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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - May Interview with STEAM Team Books Members

Today I have the pleasure to introduce you to six 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 great books and fascinating creatives.

"STEAM Team Books is a group of authors who have a STEM/STEAM book releasing in 2021. It includes fiction & nonfiction, trade or educational books.”

Welcome Everyone,

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?...)

Susan Hughes – Sounds All Around: The Science of How Sound Works (Kids Can Press 5/1/21) – I began writing as a child, probably because I loved reading books so much. Luckily, I had a few friends that also loved to write; when we were 8 and 9, we formed a writers’ club. We’d meet and exchange our poems and stories and give each other support and suggestions--a first critique group!

While at university, doing an English degree, I got an amazing summer job working for a local children’s publishing company. I had the opportunity to do research, write, edit, proofread … A true education in the highly collaborative publishing process.

When I graduated I knew I wanted to be a writer and editor. I have always worked as a freelancer, doing lots of writing and editing for educational publishers at first and now enjoying story coaching and critiquing manuscripts from clients around the world. I’ve been fortunate to be able to carve out time and space for my own writing of stories, both fiction and non-fiction, for a wide range of kid audiences!

[Author of 44 books, including Walking for Water: How One Boy Stood Up for Gender Equality (6/1/2021), Carmen and the House That Gaudi Built (3/15/21), Upsy-Daisy, Baby! (2019), Walking in the City with Jane: A Story of Jane Jacobs (2018), Suffrage: Canadian Women and the Vote (2018), and Maggie McGillicuddy's Eye for Trouble (2016).]

Tracy Marchini - Princesses Can Fix It!(Page Street Kids 5/1/2021) - In second grade, I got in trouble for handing in a book report on a book that I myself had written, and I remember buying myself a typewriter around fifth grade so that I could feel like the writers I’d seen in books and movies! So I guess I’ve always been writing, and as an adult, I love writing for children because there’s so much room for awe and whimsy. Anything is possible in children’s literature - because for young children, anything is still possible for them. And I love that - I love being able to write from a sense of wonder! (And what’s more wonder-ful than the intersection of art and science?!)

[Author of Chicken Wants a Nap (2017).]

Karen Yin - Whole Whale (Barefoot Books 5/1/21) –I’m happiest when I’m writing. No, wait—I’m happiest after I’ve written. The act of writing itself can be plodding and painful. I forget how to English, and my self-esteem plummets. But I know that if I can cough up the first sentence, that leads to a page, and that leads to a draft. And to have a completed story is the most wonderful feeling. I’ve written scripts, short stories, and scholarly pieces, but children’s books are my favorite. Why? Because I get to prolong my childhood and just be funny. And that balances out my social justice work as the founder of Conscious Style Guide, a resource for conscious language. I also write middle-grade and young-adult novels, so I’m blessed to be immersed in kidlit and the wonderful kidlit community.

[Debut Picture Book Author.]

Debra Kempf ShumakerFreaky, Funky Fish: Odd Facts about Fascinating Fish (Running Press Kids 5/4/2021) - I grew up on a farm in a big family and we couldn’t do much outside of the immediate world around us. I was also quite shy. But books—books could take me anywhere. I could be anyone I wanted to be in a book. Books filled in some of those empty spaces . And as I grew up and did different things, books were always my constant. When I had kids and started reading picture books with them, I realized I wanted to be more than a reader. I wanted to write, and I wanted to write picture books. It took 12+ years, but it’s finally happening!

I’ve written so many manuscripts—both fiction and nonfiction—over the years. Most of what I write comes from a sense of wonder or awe, stumbling over a trivial fact I didn’t know, a historical event or person I had never heard of but still mattered. I want kids to open up books and get lost in them—like I did when I was a kid. And STEAM books are the perfect avenue to cultivate that wonder and awe.

[Debut Picture Book Author.]

