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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - September Interview with STEAM Team Books Members Part 1

Oh my word, there are a lot of STEAM books releasing this September! I have split the post into two parts. In part one, 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.

"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.”

Amazingly, all eight of these books released on September 7th. I promise, it's not too long a post. I do hope you enjoy this peek at these great books and fascinating creatives

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?...)

Sarah Albee Fairy Tale Science: Explore 25 Classic Tales Through Hands-On Experiments (Odd Dot 9/7/2021) - I’m a mostly middle-grade writer, and a good many of my books tend to be a mash-up of science and history, with a special interest in the history of ordinary, everyday people. My latest, Accidental Archaeologists features (true) stories about chance discoveries made by ordinary people that changed what we thought we knew about the past.

[Author of over 100 books, including Accidental Archaeologists: True Stories of Unexpected Discoveries (2020), Albert Einstein: A Curious Mind (I Can Read Level 2) (2020), North America: A Fold-out Graphic History (2019), Dog Days of History: The Incredible Story of Our Best Friends (2018), Poison: Deadly Deeds, Perilous Professions, and Murderous Medicines (2017), Why'd They Wear That?: Fashion as the Mirror of History (2015), Bugged: How Insects Changed History (2014), and Poop Happened!: A History of the World from the Bottom Up (2010.]

Linda ZajacRobo-Motion: Robots That Move Like Animals (Millbrook 9/7/2021) - My absolute favorite place to write is outside in the Adirondack chair on my deck. Early in the morning, the songbirds are singing, the air is cool, and the flowers are in bloom. It’s so peaceful and inspirational. Sometimes I watch in amazement as hummingbirds hover in my face. When the temperature drops, I’ll grab a fleece blanket and sit outside wearing a hat and a winter jacket. I’ve been writing since 2002. I love a challenge and I also like to be a voice for the underdog. So, I write about animals that can’t speak for themselves, climate change, and high-tech science. I’m drawn to technology because I used to program computers. I graduated with a minor in computer and information sciences (no major was available). For fifteen years, I worked as a computer programmer, systems designer, and consultant.

[Author of 5 books, including The Unofficial Guide to Minecraft Maps (2020), The Unofficial Guide to Minecraft Redstone (2020), The Unofficial Guide to Minecraft Enchantments (2020), The Unofficial Guide to Minecraft Creative Mode (2020).]

Saadia Faruqi - Yusuf Azeem Is Not a Hero (Quill Tree/Harper Collins 9/7/2021) - I’ve been writing stories since I was in third grade. It was only when I became a mom decades later that I decided to try my hand at being a published author. Yasmin was my first children’s book in 2018, although I’d written fiction and nonfiction for adults before that. Now, I’m a full-time writer, so I write in my home office almost every day, or at least I try to. I don’t have any particular favorites, since I write for all age groups, but the Yasmin books have a special place in my heart since the main character is based on my daughter.

[Author of 21 books, including Yasmin the Scientist (2021), A Thousand Questions (2020), and A Place at the Table (co-written with Laura Shovan, 2020).]

Susan Hughes – Lights Day and Night: The Science of How Light Works (Kids Can Press 9/7/21) – 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 45 books, including Carmen and the House That Gaudi Built (2021), Walking for Water: How One Boy Stood Up for Gender Equality (6/1/2021), Sounds All Around - The Science of How Sound Works (5/2021), 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).]

Marie-Therese Miller –– Crayola ® Our Colorful Earth: Celebrating the Natural World (Lerner 9/7/21) - I am an English teacher at Marist College, where I teach Children’s and YA Literature. My husband and I have five adult children and a grandson. I started writing 21 years ago. I have a home office, but I can usually be found, pen in hand, hunched over a notebook on my bed-- books and articles strewn around my floor. I enjoy all aspects of creating nonfiction books for kids, from the research and interviews to the writing and editing. I write about all sorts of topics, but my most recent books have been focused on social science subjects. My undergraduate degree is in psychology and all things psychological still interest me.

