The Picture Book Buzz - October Interview with STEAM Team Books Members
Today I have the pleasure to introduce you to seven 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.”
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?...)
S.K. Wenger (10/1/21) - Chicken Frank Dinosaur (Albert Whitman 10/1/2021) – I’ve been reading, writing, and exploring—through words on the page and outside in the natural world—for most of my life. But I didn’t start learning about the publishing industry until after I finished my Masters of Science degree in 1995. My first job offer at that time came in the form of a phone call out of the blue from author Jim Fergus to write about my experiences in Rocky Mountain National Park. I had spent 2 years doing research at the park and he was putting together a natural history guide. Even though Jim had to step away from that project a few months later in order to focus on his novel, One Thousand White Women, the opportunity and path for publication had been illuminated. Shortly thereafter I turned toward my interest in writing for children. My very first informational story was published in 2001 in a collection for Grade 3 called Short-Short Stories for Reading Aloud (The Mailbox Company). After that, my next stories were 16-page leveled readers focused on STEM topics from Benchmark Education in 2007. Over the years I’ve written in different genres, and I always enjoy weaving elements of the natural world into my writing. I feel extra sparkly when the story pivots on humor.
Christy Mihaly – Water: A Deep Dive of Discovery (Barefoot Books 10/4/2021) - I live in Vermont, where being surrounded by all that green (or orange in the fall, or white in the winter) makes me happy. I'm a former lawyer who spent 25 years defending clean air and water, open space, and public health. I started seriously writing for kids in 2012, and I've written about 30 titles (including a few in the pipeline). I'm particularly drawn to writing nonfiction. And I write poetry.
My books cover topics from free speech to hayfields to food. I hope my books will encourage young people to be engaged and curious about the things I write about. And I especially hope that WATER will charm children with the wonders and magic that water can perform, while explaining the central role water plays in the life of our planet.
[Author of 24 books, including Free For You And Me (2020), Governing The United States series (2020), Shaping The Debate Series (2019), Hey, Hey, Hay! (2018), Diet For A Changing Planet: Food For Thought (2018), and poems in the Imperfect: Poems About Mistakes Anthology (2018).]
Laura Chamberlain Gehl – Who Is A Scientist? (Lerner 10/5/2021) - I write board books, picture books, and early readers, both fiction and nonfiction. Picking a favorite type of book to write would be like picking a favorite one of my four kids—I love writing different kinds of books for different reasons. I also like working on both fiction and nonfiction at the same time, because when one project starts getting frustrating, I can hop over to another one. For example, if I can’t think of the perfect ending for a fiction picture book, I can switch to doing research for a nonfiction picture book. Definitely beats staring into space for hours on end!
I’ve always loved both writing and science. In third grade, I thought I was going to be a chemist, and I tried to memorize the periodic table…but I also worked on my first picture book. Flash forward almost twenty years, and I wrote my first published picture book, One Big Pair of Underwear, while working in a neurobiology lab. Many of my books have STEAM themes—not just my nonfiction books, but my fiction books as well.
[Author of 9 Board Books, including Brilliant Baby Fights Germs(2021) and Brilliant Baby Explores Science (2021), Brilliant Baby Plays Music (2021), Brilliant Baby Does Math (2021), Baby Paleontologist (2020), Baby Botanist (2020), Baby Oceanographer (2019), & Baby Astronaut (2019). 19 Picture Books, including The Ninja Club Sleepover (2020), May Saves the Day (2020), Happy Llamakkah (2020), Juniper Kai: Super Spy (2019), Always Looking Up: Nancy Grace Roman, Astronomer (She Made History) (2019) and 2 early readers Goat Wants to Eat (July 2021) and Cat Has a Plan (2020).]
Cynthia Argentine - Night Becomes Day: Changes in Nature (Lerner 10/5/2021) – I live in central Indiana in a town known for a brick-paved Main Street and many parks. When writing, I gravitate to STEAM topics, which isn’t surprising, since I come from a family of scientists, engineers, artists, and mathematicians! My first published piece for kids was an article titled “An Amber Time Warp,” which appeared in Odyssey: Adventures in Science in 2010. I wrote regularly for that magazine and another one before I shifted to writing books.
[Author of middle grade STEAM Jobs in Cybersecurity (2019).]
Theanne Griffith - The Magnificent Makers #4: The Great Germ Hunt (Random House 10/5/2021) – I’ve always had two passions: science and storytelling. I received my BA in neuroscience from Smith College, and subsequently went on to obtain my doctorate in the same subject from Northwestern University. I currently run a sensory neuroscience research program at Rutgers University. A few years ago, I decided to seriously pursue my second passion as a children’s book author. Given my background, it was natural for me to write science-themed books. I’m a staunch advocate of science education and finding creative ways to get kids excited about science. It really is a dream come true to be able to combine my two passions to accomplish this.