Elizabeth Shreeve - Out of the Blue: How Animals Evolved from Prehistoric Seas (Candlewick Press 5/11/21) – I grew up in a family of writers and scientists along the Atlantic coastline. In 9th grade, my English teacher challenged us by saying that unless you can explain something in words, you really don’t understand it. Yikes! This statement doomed me to life as a writer. Starting with poetry and journaling as a child and then years of business writing, I started writing stories for my kids and became the author of children’s books. These days, from our home in the Bay Area, I’m focused on nonfiction, returning happily to early interests in geology, biology, and paleontology.

[Author of 7 books, including Captain Freddy Counts Down to School (2016), Oliver at the Window (2009), and The Adventures of Hector Fuller chapter book series (2004).]

Elizabeth Pagel-HoganThe Science and Technology of Leonardo da Vinci (Nomad Press 5/15/21) - 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 Even Fairies Bake Mistakes (1/1/2021), Quest for the Unicorn's Horn (1/1/2021), 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).]

What is something no one (or few) knows about you?

Susan Hughes – If I wasn’t a writer and editor of books, I’d like to be a writer and editor of radio or film. Or the person who travels around collecting art pieces for a gallery. Also, I wish I hadn’t stopped playing the piano … One day, I plan to begin playing again, perhaps even taking some lessons!

Tracy Marchini - When I was researching my family tree, I learned that Lady Diana and I share a seven-times-great grandmother (Cecily Garret), so I am a very, very, very, very distant cousin of a real Princess.

Karen Yin – I used to have over a hundred stuffed animals. Now I only keep a core family of plushes around, because it would break my heart to get rid of them.

Debra Kempf ShumakerWhen I was in the 7th grade in 1985, we had to write down what we thought our life would be in the year 2000. I wrote down I would be married to a farmer and have six kids—at the age of 30! I couldn’t have been more wrong. In the year 2000, I was living in the suburbs of Washington, D.C, and planning my wedding. No kids until a few years later, and just three, LOL.

Elizabeth Shreeve - Before becoming a full-time writer, I had a terrific career in the architecture/urban planning field. And it happened because of bathrooms! Here’s how: in college, I majored in geology but took a lot of art classes. Located between the science and art departments stood the Graduate School of Design. During cold New England winters, I often walked through the design school lobby where the restrooms were handy and the walls were lined with fabulous drawings. So inspiring! I ended up getting a Masters in Landscape Architecture and worked for 35 years at a design firm, SWA Group, where I’m still a Principal and member of the Board of Directors.

Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan – I lived in Berlin, Germany, while the city and country was still divided. Our apartment was quite close to the Berlin Wall.

That was fun! Now that we know a little more about all of you, what inspired you to write your book?

Susan Hughes – Sounds All Around: The Science of How Sound Works (5/1/21) –This book actually began as a simple exploration of different sounds and then morphed into this closer and more complex (although at a primary level!) look at sounds—what makes sounds, how we hear, and so on.

Tracy Marchini - Princesses Can Fix It! (5/1/2021) - – I always loved the fairy tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses – where twelve princesses sneak off to an underground ball and dance the night away, leaving a confused king and twelve pairs of shoes with holes in them each morning. I was talking about how to take a familiar concept and twist it for a picture book audience, and so I said something about taking The Twelve Dancing Princesses and adding a STEAM element to make it The Twelve Building Princesses – and then I was like, “No wait, I want to write that one!”

Karen Yin - Whole Whale (5/1/21) – I knew from the beginning that the story must involve a blue whale and fitting her into something small, because I kept hearing the refrain, “But surely not a whole whale!” That changed later on, but the original line drove the rest of the story, which involved cramming a hundred animals into the book. Because there were a hundred, the connection to counting was obvious. And then Barefoot Books built a beautiful page at the end that showed all the creatures so readers can identify them throughout the book for super STEAM-liciousness.

Debra Kempf ShumakerFreaky, Funky Fish: Odd Facts about Fascinating Fish (5/4/2021) - I had been focusing on writing picture book biographies for years and not having luck connecting with an editor. After a phone call with my agent in the spring of 2018, I decided to switch gears. I started reading more and more science/nature picture books and loved rhyming books about bugs, squirrels, rocks, water, etc. They were just so fun! I remembered research I had done about fish years earlier for a funny, fiction picture book I wrote and recalled how many strange and awesome fish there were. And I knew that’s what I wanted to write—a fun, factual picture book about strange fish.