[Author of 22 books – Handling Depression (2021) Parents Here and There: A Kid’s Guide to Deployment (2021), Me Love to Share with Cookie Monster: A Book About Generosity. (2021), Everyone Has Value with Zoe: A Book About Respect, Caring With Bert and Ernie: A Book About Empathy (2021), Teens and Cyberbullying (2020), Rock Climbing (2020), Many Ways series: Families Like Mine/ Feelings Like Mine/ Homes Like Mine/ Parents Like Mine (2020), Dealing With Psychotic Disorders (Dealing With Mental Disorders) (2020), How to Deal Feeling Good About You (2019), How to Deal Understanding Friendship (2019), Racing and Lure Coursing Dogs (Canine Athletes) (2018), Rachel Carson (2011), Managing Responsibilities (2009) & Dog Tales Series - Distinguished Dogs/ Search and Rescue Dogs/Police Dogs/Helping Dogs/Hunting & Herding Dogs (2007).]

Laura Chamberlain GehlBrilliant Baby Fights Germs and Brilliant Baby Explores Science (little bee books 9/7/2021) – 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 8 Board Books, including 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).]

Sara Levine - A Peek at Beaks: Tools Birds Use (Millbrook Press 9/7/2021) - I’m a veterinarian and educator. Most of my ideas for science books for kids have come from teaching biology to college students. I enjoy writing about topics that haven’t been covered for children, and making them enjoyable and accessible to everyone. My books have received awards including AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize, Bank Street College Best Book of the Year, Beehive Book Award, Cook Prize Honor and the Mathical Book Prize.

[Author of 8 books (plus 3 in press), including Germs up Close (2021), The Animals Would Not Sleep (2020), Eye by Eye: Comparing How Animals See (2020), Flower Talk: How Plants Use Color to Communicate (2019), Fossil by Fossil: Comparing Dinosaur Bones (2018), Tooth by Tooth: Comparing Fangs; Tusks and Chompers (2015), and Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons (2013).]

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

Sarah Albee – I worked at Sesame Street for nine years when I was just starting my career. In my twenties, I was also a part-time, freelance illustrator, mostly for newspapers, including the Washington Post’s Book World. Having a background in art comes in handy when you write for kids, as it’s really helpful to be able to think visually.

Linda Zajac – I won concert tickets in a Halloween costume contest. I made the costume. My husband and I dressed as a BLT. I was the lettuce and tomato. He was the bacon.

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

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!

Marie-Therese Miller –– I was a modern dancer for many years, and I still perform some arabesques now and then in my kitchen.

Laura Chamberlain Gehl – I seriously considered becoming a professional musician. My childhood friends know this, but most of my kidlit friends, and other friends I’ve made as an adult, don’t. I’m so happy I was finally able to write a book about the joy of music!

Sara Levine - Maybe this is not so much of a secret now since I’ve been using it for this book—but, in case you didn’t know: I make very realistic bird sounds. I don’t know why. I just started copying birds when I was a kid and did it well. I can do a decent goat too.

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

Sarah Albee – (9/7/2021) –When I was a kid, I loved reading fiction as well as nonfiction, and I absolutely loved fairy tales. I read all twelve of the Andrew Lang books, and Grimm’s, and Hans Christian Andersen, and assorted books about tales from around the world. And even as a kid, the future historian in me wondered how the tales emerged from their particular historical contexts. And the analytical part of my brain kept asking: “Could that happen in real life?”

Linda ZajacRobo-Motion: Robots That Move Like Animals (9/7/2021) – I got the idea for this book while writing a pitch for MUSE magazine. The theme was Thinking Bots. During my research, I discovered so many fascinating robots that I had a hard time deciding which one to write about. I settled on a cockroach robot. My pitch was ultimately accepted and “Reaching Like Roaches” was published in the March 2017 issue of MUSE. The list of robots that I created while working on that pitch became the nuts and bolts of Robo-Motion.

Saadia Faruqi - Yusuf Azeem Is Not a Hero (9/7/2021) – I’ve wanted to write a 9/11 book for a long time. As a Muslim I’ve seen firsthand the prejudice that my community has faced in the last 20 years and I wanted to write about it in a way that children could understand.

Susan Hughes – Lights Day and Night: The Science of How Light Works (9/7/21) – After I wrote Sounds All Around, the first book in the Science of How series, I was keen to explore and explain another science concept to young readers. When I proposed the topic of light to my publisher, Kids Can Press, they were keen—so I began my research!

