Blog Hop Part One: Sarah Albee

Credit: Bruno Ratensperger
Credit: Bruno Ratensperger

Blog hops are a thing, apparently. (Since I am just realizing this, perhaps “were a thing” is more accurate? I’m usually a bit behind on social media trends.) Here, gone, no matter. Blog hops are fun, and I’m going to play along …

Back in March, Kathy Erskine tagged me for a hop in which I got to share a bit about my Spring 2014 book, Handle With Care. (Here’s that post, if you missed it.) Last week, Sarah Albee tagged me in a similar blog hop meme. (Here’s her post.) Here’s the deal this time around: first, I tell you a little bit about Sarah, then I tell you a little bit about my next book.

See? Kinda fun. Especially if you are into children’s nonfiction. And guess what? Today is Nonfiction Monday! (Maybe I am actually a social media guru? Ha.)

So, what can I tell you about Sarah?

  • For starters, she sometimes goes by the names Constance Allen, Sarah Willson, Catherine Samuel, or Catherine Lukas. And she has written a lot of children’s books. (Four hundred thousand or so, as far as I can tell. Click here to see a partial list.)
  • She’s good with voices. If you run into her, ask her to talk like a pirate for you. Trust me.

Get to know Sarah for yourself through her books, by visiting her website or her blog, by following her on Twitter, or by friending her on Facebook.

Thanks for the blog hop tag, Miss Sarah!

Nonfiction Monday: Can We Save the Tiger?


Nonfiction Monday Button

On Mondays, the online arm of the children’s publishing world celebrates books of children’s nonfiction. Even though I’m a sporadic participant on the blogging side, I’m a regular explorer of the Nonfiction Monday archives from the reading side. It’s a great place to find nonfiction reviews and book tips. This week’s event is hosted by Abby the Librarian. Freshen your tea, click on over, and enjoy some happy moments reading about what’s new and wonderful in children’s nonfiction. 

I’ve decided to add a round-up of my week with Martin Jenkins and Vicky White’s magnficent picture book CAN WE SAVE THE TIGER? Exploring human-driven species extinction in a picture book for elementary grade readers is not an easy task, but Jenkins and White manage it beautifully. By laying their breathtaking art and crystal clear prose atop a solid structure, this book manages to inform and inspire without preaching.

That last paragraph was the most succinct I have managed in a week of studying the structure of this book! But if you happen to be up for a much deeper look at this work, particularly its structure, click back through my week of posts: on Tuesday, I introduced the book and my task, on Wednesday I dissected the main structure, and on Thursday I talked about the various ways author, illustrator, and design team supported that structure.

Happy reading. And Happy Nonfiction Monday!


Nonfiction Monday: Zombie Makers



By Rebecca L. Johnson

Millbrook Press, 2013

Category: Nonfiction (Grades 5-8)

“Scientists know this for sure: dead people do not come back to life and start walking around, looking for trouble.

But are there … things … that can take over the bodies and brains of innocent creatures? Turn them into senseless slaves? Force them to create new zombies so the zombie makers can spread?


And they’re closer than you think.”

Is there anything I could add to these introductory sentences from ZOMBIE MAKERS that would make you want to pick up this book more?  I don’t think so. I read it alone in my office, in the wee hours, turning page after page and getting seriously creeped out (Do you know what a guinea worms is?), and yet unable to stop turning the pages. This book is disgusting and irresistible at the same time. Kids are going to eat it up.

And then they are going to want to know about this citizen science project involving zombie-making flies and honey bees. It’s called, appropriately enough, Zombee Watch. Check it out after you’ve read the book. And watch out for those … things.

For more great kids nonfiction, check out the Nonfiction Monday round-up at Instantly Interruptible. And don’t miss Laura Purdie Salas’ giveaway of one of my favorite nonfiction titles of the year. (Which title? Click over and see!)