Elizabeth Shreeve - Out of the Blue: How Animals Evolved from Prehistoric Seas (5/11/21) – I grew up with sand between my toes. Herring gulls, horseshoe crabs, the smell of a mudflat at low tide—those were the backdrops to my childhood on Long Island’s south shore. I feel most at home at beaches and shorelines where so many fascinating creatures make their homes. So when the topic and title for Out of the Blue came up through my agent, I dove in.

Elizabeth Pagel-HoganThe Science and Technology of Leonardo da Vinci (5/15/21) - I’ve always had an interest in science. In college, I majored in both biology and history. But I think what drew me to Leonardo da Vinci wasn’t just his inventions - it was his personality. He was incredibly curious about the world around him. He truly loved the nature world and wanted to know all he could about how everything worked. How birds flew, how water flowed, how our hearts beat, why the moon was bright, why the sky was blue! I loved that about Leonardo.

So many different ways to get inspired. Who was a favorite/special author, illustrator, and/or favorite book as a child?

Susan Hughes – I think I read every single dog and horse book ever written. I loved the pony books written by the British sisters Christine and Josephine Pullein-Thompson. I loved Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh and The Yearling by Marjorie Rawlings. The first book I ever bought as a child was The Bushbaby by William Stevenson.

Tracy Marchini - I loved, and still have, my copy of Chatty Chipmunk’s Nutty Day by Suzanne Gruber and Doug Cushman. I loved the open feel of the art and the alliteration in the text. It was just fun to read out loud!

Karen Yin – Arty the Smarty, by Faith McNulty and Albert Aquino, holds the honor of being the most influential book in my life. Arty, you see, was a fish, but not just a fish. He was an independent thinker who used cleverness and humor to get things done. By swimming this way while the other fish swam that way, he made off with food, he made the others laugh, and he made meanies go away. This profound message of smarts and perseverance instilled in young me the hope and courage and curiosity I needed to keep moving forward when life was difficult. More importantly, I learned that thinking differently and being different were advantages. Many of my stories have their Artys who change the world by thinking and doing for themselves. [Sounds a lot like Tacky, the Penguin by Helen Lester.]

Debra Kempf Shumaker I don’t remember picture books from my childhood, but I do remember these Disney Encyclopedias we had gotten second hand. It was a set of 12 or 15 books and they were full of facts, like encyclopedias, but with a Disney character narrator and fun commentary. I thumbed through those for years.

Elizabeth Shreeve - My dad loved the Oz books and shared his collection with us. I must have read all 22 of them at least four times. If you know the series, you’ll remember that some of the stories are pretty strange. And if you love them, as I did, you’ll remember the fun of visiting that strange and delightful land. Dorothy was my role model—so brave, adventurous, friendly, and lucky! No one ever had to rescue her or marry her, either. I inherited the collection (or rather, I swiped it from my dad before my three brothers could get their hands on it…) and someday I’m going to read them all again.

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.

What a great list of books; including a couple I'm going to have to try and find. Is there anything special you want your readers to know about your book ?

Text © Susan Hughes, 2021. Image © Ellen Rooney, 2021.

Susan Hughes – Sounds All Around: The Science of How Sound Works (5/1/21) – The story is nonfiction, sharing information about sound in a fun easy-to-understand way—but the illustrations show the story of a young boy and his very precocious dog exploring sounds throughout their day. This gives the text a lovely flow from beginning to end!

Text © Tracy Marchini, 2021. Image © Julia Christians, 2021.

Tracy Marchini - Princesses Can Fix It! (5/1/2021) - One of the things I wanted to show through the book, was that rigid expectations about what someone should or shouldn’t do is harmful to all genders. The Princesses want to build, invent and experiment, and the Prince wants to step outside of what he’s expected to do too. I think it’s important for children to feel safe in exploring their passions – no matter what they might be!