Marie-Therese Miller Crayola ® Our Colorful Earth: Celebrating the Natural World (9/7/21) – My parents were always in awe of all aspects of Earth’s beauty. They instilled in me a wonder where the natural world was concerned. I also had a middle school science teacher, Chester Tenenbaum, whose enthusiasm and knowledge sparked my interest in Earth Science. I hope that this book can help readers appreciate the beauty of the Earth and, in turn, foster a desire to be good stewards of the environment.

Laura Chamberlain GehlBrilliant Baby Fights Germs - As you can probably guess, this book was inspired by COVID. While Brilliant Baby Fights Germs doesn’t explicitly address COVID, it is intended to help parents talk about the concepts of germs and healthy habits with young kids.

Brilliant Baby Explores Science (9/7/2021) – Even though this wasn’t the first Brilliant Baby book to be published, it was the first one I wrote. I wanted to talk about the beautiful processes of science…which includes a lot of mistakes and frustration along the way…in a fun, kid-friendly manner.

Sara Levine - A Peek at Beaks: Tools Birds Use (9/7/2021) - The idea for this book came during an author visit at a Boston Nature Center where a former student of mine, Hilary Johansen Silve, was teaching preschool. I stayed to watch her give a hands-on lesson on adaptation of bird beaks and how they were similar to various tools. She mentioned that there really needed to be a book for kids in this age group on this topic. So I wrote it.

Inquisitiveness seems to have inspired all of these books. Who was a favorite/special author, illustrator, and/or favorite book as a child?

Sarah Albee – I read widely and fairly indiscriminately as a kid, from fairy tales to the World Book Encyclopedia. I loved mysteries and detective stories, and was especially drawn to the stories about poisons in Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes mysteries. I wanted to know how real life poisons worked at the molecular level, so I wrote a whole book about that. [Poison: Deadly Deeds, Perilous Professions, and Murderous Medicines]

Linda Zajac – I loved mysteries like Nancy Drew and The Three Investigators series.

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

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 with my very own money was The Bushbaby by William Stevenson.

Marie-Therese Miller –– As a young teen, my mother recommended James Thurber’s comic short tales “The Night the Bed Fell” and “More Alarms at Night.” As I sat reading them, I laughed until I couldn’t catch my breath. My love of Thurber’s work remained, and decades later, I wrote my doctoral dissertation on James Thurber’s humorous writing.

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!

Sara Levine - I was a voracious reader as a child, and was very grateful for libraries and that my mother took me to ours weekly. One childhood book that remains a favorite now is Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. Some writer!

Love this list of great books! Is there anything special you want your readers to know about your book ?

Text © Sarah Albee, 2021. Image © Bill Robinson, 2021.

Sarah Albee Fairy Tale Science: Explore 25 Classic Tales Through Hands-On Experiments (9/7/2021) – I want readers to know that despite the words “fairy tale” in the title, this is a book of nonfiction, and also that it contains some pretty high-level science and hands-on experiments. It’s geared pretty solidly to ages 8 and up.

© Linda Zajac, 2021.

Linda ZajacRobo-Motion: Robots That Move Like Animals (9/7/2021) – Robo-Motion is not only a book about animals and the robots that mimic their motion, it’s also a hopeful look at how robots can benefit society. While working on this book, I received a grant from the state of Connecticut, so I want to pay it forward. I’m donating a portion of my royalties to research on diseases and medical conditions that affect children.

Saadia Faruqi - Yusuf Azeem Is Not a Hero (9/7/2021) – When 9/11 occurred, I was in college. To get a better understanding of how kids like my main character Yusuf fared when the attacks happened, I conducted a lot of interviews of Muslim adults who were in 6th and 7th grade in Sept 2021. I used those interviews to piece together the journal entries of Yusuf’s uncle Rahman in the book. So even though the novel itself is fiction, much of it is based on real accounts.

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

Susan Hughes – Lights Day and Night: The Science of How Light Works (9/7/21) – The story is nonfiction, sharing information about light in a fun easy-to-understand way—and Ellen Rooney’s lively illustrations show a young girl and her curious cat exploring light throughout their day and night, which also provide another level of interest and a playfulness to the book.