[Author of 4 books - The Magnificent Makers ~ #3(Riding Sound Waves)(2020), #1(How to Test a Friendship) & #2 (Brain Trouble) (5/19/2020).]
Darcy Pattison - The Plan for the Gingerbread House: A STEM Engineering Story (Mims House 10/12/2021) - Like everyone, the COVID19 pandemic has disrupted my life in the last 18 months! One thing I did to combat the loneliness and discouragement was take a poetry class, A Lyrical Language Lab from the amazing Reneé M. LaTulippe (https://www.reneelatulippe.com/writing-courses/).The assignments were exciting and forced me to think creatively in new ways. While I’ve always written poetry, this class sharpened my skills in fresh ways and create my new book.
[Author of over 50 books, including A.I.: How Patterns Helped Artificial Intelligence Defeat World Champion Lee Sedol (2021), The Leaf Detective: How Margaret Lowman Uncovered Secrets in the Rainforest (2/9/2021), 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).]
Carla Mooney - The Physics of Fun (Nomad Press 10/15/2021) – Hello! I write on a wide-range of nonfiction topics, from science to history to current events. I’ve been writing for more than ten years. I’m actually a former certified public accountant. In that job, I started writing business plans for a lot of science and technology start-up companies. Through that work, I learned to take complicated topics and write about them in a way that non-scientific readers could understand. It’s a skill that has be very useful when writing STEAM books for kids! After I “retired” from accounting, I took a few online writing classes and joined my local SCBWI chapter. I experimented with different types of writing – fiction, magazine articles, newspaper articles, and nonfiction. I discovered that I really love researching and writing nonfiction.
[Author of about 182 books, including The Chemistry of Food (2021),The Human Genome: Mapping the Blueprint of Human Life (Inquire & Investigate)(2020), Cutting Edge Careers in Engineering (Cutting Edge STEM Careers) (2020), How Can Gun Violence Be Stopped? (Issues Today) (2020), Big Data: Information in the Digital World with Science Activities for Kids (Build It Yourself)(2018), Industrial Design: Why Smartphones Aren't Round and Other Mysteries with Science Activities for Kids (Build It Yourself)(2018), The Holocaust: Racism and Genocide in World War II (Inquire and Investigate) (2017), Chemistry: Investigate the Matter that Makes Up Your World (Inquire and Investigate)(2016), Rocketry: Investigate the Science and Technology of Rockets and Ballistics (Build It Yourself) (2014), Forensics: Uncover the Science and Technology of Crime Scene Investigation (Inquire and Investigate)(2013), and Genetics: Breaking the Code of Your DNA (Inquire and Investigate) (2014).]
What is something no one (or few) knows about you?
SK Wenger – For much of my younger years, I spent my days horse-back riding. I started in the Western saddle and then soon switched to hunter saddle. My horse was named Penny. She was green and a handful, but was spectacular in the show ring when she wanted to be.
Christy Mihaly – I used to ride my motorcycle across the Golden Gate Bridge to my San Francisco law office.
Laura Chamberlain Gehl – I hated watermelon for the first thirty years of my life. Now I adore it!
Cynthia Argentine - I have directed a youth choir at my church for almost 15 years. The group has ranged from preschoolers playing handbells to high schoolers singing four-part jazz harmonies acapella. They always impress me with what they can accomplish!
Theanne Griffin - I lived in Chile for a total of 3 years! I studied abroad in Santiago during college, and then returned upon graduation. While there, I worked in the Catholic University. Chile has a really strong and productive scientific community and I learned so much during my time there. It was an amazing experience and I am fluent in Spanish to this day. And although we didn’t meet in Chile, my partner is Chilean and my daughters are half Chilean!
Darcy Pattison – Growing up, we lived a mile from the Continental Divide in the Rocky Mountains. We often climbed and played on the Divide.
Carla Mooney – I hated my high school physics class, which led me to major in business and accounting in college!
Now that we know a little more about all of you, what inspired you to write your book?
S. K. Wenger – Chicken Frank Dinosaur (10/1/2021) – Inspiration for Chicken Frank, Dinosaur! came from a fun discussion one day in my classroom. While watching Jack Horner's Ted Talk video about the evolutionary link between dinosaurs and birds, my biology students were amused by an image of a genetically engineered chicken with a long neck and tail that might come from tapping into dormant/remnant dinosaur DNA. Some students bought into this idea. Others didn't. A lively debate followed, and the idea for Chicken Frank, Dinosaur! was born.