Text © Karen Yin, 2021. Image © Nelleke Verhoeff, 2021.

Karen Yin - Whole Whale (5/1/21) – Whole Whale is the perfect gift and a keeper for your own library. The solution to the animals’ dilemma is revealed in a gorgeous spread that folds out about four feet long, which is so fun for kids and adults! And Nelleke Verhoeff’s quirky illustrations are so engaging. I’m still finding new things in the art. Do you think you can find one hundred animals?

Text © Debra Kempf Shumaker, 2021. Image © Claire Powell, 2021.

Debra Kempf ShumakerFreaky, Funky Fish: Odd Facts about Fascinating Fish (5/4/2021) - The illustrations by Claire Powell are AMAZING! She injected personality into each fish and each page. She completely understood that this book, while factual, was also meant to be fun—because science can be fun!

Text © Elizabeth Shreeve, 2021. Image © Frann Preston-Gannon, 2021.

Elizabeth Shreeve - Out of the Blue: How Animals Evolved from Prehistoric Seas (5/11/21) – I truly hope that young readers will begin to appreciate the long, amazing history of life on Earth. Out of the Blue describes how animals evolved in the oceans and moved onto land. It’s a huge topic, and I often felt overwhelmed during the writing process. I reached out to some top scientists for help, and they were incredibly generous. (Some of them also provided interviews for teaching videos on my YouTube Channel, by the way.) But now that I see the book, illustrated so beautifully by Frann Preston-Gannon, I’m thrilled! I hope that readers will gain more understanding of the importance of healthy oceans, too.

Text © Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan, 2021. Image © Micah Rauch, 2021.

Elizabeth Pagel-HoganThe Science and Technology of Leonardo da Vinci (5/15/21) - I hope readers know how powerful it is to ask questions. Many kids think they should not ask questions. They are afraid if they ask a question, they will show what they don’t know. Or they will irritate someone. I hope readers learn how important questions are. Be brave.

So, what was the hardest, or most challenging, part of writing or researching your book?

Susan Hughes – Sounds All Around: The Science of how Sound Works (5/1/21) – I didn’t know much about the physics of sound before I began writing the story, so it was challenging to both learn about the concepts and then share them with readers in a way to make them both accessible and accurate.

Tracy Marchini - Princesses Can Fix It! (5/1/2021) - I actually drew out several possibilities for the alligator machine to figure out how the three princesses could combine the six simple machines. It also made me think about how the girls’ personalities would align with the type of building or creating they did. For example, Harriet is expected to play the harp, but in the workshop, she’s a master at using rope and strings alongside Lila’s pulleys and metal work.

Karen Yin - Whole Whale (5/1/21) – Coming up with the perfect words for my perfect rhyme was challenging, especially since I’m a rhyme noob. It was daunting to learn enough about rhyme so I could honor its basic rules, but I found a simple, fun rhythm that is easy for young readers to follow along.

Debra Kempf ShumakerFreaky, Funky Fish: Odd Facts about Fascinating Fish (5/4/2021) - Writing it in rhyme! I had so many fish I wanted to include in the book but had to keep out because I couldn’t find another fish with a unique feature that rhymed or I couldn’t get the meter to work. It became a huge puzzle of looking for rhymes, moving phrases, using a thesaurus to find substitute words that worked, etc. While it wasn’t easy, I had a blast.

Elizabeth Shreeve - Out of the Blue: How Animals Evolved from Prehistoric Seas (5/11/21) – As soon as I committed to this project, I was in big trouble. Sure, I have a background in science. I’ve done field work in coral reefs. I was already writing about evolution, with a couple of other books under contract. But the subject is SO BROAD! The transition of animals from water to land is, after all, basically the history of life on Earth. When I pointed this out, my agent laughed and suggested that I try to rustle something up. How about a thousand words or so? So I rustled, beginning with a whole lot of research.