© Marie-Therese Miller, 2021.

Marie-Therese Miller –– Crayola ® Our Colorful Earth: Celebrating the Natural World (9/7/21) – Did you know there are pink beaches, red hot springs, and rainbow mountains? Discover the cool science behind these colorful places and see them featured in breathtaking photos.

Text © Laura Chamberlain Gehl, 2021. Image © Jean Claude, 2021.

Laura Chamberlain GehlBrilliant Baby Fights Germs - I can’t claim any credit for this, but check out Baby Fauci on the cover! It is adorable and hilarious! *[and front left, here]

Text © Laura Chamberlain Gehl, 2021. Image © Jean Claude, 2021.

Brilliant Baby Explores Science (9/7/2021) – My favorite line in this book is this one “Science is hypotheses that might end up rejected, winding roads to answers that nobody expected.” That line really sums up the scientific process in my mind. Plus, I love that my editor didn’t make me cut the word “hypotheses” even in a book for babies!

Text © Sara Levine, 2021. Image © Kate Slater, 2021.

Sara Levine - A Peek at Beaks: Tools Birds Use (9/7/2021) - The illustrator, Kate Slater, is fabulous! Check out her mixed media collage work:

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

Sarah Albee Fairy Tale Science: Explore 25 Classic Tales Through Hands-On Experiments (9/7/2021) –*Hollow laughter* How about the whole thing? This was one of those projects that seemed like a great idea at the time, and I still think it’s a great idea, and I love how it turned out, but ho-boy did I have to dig in and relearn my chemistry, physics, and biology. I had a lot of help from science-teacher friends, who read every word and helped me at every stage.

Linda ZajacRobo-Motion: Robots That Move Like Animals (9/7/2021) – The arrangement of the animal-robot pairs was a bit of a puzzle. I categorized them into ocean, bird, insect, and other land animals, and spaced them out in the text. Although I would have liked the word “lurk” to follow “surf” for that “ur” sound, a shark and a crab were both ocean animals, so I couldn’t order them that way. During revisions, my editor pointed out that bees following hummingbirds would put two flying robots in a row. So, I printed out the text, cut it up, and rearranged it like magnetic poetry. Then the cat sat on my pieces and messed them all up, so I basically gave up on arranging each animal-robot pair in a lyrical manner. I do use literary devices within each line though. Additionally, I was working on a 4-book Minecraft series at the same time, so that was a bit of a juggling act.

Saadia Faruqi - Yusuf Azeem Is Not a Hero (9/7/2021) – The most difficult part of writing this book was reliving the trauma of 9/11 and all the prejudice that Muslims faced in a post 9/11 world. I’ve seen that prejudice first hand, and it makes me angry to know that twenty years later people are still going through it. My challenge was to write about these things in a way that wouldn’t spoil the story or make it too harsh for young readers.

Susan Hughes – Lights Day and Night: The Science of How Light Works (9/7/21) – As with sound, I didn’t know much about the physics of light before I began writing this book, so I had lots of learning to do! I enjoyed the challenge of deciding what concepts to include in the book and then figuring out how to share them with readers in an accessible and accurate way. I was fortunate to have Ellen Rooney as the illustrator of the story. She came up with unique ways to present the information visually. I appreciated the expert eye of physicist James Rabeau, University of Melbourne, who reviewed the final text.

Marie-Therese Miller –– Crayola ® Our Colorful Earth: Celebrating the Natural World (9/7/21) –I work hard to verify my facts. I check multiple sources to be certain I have them correct. Then, it is tricky to cut some of those fascinating facts to stay within the word count.

Laura Chamberlain GehlBrilliant Baby Fights Germs- This book was hard to write because I was writing a book about infectious diseases during COVID…but I didn’t want the book to be about COVID. I wanted it to be a book that would be universal, and useful long beyond COVID…although right now, it feels like there will never be a “beyond COVID!”

Brilliant Baby Explores Science (9/7/2021) – This book was actually the easiest of all the Brilliant Baby books to write. I felt like the verses just flowed out of me…maybe because of my background as a scientist!