Christy Mihaly – Water: A Deep Dive of Discovery (10/4/2021) - Emma Parkin of Barefoot Books approached me in March 2020 as covid was hitting and the company was developing the idea of a book all about water—the history, science, and future of water, with traditional stories from around the world. I immediately knew I wanted in on this project! Emma and I chatted by video and we hit it off. I loved Emma's vision for WATER. We talked about underpinning the nonfiction content with the theme of social justice, highlighting how people can protect this essential resource.
I had been planning to spend that spring focused on book events for my new picture book, FREE FOR YOU AND ME: What Our First Amendment Means (illustrated by Manu Montoya, published by Albert Whitman). And then suddenly every single event, conference, and reading was canceled, canceled, canceled. So … I happened to have a big hole in my calendar. It worked out well. I dove into WATER.
Laura Chamberlain Gehl – Who Is A Scientist? (10/5/2021)– Since I was in high school, I’ve seen articles and studies stating that most kids think of scientists as white men. Over the past few decades, there has been some progress in this area…but not nearly enough. A teacher told me just recently that she asks her students to draw scientists the first week of school, and most of them draw someone who looks like Albert Einstein! I wrote this book hoping kids would see that scientists don’t fit into any one box. I wanted young readers to understand that all great scientists DO have a few traits in common—curiosity and determination—but that everything else can be different. I also wanted to make scientists approachable, by showing that they love many of the same things that kids do…soccer and dance and junk food and playing with their pets.
Cynthia Argentine - Night Becomes Day: Changes in Nature (10/5/2021) – Sometimes I say that springtime and broccoli inspired me to write NIGHT BECOMES DAY. Springtime, because I wrote the first draft one March when the beauty of spring was all around me. Broccoli, because the first time I grew it, its transformation into a blooming yellow bouquet surprised me. But the truth is, I’ve been fascinated by changes in nature ever since I was a child growing up on a tidal marsh in Virginia. There were ghostly cicada shells clinging to the loblolly pines, muddy creek banks cut away by the current, and seashells washed away and re-deposited each morning on the beach. Even though I did loads of research to support each statement in this book, it grew out of the sense of magic I felt observing nature as a child.
Theanne Griffith - The Magnificent Makers #4: The Great Germ Hunt (10/5/2021) –This book is all about germs and was very much inspired by the Covid-19 pandemic. I started writing it in June of 2020 and I had just spent several months in quarantine with my then 3-year-old and 1.5-year-old daughters. During that time, I tried my best to explain to them what a coronavirus was and why we needed to be safe and wear masks. Talking to kids about germs is always important, and the topic felt particularly timely. I also wanted to highlight that some people are even more nervous about germs than others because they are more likely to get very sick. This book proudly features a disabled character on the cover, and as readers were learn, she is also immunocompromised and very nervous about germs. As the main characters Pablo, Violet, and Aria navigate the Maker Maze, they not only learn about bacteria, viruses, and fungi, but also how to be a good community member and protect those who are more vulnerable to germs by doing things to stop spreading them (like wearing masks!).
Darcy Pattison - The Plan for the Gingerbread House: A STEM Engineering Story (10/12/2021) - As I mentioned above, I took a poetry class, A Lyrical Language Lab from the amazing Reneé M. LaTulippe (https://www.reneelatulippe.com/writing-courses/).
The result is my October book, The Plan for the Gingerbread House: A STEM Engineering Story. The NextGen science standards emphasize the importance of problem-solving as students focus on engineering skills. I incorporated problem-solving into the story and made sure it would fit the needs of science classrooms. But this time, it was the poetry that excited me and kept me going. This is my “COVID book”!
Carla Mooney - The Physics of Fun (10/15/2021) – When my publisher approached me with the idea for this book, I immediately was fascinated. That’s what I love to do – explore how science and technology explain and affect the world around us. If my physics classes in high school had incorporated the real world a little more, maybe I would have taken a different path in college!
Who was a favorite/special author, illustrator, and/or favorite book as a child?
SK Wenger – I’ll share two. I adored Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends. My brother and I would laugh together over that book. Another favorite author was Roald Dahl. On more than one occasion, as soon as I finished a book of his for the first time, I’d go right back to the beginning and start re-reading it. My favorite book of his remains James and the Giant Peach.
Christy Mihaly – I love, love, loved Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time.
Laura Chamberlain Gehl – I absolutely loved Richard Scarry’s books, and also the Frances books by Russell and Lillian Hoban—especially A Birthday for Frances!
Cynthia Argentine - I loved the Amelia Bedelia books, Nancy Drew mysteries, and A Wrinkle in Time, among many others.
Theanne Griffin – In addition to The Magic School Bus, I really enjoyed Seymour Simon’s nonfiction works. I loved being able to dive into a new topic with each book. His books on the weather briefly convinced me that I wanted to be a meteorologist or storm chaser. And those amazing covers were definitely attention grabbing!