Elizabeth Pagel-HoganThe Science and Technology of Leonardo da Vinci (5/15/21) - Definitely writing the instructions for the activities! I used to demonstrate science activities all the time, every day, on stage and in classrooms. But explaining them without being able to show someone is very tricky. I hope I did a good job.

Learning the science and figuring out the rhyme seem to be the biggest challenges. Ready for the million dollar question? How are you staying creative? What things are you doing to “prime” the well?

Susan Hughes – Actually, I find I’m busier than ever. So many clients are sending me their own work now, so I am inspired by assisting them in their creative endeavors. And I’ve been pleased that I’m continuing to get more ideas of my own and am continuing to dedicate time every week to pursue my writing. I always have manuscripts on the go in various forms--doodle notes, first drafts, more-polished drafts--while there are others I’m sending out on submission to publishers.

Tracy Marchini - As the weather warms up, I’m hoping to find more opportunities to get outside and see if I can find more inspiration from nature (specifically, the sun. I’m like a cat in that I find whatever sliver of sunlight there is and would just lay in it all day if I could.)

Karen Yin – Thanks to the Libby app, I’m always reading e-books from my local libraries. When I read, my brain flexes its little gray muscles—just kidding, STEAM people, there are no muscles in the brain. But whenever I get stuck with my story, I take a break. I read a chapter from another book. I take a walk. I make myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. And while I’m not thinking about being creative, my creative juices start flowing, and I’m ready to go back to my desk.

Debra Kempf ShumakerReading. I think reading is my answer to everything, LOL. But when I read the newspaper, magazines, online articles, and books for both adults and kids, I find things I want to know more about. Which leads me to more reading. And that keeps the creativity and passion to write flowing. (But sometimes I have to force myself to quit reading and actually write.)

Elizabeth Shreeve - I love to learn and write about the origins of life on Earth. Through the recent tough times of pandemic, wildfires, and heated politics, the lost worlds of prehistory have served as a wonder-filled refuge. Who knew that sloths used to live in Alaska (they were huge!) or that sharks first evolved over 400 million years ago (they were strange!)? I love to reach out to scientists doing work on topics that I’m researching. Many have become new friends. For ideas, I watch videos like PBS Eons. I scan through the many journals that I subscribe to, such as Nature, New Scientist, and Scientific American. There’s no shortage of new scientific research—it’s just a question of what’s suited as the seed of a story for kids.

Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan –For me, getting outside and moving - like walking or running - is one of the best ways to stimulate my creativity. When I am active, my blood is pumping and my ideas flow. I go birding every day and I go running every day. Even when the weather is bad, I get outside. For me, stepping away from the distractions of the house helps me think deeply. And I’m certain to see something that makes me wonder.

Are there any upcoming projects that you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?

Susan Hughes – I’m writing another picture book biography—and a playful picture book meta-story. And I’m also noodling away on a verse novel, a form I haven’t explored before.

Tracy Marchini - I’m working on another fun, funny STEAM picture book, and also hoping that I get to use my idea for the Princesses and a catapult…!

Karen Yin – During a bout of insomnia, I wrote a picture book. Everybody who’s read it says it’s one of the best things I’ve written. So, my takeaway is that sometimes stories work better without all the layers. And, fingers crossed, it’s going out on submission in May!

Debra Kempf Shumaker My second picture book, TELL SOMEONE, is coming out this fall with Albert Whitman. TELL SOMEONE encourages kids to talk about things—both the easy stuff and the hard stuff.

And I’m thrilled to say that Running Press Kids is publishing a companion book to FREAKY, FUNKY FISH, also illustrated by Claire Powell. From funny faces and colored butts to flossing teeth and thumping chests, PECULIAR PRIMATES will hit bookshelves in the fall of 2022.