Sara Levine - A Peek at Beaks: Tools Birds Use (9/7/2021) - I think writing the back matter for this book was the hardest part. I wanted to explain how natural selection works to children in the right age range. And this is a hard concept to explain even to college-age people, who are my usual students. I feel such a responsibility for accuracy and clarity when teaching something to children, especially in a case in which my words are the first they might hear about a topic.

It sounds like all of these books stretched your brains and emotions. STEAM books are so good for readers & authors. How are you staying creative? What things are you doing to “prime” the well?

Sarah Albee – There have definitely been times during this difficult past year when I struggled to keep writing. So I read. And read, and read some more. And now—libraries are back open! I could honestly live in a library. I have also—finally—been able to see some of my closest writer-friends face to face again, and that is hugely helpful. Heading to a writing retreat in just a few weeks.

Linda Zajac – Spending time outside is essential to my creative process. By hiking, kayaking, and biking, I’m playing, observing nature, and using all my senses. If I’m stuck on wording, I often take advantage of what I call the “midnight garden,” those subconscious thoughts that come to the surface when I’m almost asleep.

Saadia Faruqi – I read alot, virtually every day. I also listen to a lot of music. Being creative isn’t too much of a problem with me because I’m always coming up with new ideas. The greater issue is finding time to work on new projects.

Susan Hughes – I was thrilled to receive a grant from the Access Copyright Foundation to fund my participation in a summer course on writing verse novels. I enjoyed it so much—a real learning experience! And as well as continuing to work on my own manuscripts (picture books and a YA), I continue to offer critiques and story coaching to children’s writers. So, yes, I’m definitely staying creative! [Congrats!]

Marie-Therese Miller – I am working on a few different nonfiction book projects at the moment, and working on deadline is a sure way to stay creative. Curiosity and interest drive my research and eagerness to share what I learn drives my writing. I also speak with my writer friends and attend book launches, which provide both motivation and inspiration for me.

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.

Sara Levine - Walking, reading, teaching, napping, being in nature and connecting with people I love all keep me feeling creative.

All great strategies, thanks! Are there any upcoming projects that you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?

Sarah Albee – I have two nonfiction picture books in the pipeline, as yet to be announced! One is a funny story about the somewhat-fraught relationship between a famous figure and his portraitist. The other is about the fascinating history of an object we all use every day, and that we possibly take for granted. (No, not toilets—I’ve already written that one - Poop Happened!) Can’t wait to share more soon! (Pardon all the exclams but I’m excited about these!)

Linda Zajac – Recently, I stepped into the graphic novel arena with a work of fiction that has nonfiction back matter. It was a lot of fun, but also time-consuming. All the writing that was involved reminded me of my days writing wordy COBOL programs.

Saadia Faruqi – I have lots of projects coming in the future. 2022 will see a new middle grade series called Must Love Pets, about a girl who starts a pet-sitting business with her friends. I’m also looking forward to my first middle grade biography project called The Wonders We Seek: Thirty Incredible Muslims Who Helped Shape the World.

Susan Hughes – Hopefully a third book in the Science of How series!

Marie-Therese Miller – I am thrilled to say I have a few new Sesame Street books slated for publication with Lerner. These are the titles coming in the fall: It’s All Art: From Drawing to Dress-Up with Sesame Street and A Dog’s Best Friend: A Sesame Street Guide to Caring for Your Dog, which is a companion book to the Sesame Street HBO animated special Furry Friends Forever: Elmo Gets a Puppy.

Laura Chamberlain Gehl – I am spending most of my time right now working on a book about climate change. It is very intense, but also inspiring and hopeful as I talk to scientists proposing all kinds of ways we can approach the problem.

Sara Levine - I have a book coming out with Roaring Brook Press called How to Say Hello which is an instruction manual for dogs and humans. It will be illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman. I’m excited about that. And two other books with Carol Hinz at Millbrook/Lerner which haven’t been announced yet, so I’m maybe not supposed to discuss.

We'll have to keep our eyes out for these books. If you could meet anyone (real or literary), who would that be?

Sarah Albee – Hard to pick just one person, but I think I’d choose to spend a day with a master painter, so that I could watch him or her paint a picture. Someone like Caravaggio or Velazquez or Artemesia Gentileschi.