Darcy Pattison – I loved Winnie the Pooh! I still remember my mother’s voice reading to us each night and laughing at the adventures of Pooh and Piglet.
Carla Mooney – I have so many! Growing up, I went to the library almost every Thursday night (while my mother took my grandmother to have her hair done on the same block). I loved mysteries – I think I read almost every Agatha Christie book they had! I also loved the Anne of Green Gables and Emily of New Moon series by Lucy Maud Montgomery.
That's a great collection of wonderful books. Is there anything special you want your readers to know about your book ?
Text © S.K. Wenger, 2021. Image © Jojo Ensslin, 2021.
S. K. Wenger – Chicken Frank Dinosaur (10/1/2021) – One of my favorite personality traits of Chicken Frank is his never-give-up attitude, even when the stakes are stacked against him. I hope readers recognize that and believe as strongly in their own dreams—that no matter what, they should follow their roar.
Text © Christy Mihaly, 2021. Image © Mariona Cabassa, 2021.
Christy Mihaly – Water: A Deep Dive of Discovery (10/4/2021) - I hope that readers will lift the flaps! Under those flaps, this book includes suggestions for fun activities, science experiments, and actions that readers can take to help protect our water (and our planet).
Text © Laura Chamberlain Gehl, 2021.
Laura Chamberlain Gehl – Who Is A Scientist? (10/5/2021) – The back matter for this book includes a pronunciation guide for each scientist’s name, a QR code linking to a video in which each scientist talks a little about their work, and a flow chart that kids can use to see which type of scientist they might want to be!
Text © Cynthia Argentine, 2021.
Cynthia Argentine - Night Becomes Day: Changes in Nature (10/5/2021) – When writing the text, I thought about how I might convey some of the feelings and sensations that transformations produce. Sometimes I used onomatopoeia to do this—sound words like SWOOSH and KA-BOOM! Other times, I used sentence structure for this. For example, if a change was quick, I wrote a short, quick sentence. If a change was slow, I wrote a long paragraph with several sentences and with several phrases in each sentence—drawing out the language so you feel the slowness. I hope readers will notice and enjoy this!
Text © Theanne Griffith, 2021. Image © Reggie Brown, 2021.
Theanne Griffith - The Magnificent Makers #4: The Great Germ Hunt (10/5/2021) – In this book readers will learn all about the different kinds of germs, how to stop spreading them, and also why it is really important to keep germs away from people who are especially susceptible to getting very sick. This book is a great way to educate children on bacteria, viruses, and fungi, and also demonstrates how taking public health measures, like masking wearing, can help stop the spread of germs.
Text © Darcy Pattison, 2021. Image © John Joven, 2021.
Darcy Pattison - The Plan for the Gingerbread House: A STEM Engineering Story (10/12/2021) - Kirkus Reviews says, “Pattison’s text begs to be read aloud and Joven’s spreads offer dynamic visuals…” It’s just a fun book to read with kids. But it’s also a book about perseverance, resilience, and problem solving. The kids face challenges as their gingerbread house falls apart. But they solve every problem and come out with a winner.
Have fun with this story! But also take the time to think about and discuss the character’s ability to overcome challenges.
Text © Carla Mooney, 2021. Image © Alexis Cornell, 2021.
Carla Mooney - The Physics of Fun (10/15/2021) – It’s fascinating to think about how science, and in this case physics, affects everything around us and everything we do. You might think that skateboarding or playing a guitar are fun hobbies (they are!), but they are also really interesting examples of the laws of physics in practice!
What was the hardest, or most challenging, part of writing, or researching, your book?
S. K. Wenger – Chicken Frank Dinosaur (10/1/2021) – While I was writing the early drafts of the manuscript, the hardest part was trimming funny scenes in order to make it an appropriate length for a picture book. Then during the editorial phase with the team at Albert Whitman, I struggled to narrow down the backmatter to touch on the most applicable pieces of evolution in a way that would make sense for young readers. Thankfully, my editor Christina Pulles was amazing and really helped me zero in quickly on what was important.
Christy Mihaly – Water: A Deep Dive of Discovery (10/4/2021) - For me, the hardest thing was how much deleting we had to do! Even though WATER is an extra-long picture book, we still had to leave out some wonderful material. I had so much I wanted to say that I started out writing far more than would fit. In edits, we did a lot of culling.
Laura Chamberlain Gehl – Who Is A Scientist? (10/5/2021) – Getting the photos for this book was definitely the hardest part. I had fourteen scientists living all over the country, so I needed to find photographers in many different places. Add in COVID, people moving, and photo permission forms…it was a LOT of work getting all the photos in place. But it was 100% worth it. The photos of each scientist at work AND at play were at the heart of my vision for this book, and I love how they all turned out!