Elizabeth Shreeve - I’ve got other nonfiction books under contract including one about the evolution of sloths, The Upside-Down Book of Sloths (Norton Young Readers), set to be illustrated by the amazing Steve Jenkins. Several projects are on submission through my agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette. Most are nonfiction for upper elementary to middle school aged readers, plus some poetry. And I’m gearing up for author visits by creating a series of teaching videos for Out of the Blue. These are available for educators and others on my YouTube Channel, Elizabeth Shreeve Books. I hope you’ll check them out!

Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan – I’m so proud to say I’ve just finished a young adult nonfiction book profiling 15 animal scientists from around the world. The book is called Animal Allies and it’s part of the Women in Power series. The manuscript is being edited now. It will be released in 2022. I was honored to interview and write about these incredible scientists and their groundbreaking work.

These sound fun! We'll definitely have to keep our eyes open for them. If you could meet anyone (real or literary), who would that be?

Susan Hughes – I would very much like to meet Glenn Gould, the amazing Canadian pianist. His grave is actually in the cemetery that is a few blocks near my home. I go for a run every other day and often pop in to say hello to him. I’d love to go for a walk with him, and chat, and maybe I’d even be able to convince him to play a short piece for me.

Tracy Marchini - I would have loved to have had a conversation with Marie Curie. Not only was she the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, but she was the first person to win a Nobel Prize in two different fields (physics and chemistry). In fifth grade I was Marie Curie for the science fair, and I’ve always been fascinated by her perseverance, intellect, and generosity.

Karen Yin – I would love to meet Shakespeare, because then we can stop wondering who it is.

Debra Kempf ShumakerLouisa Swain. She isn’t well known but I did write a picture book about her after I read that she was the first woman to legally vote in an election under equal suffrage laws—in 1870 in Wyoming. Louisa was born in Virginia, orphaned young, and spent her childhood in the first public orphanage in Charleston, SC. She lived at the edge of poverty most of her life but still got up early on the morning of September 7th, at the age of 70, to stand first in line to vote. I want to ask her so many questions! Alas, the book never sold.

Elizabeth Shreeve - I’d really like to hang out with Ozma of Oz. If she’s not available, how about David Attenborough?

Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan – I would not mind meeting Leonardo da Vinci!

This would be the most amazing social in the world! What is your favorite animal? Or one you are enamored with right now. Why?

Susan Hughes – Dogs, always!

Tracy Marchini - Ducks - because you can’t not smile when you’re looking at a duckling. Also, let me share some excellent duck facts with you: 1.) Ducks can fly at 55 mph. 2.) Ducks make excellent guard “dogs” - domesticated ducks are protective of their families and can break a man’s arm with their wing. (I cannot even imagine having to tell someone that a duck broke your arm.) 3.) Ducks are born knowing how to feed themselves. 4.) Wood ducks are born in a nest high in a tree, and their mother goes to a nearby body of water and calls until they jump out. (You can find video of this from PBS’s DUCKumentary. It’s amazing!)

Karen Yin – Some of my best friends are cats and lop-eared bunnies. I haven’t thought about writing a picture book with them, though. I would love to dedicate a picture book to my Saffy, a most special cat and a dear friend who I lost in March 2020 after quarantine began.

Debra Kempf ShumakerHow can I say anything else but fish!? [Ha!]

Elizabeth Shreeve - We found a goofy, wonderful puppy on Craigslist and named him Hector. He came to us after we’d lost a beloved young person in our family. Our hearts were broken, and Hector made us laugh again. He’s a great traveler and has accompanied my husband and me on road trips over the last year, visiting national parks and fossil sites. We call him Hector the PaleoDog. He doesn’t smell very good but he’s a good soul.

Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan – I do love our schnoodle, but birds are truly fascinating. I think they are my favorite animal. Perhaps tied with dogs.

