to nonfiction.


[Darcy’s the author of over 60 books, including I am the Thirsty Desert (2023), Diego: The Galápagos Giant Tortoise (2022), The Plan for the Gingerbread House: A STEM Engineering Story (2021), A.I.: How Patterns Helped Artificial Intelligence Defeat World Champion Lee Sedol (2021), Erosion: How Hugh Bennett Saved America's Soil and Stopped the Dust Bowl (2020), Nefertiti, the Spidernaut: How a Jumping Spider Learned to Hunt in Space (2016), Liberty (2016), Rowdy: The Pirate Who Could Not Sleep (2016), Burn: Michael Faraday’s Candle (2016), Longing for Normal (2015), The Read and Write Series​ (2015), Vagabonds (2014), The Girl, the Gypsy and the Gargoyle (2014), Saucy and Bubba (2014), The Aliens Inc. Series – short chapter books (2014), Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma: The True Story of an Orphaned Cub (2014), Wisdom, the Midway Albatross: Surviving the Japanese Tsunami and Other Disasters for Over 60 Years (2013). The Kittytubers Series of chapter books includes four titles: When Kittens Go Viral, Kitten Stars, Kittywood, and Kitten Friends.]


I am impressed with the variety of genres you are able to write. What is a fun or unusual place where you’ve written a manuscript?


In good weather, I often work on the back deck of my house. A small, wooded area provides a great view, and at various times, I watch hummingbirds or hawks. The breeze keeps me sharp, and stories flow well. It’s a great place to work.


Sounds like a wonderful place to work. Now that we know a little more about you, what was the inspiration or spark for Aquarium: How Jeannette Power Invented Aquariums to Observe Marine Life?

Cover image of the book Aquarium - with Jeanette Powers, two fishermen, and the Argonauta Argo octopus.

I am a quilter, so I’m interested in fine needlework of any kind. When Jeannette left home for Paris, she first worked for a milliner, someone who makes hats. She must have been very good at needlework of all sorts, because she helped create a wedding gown for the Sicilian princess Maria Carolina. The fact that a woman scientist moved from a seamstress to a marine biologist was fascinating.


But as I studied Jeannette’s work, I also became fascinated with the weird Argonauta Argo octopus, the only octopus which lives in a shell. Jeannette’s work proved that the octopus has a special anatomy which allows it to create its own shell. Her work was only possible because Jeannette invented the aquarium to allow her to study marine creatures closely.


From seamstress to marine biologist to inventor, Jeannette fascinated me. She had pet martens sleeping in her bed, octopuses in her dining room, and butterflies flitting about. Who wouldn’t want to know more about her?


I was already impressed that she bucked the patriarchy - fought for, and eventually received, recognition as a female scientist, but I love that you focused on and explored her discoveries of the Argonauta Argo octopus. Is there anything special you want your readers to know about Aquarium and/or Jeannette Power?

Internal spread - Jeanette Powers on deck of ship sailing from France to Sicily.

Text © Darcy Pattison, 2023. Image © Peter Willis, 2023.


The Association of Jeannette Villepreux-Power Institute in France (http://www.jeanne-villepreux-power.org/) was kind enough to read the manuscript for accuracy. One correction was that Jeannette left France at 17 ½ years old, instead of 16 years old as many sources cited. Whenever possible, I search for original source materials, and in this instance, an expert on the scientist from her native France.


It is so easy for an incorrect fact to be perpetuated through numerous sources. What was the hardest, or most challenging, part of writing or researching Aquarium? Was there a bit of your research you didn’t get to include?

Internal spread - Jeanette Power's notebook, pencil, and paintbrush showing her notes on the octopus.

Text © Darcy Pattison, 2023. Image © Peter Willis, 2023.


The hardest thing about researching Aquarium was the language barrier. Because she was a French scientist working in Sicily, her notebooks were usually in French; in addition, some of the published works were in French, while some were in Sicilian. I used Google Translate for a general translation, then talked with native speakers for clarification where needed.


In addition to her scientific work, Jeannette also fell in love with the island of Sicily. She wrote travel guides to the island. She also worked with butterflies and their caterpillars, and studied meteorites. It’s not surprising that she had varied interests, but it’s sad that a picture book doesn’t allow enough room to discuss all her interests.


Sounds like you could have a middle grade nonfiction in your future. Are there any upcoming projects that you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?


Aquarium is Book 8 of the Moments in Science series which features moments when something happened in science. Each book combines a biography of a scientist with an important scientific discovery or event. Book 9 is slated for 2024, MAGNETS: How William Gilbert Discovered that the Earth is a Great Magnet.

That sounds really interesting! Last question, what is the best advice you’ve ever gotten - whether it’s regarding writing/ illustrating or not ?


Writers write. In the early years, I had four children and homeschooled them. People would ask, “How do you find time to write?”


“I don’t know,” I answered. “But you find time to do what is important to you. It’s important for me to write. So, somehow, I find the time.”


It’s a question no one can answer for you. But if writing is a priority, you must find the time somewhere.


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

Cover image of the book Aquarium - with Jeanette Powers, two fishermen, and the Argonauta Argo octopus.

Aquarium: How Jeannette Power Invented Aquariums to Observe Marine Life by Darcy Pattison, illustrated by Peter Willis (Mims House Books 6/13/2023) - This colorful, fun nonfiction biography explores Jeannette Power's fascination with the sea and marine life in the early 19th century. It explores her experiments to find a means by which to study the sea creatures alive, which resulted in the creation of the first aquariums. And allowed for her groundbreaking study and discoveries of the Argonauta argo octopus. Modeling the scientific method, the text highlights Jeannette's predictions, observations, analysis, repetition, and ultimately the creation of a conclusion.

Internal image of one of the first aquariums with an octopus and ocean fish inside.

The back matter offers information on the “World’s Weirdest Octopus,” the first aquariums, the history of oceanography, and additional information of Jeannette Villepreux Power and her other interests.

Text © Darcy Pattison, 2023. Image © Peter Willis, 2023.


Synopsis: In 1818, Jeannette Power, a young French woman moved to Sicily and fell in love with the Mediterranean Sea and the Argonauta Argo octopus, the weirdest octopus on Earth.


Amazing weird fact: The Argonaut octopus creates a delicate shell for itself which it uses to travel up and down in the water and as a safe place to raise its young.


At the time, though, the only way to study a marine animal was if it was dead on land. That wasn't good enough. Jeannette wanted to study this creature alive. She had many questions: did it create its own shell, how did it reproduce, what did it eat, and did it know she was watching? She knew that careful observation was the only way to answer her questions.


Follow French scientist Jeannette Power on her quest for answers about one of the most mysterious marine animals on Earth.

Thank you Darcy for giving us a little peek into yourself and your book. Wishing you enormous success with this book.


To learn more about Darcy Pattison, or contact her:

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Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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