Cynthia Argentine - Night Becomes Day: Changes in Nature (10/5/2021) – The hardest part was figuring out exactly which adjective pairs to use. I had a list of transformations I wanted to include, and there were many possible ways to describe them. Many “big” changes are also “slow” and “old,” for example. Coming up with appropriate antonyms that were clear and creative was a fun challenge.
Theanne Griffith - The Magnificent Makers #4: The Great Germ Hunt (10/5/2021) – This book was actually pretty easy to write! It is right up my alley in terms of science. Perhaps the harder part was making sure I did a good job creating a disabled character. I didn’t want to dance around the fact that she was disabled, but I also wanted to show her as strong and confident. It think I did a good job, and I hope Aria’s character makes disabled kids feel seen and valued.
Darcy Pattison - The Plan for the Gingerbread House: A STEM Engineering Story (10/12/2021) - Because I set myself a challenge of writing in rhyme, the poetry was the hardest. Every syllable and word had to be exactly right, with the right rhythm. I revised this over 50 times. The goal with each revision was to get it right. That didn’t happen for a long time! It’s a story about perseverance and I think it’s fitting that I had to overcome challenges in the writing of the story.
Carla Mooney - The Physics of Fun (10/15/2021) – I think the most challenging part of writing the book was making sure it wasn’t too repetitive. I didn’t want to say the same things over and over in each chapter. For example, friction affects how you skateboard, snowboard, jump on a trampoline, and more. So I tried to highlight different aspects of physics with each activity to keep it interesting!
It's interesting to learn the various challenges that the different books presented. How are you staying creative? What things are you doing to “prime” the well?
SK Wenger – Keeping a positive frame of mind helps me stay creative and interested to sit down each day and write. I manage to stay positive by counting my blessings daily. I have so many wonderful relationships with family and friends to be grateful for.
Christy Mihaly – It's always a challenge, and this year it's tougher than ever. I have been trying to read more. And walking outside definitely helps. I also do a lot of productive moving-meditation while stacking the firewood for the winter.
In addition, I've been experimenting with poetry. I started the year with a resolution to write a daily poem using a different poetic form each day. The daily output didn't last long, but I have continued to write poems in different forms, and I often turn to poems—reading and writing them—to fill the well. Poetry can give you a sense of accomplishment relatively quickly because it often doesn't take long to write a whole poem (though you can revise endlessly). Plus, it's fun! It's always a challenge, and this year it's tougher than ever. I have been trying to read more. And walking outside definitely helps. I also do a lot of productive moving-meditation while stacking the firewood for the winter.
In addition, I've been experimenting with poetry. I started the year with a resolution to write a daily poem using a different poetic form each day. The daily output didn't last long, but I have continued to write poems in different forms, and I often turn to poems—reading and writing them—to fill the well. Poetry can give you a sense of accomplishment relatively quickly because it often doesn't take long to write a whole poem (though you can revise endlessly). Plus, it's fun!
Laura Chamberlain Gehl - During the pandemic, I’m having trouble writing every day the way I used to. My four kids are all home all the time (they haven’t been in in-person school since last March), and they have a lot of breaks, during which they want and need my attention. But I’m still jotting down story ideas, even if I don’t have time to pursue them right now, and I’m still READING as much as I can, because reading great books now will help me write great books later. I am also walking in the woods every chance I get—which is essential for my creativity and sanity and health.
Cynthia Argentine - I recharge by taking long walks, visiting new places, and reading great books. I also benefit from doing other creative activities like arranging flowers. And music! I love discovering new pieces for my piano students.
Theanne Griffin – I feel that creativity is a big part of who I am. I always get fun (and sometimes strange!) ideas that I want to turn into books. I don’t need to do much to stay creative. But what I do need to work on is finding time to flesh out and write all these ideas that I have! That’s the real challenge for me.
Darcy Pattison – To stay fresh, I’m talking with kids whenever possible, taking classes, reading new releases, and working on challenging stories!
Carla Mooney – My in-laws gave me a subscription to a book club for my last birthday. I get two random mystery/horror/suspense books each month in the mail. I love it! I’ve been discovering new authors and really enjoying reading for fun!
Lots of great idea, thanks. Are there any upcoming projects that you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?
SK Wenger – My upcoming projects are currently in a top-secret drawer! Well, not too secret. My critique partners have been helping me shape them up.