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

Synopsis: A comprehensive exploration of sound for young children that's friendly, fun and easy to digest. From a cat's purr to a thunderstorm's clap, from a friend's voice to a school bell's clang, sounds can lull us, entice us or call us to action. But how does sound happen? How do we hear it? What makes some sounds loud and some soft? Some high pitched and some low pitched? How do humans and animals use sound to communicate? Which sounds happen naturally, and which are created for a specific purpose? This charming picture book explores all of these questions in child-friendly language, offering readers a gentle introduction to how sound works that will encourage them to stop and listen. In this highly original book, Susan Hughes uses appealing and inviting text that speaks directly to young children to explain the physics of sound. From describing how sounds are made by the vibrations of air, to identifying and considering the different sources of sound and its properties (pitch, tone, volume), this book is an excellent curriculum-based tool for physical science that strongly supports the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for kindergarten and first grade. Ellen Rooney's sweet, playful illustrations colorfully illuminate the concepts, incorporating the same character and his dog on every spread. Easy-to-understand decibel and hertz charts are included. There is also a fun activity and a glossary.

A young boy and his adorably, cheeky dog explore natural and man-made sounds. As they learn about sound waves and how we hear them, the boy serves as a stand in for the reader in this second person point of view narrative. The pair learns about pitch, ultrasonic and infrasonic sounds, volume, and decibels, with wonderful graphics and simple tasks and explanations beautifully tied into a child's experiences. A simple experiment and glossary round out a captivating STEM picture book on sound.

Synopsis: The castle is crawling with wayward alligators, and the clueless king doesn’t know how to fix it. Lila, Margaret, and Harriet have lots of ideas, but their father won’t listen! According to him, the Princesses should be focusing on proper pursuits like drawing, jewelry, and music. When the three girls start falling asleep during the day, the King sends the Prince to investigate …

What he discovers is that the three princesses are gathering at night to use their knowledge of the six simple machines to invent an ingenious alligator removal contraption in their secret workshop.

This STEAM-focused take on the classic fairy tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses includes fun illustrations bursting with hilarious detail (and alligators), zany characters, and three inspiring princesses who know that they have what takes to save the day.

With a fun refrain, a disguised prince, and a half dozen or so playful alligators, this fun fiction picture book explores how kids can buck expectations and use STEAM to solve problems. It's a bit of slapstick humor stirred into a narrative of self-determination and empowerment.

Synopsis: One hundred unusual animals try to squeeze into the pages of this raucous rhyming tale. But will there be room to fit a whole blue whale? The humorous ending features an expansive double gatefold and educational endnotes list the 100 animals in the book.

If they can all get along, the animals feel confident they can fit 100 of them into the book. But what about "a whole blue whale?" As more and more animals meander into the story, kids will enjoy the rhyme and wacky antics of familiar, and more unusual, animals. As portions of the blue whale appear interspersed throughout the pages. A wonderful way to introduce the math skills of predicting, counting, and estimating. Fortunately, a list confirms the animals in the book, encouraging kids to go through and find any they missed.

Synopsis: Fish have fins and gills and tails. All fish swim and most have scales. But not all fish act or look the same. From zapping, stinging, even singing, Freaky, Funky Fish: Odd Facts about Fascinating Fish is an adorable picture book with a scientific—and child-friendly—underpinning. With examples of different fish for each description, as well as extensive backmatter explaining the fascinating science behind these variety of fish, this funky book captures the wonder of our ecosystem.

What a fascinating way to showcase some of the strangest fish in the world. It combines a snappy rhyme with a 1 to 5 "freaky rating," entrancing illustrations, onomatopoeia, and amazing facts (like a fish that coats itself in snot?!) The species designations, "field notes," and detailed backmatter beautifully meld with the almost cartoon like illustrations to create a fun STEM book on some pretty odd fish. It is so captivating; you forget your actually learning.

Synopsis: Graceful, succinct prose and engaging illustrations trace the evolution of life on Earth out of the blue and back again.

Clear and inviting nonfiction prose, vetted by scientists—together with lively illustrations and a time line—narrate how life on Earth emerged “out of the blue.” It began in the vast, empty sea when Earth was young. Single-celled microbes too small to see held the promise of all life-forms to come. Those microbes survived billions of years in restless seas until they began to change, to convert sunlight into energy, to produce oxygen until one day—Gulp!—one cell swallowed another, and the race was on. Learn how and why creatures began to emerge from the deep—from the Cambrian Explosion to crustaceans, mollusks to fishes, giant reptiles to the rise of mammals—and how they compare to the animals we know today, in a lively and accessible outing into the prehistoric past that boils a complex subject down to its lyrical essence.