Linda Zajac – Willy Wonka. I love chocolate, especially dark chocolate and coconut. This recipe is fabulous ( that I would know. Wonka is an intriguing character, a man of magic and mystery with a twinkle in his eye. The fact that he’s opening his factory is an opportunity I’d seize upon. I’m not one to pass up opportunities.

Saadia Faruqi – If we can go back in time and meet dead people, William Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth I would be on the top of that list. I also wish I could meet some of my ancestors, such as my great grandfather, who seems like an amazing person from the family stories I’ve heard.

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.

Marie-Therese Miller –– Winnie-the-Pooh. I believe I could benefit from his mindful bear philosophy, while we share some honey and Jif peanut butter.

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.

Sara Levine - Well, if they can be literary, I’m assuming they can be real but no longer on earth. So, I’d pick grandmother who died when I was 12. She was a poet, and I still miss her dearly. I’d love to meet her now and talk about writing and so many other things.

That would be quite the party! What is your favorite animal? Or one you are enamored with right now. Why?

Sarah Albee – Individually, I’ll go with gorillas. Collectively, I’d vote for ants, hands down. Ants are SO AMAZING.

Linda Zajac – My favorite animals are definitely Lola and Twinky, my dog and cat. Aside from them, this is a tough question. Animals are fascinating. I love watching them. They have such amazing adaptations. Some animals glow, change color, regrow body parts, survive temperature extremes, build incredible structures, make venom and electricity, and much much more. I’m enamored by all of them.

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

Susan Hughes – Dogs, always!

Marie-Therese Miller –– I am definitely a dog person. As a child, I badgered my mother relentlessly for ten years to let me have a dog. She finally acquiesced, and I have had dogs since. I even wrote seven nonfiction books about dogs. I also love red foxes. Our Marist College mascot is the Red Fox, and I have a book called Sly as a Fox: Are Foxes Clever? coming out soon.

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.

Sara Levine - Dogs and cats. Don’t make me pick! And why?? Because domestication works. We’ve evolved to adore each other.

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

Synopsis: Explore the laws of physics, principles of chemistry, and wonders of biology in this collection of classic stories with a hands-on STEM twist.

From Snow White to Chicken Little to Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves―read each story like a scientist!

• Determine if a glass slipper can withstand an evening of ballroom dancing.

• Explore the buoyancy of a magical frog.

• Test the power of blowing air on a house.

And so much more! Find out what happens actually ever after!

For each of twenty-five fairy tales, a witty and conversational narrator examines their origins, asks a specific question about an aspect of the tale (such as "can someone recover from the breathing slowing or stopping"), explores the science involved, and then provides an experiment and a challenge. Full of tongue-and-cheek humor and puns, the book also examines poisons, an animal's sixth sense, and actual vampire animals and includes a seventeen-page glossary.

Synopsis: It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a . . . robo-hummingbird? Meet robots engineered using biomimicry that are built to move like animals. These robots are changing the way we live today and shaping the way we'll live in the future. On spreads pairing photos of robots with the animals they mimic, you'll discover robots that race through water like fish, run like cheetahs, jump like a kangaroo, swarm through the sky like honeybees, and more!

In a very accessible manner, this book explores the numerous ways scientists and engineers are using the skills and physical traits of animals (and humans) to create robots to help in tricky search and rescue operations, undersea activities, surveying weather and climate change, and yes even spying. A call to action, discussion of biomimicry, glossary, and additional resources round out this intriguing book.

Synopsis: At a time when we are all asking questions about identity, grief, and how to stand up for what is right, this book by the author of A Thousand Questions will hit home with young readers who love Hena Khan and Varian Johnson—or anyone struggling to understand recent U.S. history and how it still affects us today.

Yusuf Azeem has spent all his life in the small town of Frey, Texas—and nearly that long waiting for the chance to participate in the regional robotics competition, which he just knows he can win.

Only, this year is going to be more difficult than he thought. Because this year is the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, an anniversary that has everyone in his Muslim community on edge. With “Never Forget” banners everywhere and a hostile group of townspeople protesting the new mosque, Yusuf realizes that the country’s anger from two decades ago hasn’t gone away. Can he hold onto his joy—and his friendships—in the face of heartache and prejudice?