Christy Mihaly – I'm thrilled to have two picture books scheduled to come out in spring 2022 – though neither is STEM-focused. One is The Supreme Court and Us, informational fiction about the Supreme Court (Albert Whitman), and the other is Patience, Patches, a fictional tale about a dog and a new baby (PRH/Dial). Then I'm looking forward to the publication of National Geographic Kids' Ultimate Food Atlas, which I co-wrote with fellow STEAM TEAM-er Nancy Castaldo in fall 2022. I'm about to start writing a series about different ways kids can get involved and active in their communities. It's been a weird time, but I've been coping by writing.
Laura Chamberlain Gehl – I am super excited about my upcoming spring releases. Apple & Magnolia, releasing from Walker Books in the UK and Flyaway Books in the US, is about a little girl who knows that the trees in her backyard are best friends—even if her father and older sister don’t believe her. The story was inspired by real science about how trees help one another. The illustrations by Patrice Metola are breathtaking. The Hiking Viking, releasing from Capstone, illustrated by Timothy Banks, is about a little Viking who would rather hike than brawl. It is sort of a modern twist on Ferdinand the Bull, highlighting the importance of nature and of marching to the beat of your own drum.
Cynthia Argentine - I signed a contract for a picture-book biography of a woman in STEM back in 2020. It will probably be out in 2023. I have several other manuscripts in the pipeline that I hope will become published books. They include poetry, concept books, and more nonfiction, many with STEAM tie-ins!
Theanne Griffin – Yes! The Magnificent Makers #5: Race Through Space will publish on 2/22/20222! In this book, Deepak returns to join Violet and Pablo on a galactic adventure! The Magnificent Makers #6: Storm Chasers, is all about weather and climate and will go on sale in the fall of 2022. I am also soon going to start drafting book 7, which is currently untitled but will explore the human body! I am also teaming up with Andrea Beaty to write a non-fiction series entitled The Why Files, which accompanies the widely successful Netflix series, Ada Twist, Scientist! The first book in the series, Exploring Flight, releases 12/14/2021!
Darcy Pattison – My series of animal biographies, ANOTHER EXTRAORDINARY ANIMAL, will add a new title in the spring of 2022: Diego, the Galapagos Giant Tortoise: Saving a Species from Extinction. In 1959, Ecuador established a national park to protect the Galapagos Islands. When they did a census, scientists found only 14 individuals of the Española Island tortoises. The species was almost extinct. Then, they found one more Española tortoise—in the San Diego Zoo! They named him Diego and brought him back to the Galapagos for a breeding program.
This is the story of one of the most successful breeding programs in scientific history. For sixty years, scientists and hundreds of volunteers have fought valiantly to save this amazing giant tortoise species. Would it be enough? Would they be able to save the species? Look for the story in Spring 2022.
Carla Mooney – I have several books on my “to-do” list. I’m working on a current issue book right now about drug overdoses and mental health. I also just started researching a new title about a very popular sports company. It’s going to be a great way to combine my business background and writing!
We'll have to keeps our eyes out for these books and projects. If you could meet anyone (real or literary), who would that be?
SK Wenger – Just plop me down between Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin in the Hundred Acre Wood and I’d be perfectly content and happy.
Christy Mihaly – I would have loved to meet Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Laura Chamberlain Gehl – I’d love to enter Susan Cooper’s world from The Dark is Rising and meet Merriman Lyon. Or chat with L.M. Montgomery’s Anne Shirley when she was my age, comparing notes about our writing and our kids.
Cynthia Argentine - I think it would be interesting to talk with Jane Austen. Her writing expresses so much wit and wisdom about people’s hopes and motivations. She’s also a master at plotting!
Theanne Griffin – Hands down Michelle Obama. I’ve always admired her, but after reading her memoir, I have so many follow-up questions! I’d love to be able to meet her one day.
Darcy Pattison – Norman Rockwell, the artist who painted Rosie the Riveter. I’m working on a different sort of book that features that piece of art and I’d love to watch him as he worked.
Carla Mooney – Wow, that’s hard to narrow down. I’m going to say George Washington. I wrote a book about him years ago with Nomad Press and found him fascinating. I would love the chance to sit down with him and talk about his journey and the choices he made throughout his life.
Now wouldn't that be an interesting party! Last question, what is your favorite animal? Or one you are enamored with right now. Why?
SK Wenger – My next door neighbor’s cat. She thinks she lives in my house and often walks IN with my own personal cat to say hello. She’ll even stand at the back door and meow when she hasn’t seen me soon enough in the morning. I’d like to know what she’s thinking. Because she knows there are people next door who love her. When they call her home by name, “Domino!” she goes running. And when I go over there to borrow a cup of sugar or a random tub of chalk, she leads the way. So, yes. Why? Why?