An interesting examination of the evolution of life on Earth from the Archean Eon to Cenozoic Era (or present). Beginning by asking whether a hippo, dolphin, or shark are more closely related, this book traces microbes to trilobites to centipedes to insects to fish and ultimately to dinosaurs and mammals. After exploring the effects of several extinction events, it ultimately answers the question. Wonderful illustrations explore the changing landscape and fun diversity within each time period.

Synopsis: A science biography that examines the life and work of Leonardo da Vinci and offers kids the opportunity to make their own designs and inventions with hands-on activities!

Leonardo da Vinci is famous for the Mona Lisa and other works of art. His other claim to fame? Being an inventor!

During the Renaissance, inventors and other creative thinkers designed and constructed many new things. It was a time of discovery, wonder, and exploration. And one of the people on the forefront of that awakening was Leonardo da Vinci. In The Science and Technology of Leonardo da Vinci, readers ages 9 through 12 explore the life of one of the world’s most amazing minds. They discover what it might have been like to live in the fourteenth century, when work, entertainment, medicine, travel, and food were very different. They ponder the same kinds of questions that drove Leonardo to tinker and experiment endlessly, even while creating artwork that influenced entire generations who came after him. What is the inside of the body like? How might humans fly? How can geometry be used to design stronger buildings?

His dedication to invention, experimentation, and art, along with his insatiable curiosity, gave the world new insight into anatomy, botany, engineering, and much more. Kids gain these same insights through hands-on STEM activities, essential questions, text-to-world connections, and links to online resources, including primary sources, that encourage readers to take a closer look at the world of the Renaissance.

  • Projects use materials already found in most homes, reimagining and repurposing everyday items as well as those found in the recycling bin.

  • Make career connections in the fields of engineering, art, medicine, and more!

  • Aligns with Common Core State Standards.

  • Projects include designing a parachute, making a camera obscura, working with perspective, and designing a water clock.

  • Addresses disciplinary core ideas (e.g., "Structure and Properties of Matter") and crosscutting concepts (e.g., "Energy and Matter;" "Influence of Engineering, Technology, and Science on Society and the Environment") for NSTA's NGSS curriculum.

  • Numerous, direct connections to Dimension 2 of the C3 Framework ("History" Grades 3-5), providing opportunities for young readers to explore how a historically significant person evolved in context and engendered both scientific and social change.

  • Additional materials include a glossary, a list of media for further learning, a selected bibliography, and index.

Combining cartoons, photos, detailed illustrations, sidebar glossaries, QR code links to primary sources, and fun STEM experiments (like a rubber band box lute or a camera obscura), this book introduces kids to Leonardo Da Vinci, his art, engineering masterpieces, and discoveries of anatomy. As well as his theories and tinkerings with mathematics, Astronomy, and flight. Exploring themes of taking risks, making mistakes, fascinating changes in scientific beliefs and society, and current creations and discoveries that derived from his work, this is a really enjoyable read about an amazing and complex man.

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

To learn more about these writers, or to get in touch with them:

Susan Hughes – Sounds All Around: The Science of how Sound Works (Kids Can Press 5/1/21)

Tracy Marchini - Princesses Can Fix It! (Page Street Kids 5/1/2021) –

Karen Yin - Whole Whale (Barefoot Books 5/1/21) –

The Conscious Language Newsletter:

Debra Kempf ShumakerFreaky, Funky Fish: Odd Facts about Fascinating Fish (Running Press Kids 5/4/2021) -

Elizabeth Shreeve - Out of the Blue: How Animals Evolved from Prehistoric Seas (Candlewick Press 5/11/21) –

Elizabeth Pagel-HoganThe Science and Technology of Leonardo da Vinci (Nomad Press 5/15/21)


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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