Synopsis: A young girl and her cat watch a firefly glow, make shadows in the sun and learn all about how light works in this accessible, kid-friendly introduction to the science of light. Where does light come from? How does it work? What is it made of? Join a young girl and her cat on a journey of scientific discovery to find the answers to these questions and more. Over the course of a summer vacation, the pair investigate the many fascinating aspects of light, including natural and artificial light; the many uses of light; how light can be absorbed, reflected and refracted; the meaning of opaque, translucent and transparent; how the eye sees light; and why some animals need less light to see than humans. From forest fires to traffic lights, this book also provides loads of examples of sources of light. Beginning near the shore of a lake looking up at the stars on a summer night, and ending at the same shore enjoying a fireworks display, our guides offer readers an intriguing and lyrical introduction to light and all its mysteries.

The second book in the delightfully informative Science of How series, award-winning author Susan Hughes's engaging narrative gives young children an age-appropriate overview of the science of light. Ellen Rooney's friendly and inviting illustrations with their many shades of blue beckon readers to be a part of the characters' fun summertime exploration. Presenting complex topics in a graphic, appealing and easy-to-digest format, this comprehensive one-of-a-kind book strongly supports the Next Generation Science Standards. The manuscript was carefully reviewed by an expert in the field. The book includes a glossary and instructions for a shadow puppet show.

Additionally, the cut paper illustrations, augmented with paints, pencil crayons and digitally are stunning. And do a great job of expanding or supplementing the text. Such as subtly showing how light bends, and makes things (bodies) appear to bend, when it hits water.

Synopsis: Readers explore rainbow mountains, pink sand beaches, and more and learn the science behind some of nature's most colorful geographical formations.

Exploring the vivid and unusual colors of Earth's water, sand, rock, and flowers, this book explains a little of the science behind what makes these remarkable colors, such as pigments, algae, and light reflection or absorption. It includes an experiment and glossary.

Synopsis: This series will introduce and explore all the different subjects your brilliant baby will soon master!

Your Brilliant Baby will love learning what germs are and what we can do to prevent the spread of them, as well as about the scientists and doctors who help us fight them!

Bold, colorful illustrations and rhyming text depict germs as spies slipping into a body. And show they ways germs spreads and how we can battle them with hygiene, sleep, and doctor's help.

Synopsis: Your Brilliant Baby will love learning the basics of the scientific method and how they can find science all around them, such as in colors, nature, buildings, and more!

Bright, colorful images show kids exploring sciences like robotics, space, botany, and geology. And learning about trial and error, as they create a Rube Goldberg machine. The rhyming text does not shy away from big words (exploration, hypothesis, disagreements) or science concepts.

Synopsis: Have you ever seen a bird using a jackhammer? What about one scooping up a meal with a net? Of course birds can’t really use tools, at least not the way humans do. But birds have surprisingly helpful tools with them at all times—their beaks!

Guess which birds have beaks resembling commonly used tools in this playful picture book from award-winning author Sara Levine. Delightfully detailed collage artwork by Kate Slater helps this book take flight!

An interesting way to explore the variety and, in some cases, unusual bills of birds. With a question and answer format, the reader is asked to name birds' whose beaks function in a particular manner. Although the silhouette of a bird with an exaggerated beak (such as a strainer, straw, or pliers) accompanies the question, the question has a collage of real birds. Entertaining with back matter on the evolution of beaks.

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:

Linda ZajacRobo-Motion: Robots That Move Like Animals (Millbrook 9/7/2021) -

Saadia Faruqi - Yusuf Azeem Is Not a Hero (Quill Tree/Harper Collins 9/7/2021) -

Susan Hughes – Lights Day and Night: The Science of How Light Works (Kids Can Press 9/7/21) –

Marie-Therese Miller –– Crayola ® Our Colorful Earth: Celebrating the Natural World (Lerner 9/7/21) –




Laura Chamberlain GehlBrilliant Baby Fights Germs and Brilliant Baby Explores Science (little bee books 9/7/2021) –

Sara Levine - A Peek at Beaks: Tools Birds Use (Millbrook Press 9/7/2021) -


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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