Christy Mihaly – Okay, I love wild animals and I adore my dog and my cat, but … I just met a herd of alpacas and I have to say they are amazing. They're very interactive with individual personalities, mostly gentle, very curious, and sweet. And did you know alpacas use litter boxes?? So put me down as "enamored right now" with alpacas …
Laura Chamberlain Gehl – Oh, I love this question, because I have a book about weird animals coming out later this year (Odd Beasts, Abrams, 11/2/2021). It’s hard to choose just one, but I think I’ll go with the anglerfish. It lives deep in the ocean, and the female anglerfish has a fishing pole sticking out of its head with a glowing tip to attract prey (the fishing pole is actually a piece of spine, with a luminous piece of flesh at the end). So creepy and so cool.
Cynthia Argentine - I have always lived where there are lots of squirrels, and every time I see them run and jump from branch to branch or leap along the stone wall behind my house, almost flying, I think about how much fun that must be.
Theanne Griffin – I have three cats, so I suppose you could say I’m a crazy cat lady. But I also really like owls. Impressive hunters with impressive necks! I think they’re very cool.
Darcy Pattison – With my book coming out this spring, I’m fascinated with the giant Galapagos tortoises. I didn’t realize that each island has a separate species and that some are endangered. Diego, featured in my forthcoming book, is fascinating because he’s over 100 years old and has become the father/grandfather of a species.
Carla Mooney – My dog! Lily is a mini-goldendoodle and full of unconditional love. She also thinks she’s my office assistant. She sits with me in my office when I’m working. In fact, she’s actually on the chair with me right now!
NOW, let me take a moment to introduce you to these amazing STEAM books!
Synopsis: In this humorous tale about evolution Chicken Frank wants to convince his doubting barnyard friends that he is a dinosaur, but no one believes him. When a DNA test inspires Frank to hold a reunion with a distant toothy relative, his friends worry he’ll become a tasty chicken nugget. Instead, it leads to a surprising discovery. Entertaining back matter provides further information to continue the conversation about DNA, evolution, and similarities among dinosaurs, chickens, and alligators. Complementary lesson plans and activities can be found at SK Wenger's website www.skwenger.com
Written in a graphic novel, comic book style, with speech bubbles, this humorous picture book follows Chicken Frank's adventure as he traces his family "tree." His "chicken scratch" lineage illustrations for the other doubting barnyard residents are funny and sneakily educational. Fun back matter compares similarities and offers an animal groups glossary.
Synopsis: "Immerse yourself in fascinating facts about water! This comprehensive yet accessible exploration of water will help young readers understand many aspects of one of our planet's most precious resources - and how they can protect it. A friendly water droplet character guides children through topics ranging from melting and freezing to the ways in which water literally shapes the Earth. Tales by storytellers from around the world are sprinkled through the book, highlighting the variety of ways in which global cultures value water. The engaging format includes gatefolds and booklets with hands-on activity ideas for learning about and protecting water. Topics covered include: The importance of water to life; How much of the planet is made of water; Where in the world water is located; Freezing, melting and evaporation; The water cycle; Why animals and plants need water; Salt water versus fresh water environments; Uses for water, including water as a source of renewable energy; Water conservation and how to keep water clean."
This book is packed with facts and information about water. It uniquely combines tales from around the world, like The River of Life (from India), with maps and diagrams, and sections on forms (liquid, solid, & gas) and types (fresh & salt) of water, conservation (recycling and its necessity), and jobs involving water. This book is a very visual and engaging look at water. The "dig deeper" flaps, with their adorable water drop character, contain fun experiments, activities, and actions.
Synopsis: Scientists work hard in the lab and in the field to make important discoveries. But who are they really? It turns out they are just like us! Scientists can be any race. And any gender. They can wear lab coats, jeans, or even tutus. And they are people who love to fly drones, make art, and even eat French fries! Meet fourteen phenomenal scientists who might just change the way you think about who a scientist is. They share their scientific work in fields like entomology, meteorology, paleontology, and engineering as well as other interesting facts about themselves and their hobbies. An "if you like this, you'll like that" flowchart in the back of the book helps students identify science careers they might be interested in.
Set out in beautiful and creative two-page spreads, this photographic illustrated picture book celebrates a diverse collection of scientists. This book examines the important laboratory and social work of 14 scientists. But what makes this book special is that it highlights the fun activities and hobbies that these scientists enjoy as well. Making them less like "remote" scientists and more 'everyday' people, just like the readers. A wonderful flowchart connects a reader's interests with specific science careers.
Synopsis: Whether sudden or gradual, change is a constant in our world. Author Cynthia Argentine describes transitions including acorns sprouting, canyons forming, deserts blooming, and volcanoes erupting. Explore the transformative power of nature all around us.
The text is structured using opposites and cycles. Photos show amazing natural sites around the world. Back matter goes deeper into the science of change. An accompanying glossary is available on the author's and publisher's websites.
Beautiful photographs shows changes that occur in nature, like flowers turning into fruit or day turning into night, within the context of opposites - such as small/big, quick/slow, hot/cold, or ancient/new. The succinct text is supplemented by backmatter with examples of life's interconnectivity and a look at geology, botany, biology, chemistry, and physics.
Synopsis: This series is a modern day Magic School Bus for the chapter book reader!
In class, Violet and Pablo have been learning about the icky world of germs! Violet has been out sick, and is excited she's feeling better... achoo! Well, she's mostly feeling better. She and Pablo are paired up with another classmate, Aria, who is a bit nervous that Violet keeps sneezing.
When another riddle appears to transport them back to the Maker Maze--a magical makerspace--to learn all about bacteria, viruses, and fungi, Violet and Pablo find out why Aria is so nervous. Aria's body has more trouble fighting off illnesses than their bodies do. Together they learn all about good and bad germs, and why staying home until you're 100% recovered is really important.
Intermixing a little magic with science, this fourth chapter book in the series examines bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Engaging and full of fun illustrations, this book will have kids forgetting that they are learning about science as the explore with Violet, Pablo, and Aria.
Synopsis: Come one, come all! The Gingerbread Fair opens soon!
Teams of kids are baking, building, and decorating. The project guidelines are clear: the winning house must stand upright on its own and a gingerbread boy and girl must fit inside. Sounds easy? It would be except...cookies burn, the icing is too thin, the house caves-in, someone is eating the candy decorations, and-oh!-they forgot about the gingerbread boy and girl.
Follow the team as they struggle to create the perfect gingerbread house. Young engineers will learn to overcome problems and press on to a finished house. At the end, they evaluate their efforts and plan for a better gingerbread house.
Need a winter STEM engineering project? This book inspires the budding engineers to think about the classic gingerbread house in a new way. Written in a lyrical rhyme, it's sure to please the language arts folks, too.
With a repeating refrain - "Oh, the marvelous plan— for our gingerbread house" - and nod to cumulative stories, this picture book has a fun time mixing elements of engineering design with all the delicious disasters that often befall making a gingerbread house. Ending with an assessment of their plan and a fun re-design for next time. A perfect book for reminding us that no one's perfect and - the holidays are right around the corner.
Synopsis: Why are you able to jump so much higher from a trampoline than from the ground? What forces are at work when you do an ollie on a skateboard? How does a counter rotation work on a snowboard?
The answer is: physics! In The Physics of Fun, kids ages 12 to 15 explore the science behind awesome activities that kids love. What do skateboarding, snowboarding, trampolining, singing in a band, and playing video games all have in common, besides being fun? They are all made possible with physics! From Newton’s laws of motion to the behavior of electrons, the science of physics is an integral part of any amusement park, play center, trampoline park, or home gaming center.
The Physics of Fun offers detailed explanations of the science behind five familiar pastimes, along with hands-on investigations that use the scientific and engineering design methods to enable kids to apply their learning to a wide array of science challenges. Projects include using a skateboard to demonstrate inertia, investigating the transfer and conservation of energy on a trampoline, observing sound waves with water, and building a guitar to explore the sound waves made by its strings.
Links to online media, discussion questions, and career connections offer middle schoolers the chance to do some real, hands-on science around activities they already love to do! Additional materials include a glossary, index, and a list of current reference works, websites, and internet resources.
Tying physics to skateboarding (inertia & motion), snowboarding (friction & energy), a trampoline (spring tension), a band (sound and light waves), and video games (electricity) meets kids where they are. A brief introduction ends with a fun "inquire & investigate" experiment on creating friction with a skateboard. Throughout, comic panels, "flip facts," diagrams, sidebars, QR codes, awesome photos, and experiments along with numerous practical applications (such as the "Hippie Jump," Half-Pipe tricks, and a double bounce) help make learning Physics FUN!
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:
S.K. Wenger – Chicken Frank Dinosaur (Albert Whitman 10/1/2021) –
Christy Mihaly – Water: A Deep Dive of Discovery (Barefoot Books 10/4/2021) -
Laura Chamberlain Gehl – Who Is A Scientist? (Lerner 10/5/2021) -
Cynthia Argentine - Night Becomes Day: Changes in Nature (Lerner 10/5/2021) –
Theanne Griffith - The Magnificent Makers #4: The Great Germ Hunt (Random House 10/5/2021) –
Darcy Pattison - The Plan for the Gingerbread House: A STEM Engineering Story (Mims House 10/12/2021) -
Carla Mooney - The Physics of Fun (Nomad Press 10/15/2021) –