Nonfiction Monday: Alexandra Siy’s Next Big Thing

© Alexandra Siy
© Alexandra Siy

A few weeks ago, after blogging about my own Next Big Thing, I promised to share the Next Big Thing blog meme responses of a couple of my nonfiction writer pals who don’t keep blogs. Pamela Turner shared her Next Big Thing (a Scientists in the Field book about dolphins) here. And this week, the one-and-only Alexandra Siy shares hers: a new collaboration with scientist and microscopist Dennis Kunkel. Their subject? Spiders! Here’s a sneak peak …

1.  What is the working title of your book?

The title is Spiderbook: Friends on the Web. Like most of my books, it started out with a different title, but I think this one will stick because the format of the books is loosely based on Facebook’s “friend” theme. After all, we should all be friends with spiders, and always “like” them.

2.  Where did the idea come from for the book?

This will be my fourth book with Dennis Kunkel, Ph.D., an electron microscopist who images all kinds of tiny things! Our most recent collaboration was BUG SHOTS: The Good, the Bad, and the Bugly, which looked closely at insects. A book about spiders was the natural sequel.

3.  What genre does your book come under?

Spiderbook is nonfiction for young readers ages 8 and up and illustrated with color micrographs, photos, and drawings.

4.  Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

The main characters in Spiderbook are, of course, spiders! Certainly, the orb web weaver would be played by Julia Roberts, who was the voice of Charlotte from the movie “Charlotte’s Web.” Indeed, my original proposal for the book was based on a horror movie theme. My editor didn’t think children would get the references to all the old movies and then it wouldn’t seem fun (which was the point). But since you asked, here is a peak at what could have been: “Sacula” featuring the sac spider; “The Woflman” featuring the wolf spider; “Daddy Dearest,” you guessed it, the famous daddy long legs spider (not to be confused with Daddy Long Legs); “Claws,” starring the crab spider; and of course “The Black Widow Project.”

5.  What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Spiderbook: Friends on the Web takes a close look (literally) at ten spiders from some of the common spider families, linking a narrative text and accompanying images to reveal some of the fascinating secrets that will make you love spiders, instead of running away in fear.

6.  Who is publishing your book?

Holiday House in 2014

7.  How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I worked on the manuscript for several months, on and off, with an intense period of writing that lasted about three weeks. The three-week writing binge was the result of much prior research and study, outlining, and thinking.

8.  What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Nic Bishop’s Spiders was an inspiration, but very different in style and design. I quote from Charlotte’s Web in the text, and hope E.B. White would approve.

9.  Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I’ve always been a bit “put-off” by spiders…not exactly afraid, but not a big fan. When I realized a book about spiders would be a good follow-up to my book about insects, I dove into the subject, and now I am truly amazed. I count more than 43,000 spider families as my “friends” and “like” them all. (If you could click “love” I would.) There will be a Facebook page called Spiderbook, and a website called… here’s an interesting tidbit: the domain name is for sale and I tried to buy it for $99, but the owner wants thousands, so dot info will have to do.

10.  What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Dennis’s electron micrographs, as always, are amazing. Readers might be interested to know that some of the images Dennis made are from spiders that were collected by my friends—mostly children and young people. One such specimen, known to me as Devon’s spider, created a stir on the internet for a few minutes as spider experts from around the country attempted to identify it. There was some controversy, but in the end, we were able to assign it to a family and genus. Science at work in real time!  Spiders really are our friends on the web.


For a full round-up of Nonfiction Monday posts around the internet, visit Stacking Books.

Nonfiction Monday: Pamela Turner’s Next Big Thing



by Pamela S. Turner

Houghton Mifflin Company, 2013

Category: Middle-grade nonfiction

One of the many rewarding aspects of my career as a writer of science and nature books for young people is meeting other writers who share my passion for these topics. For the most part, these are men and women whose work I read and admired for a long time before I actually had a chance to meet them in person. That is certainly true for my colleague Pamela Turner.

If you are a fan of Houghton Mifflin’s ‘Scientists in the Field’ series, then you know Pamela’s books. THE GORILLA DOCTORS, THE FROG SCIENTIST and PROJECT SEAHORSE won many accolades for the series, including starred reviews, an SB&F Prize and more. What you may not know is that Pam is a wife, mother of three grown children, a passionate scuba diver, and even dabbles in Japanese swordfighting. (I am not kidding! Learn more at her website.)

Today, I’m happy to host Pam as she answers a few questions about her upcoming Scientists in the Field book, THE DOLPHINS OF SHARK BAY. It’ll be out this fall, and it is Pam’s Next Big Thing. Here’s a peek:

1. What is the working title of your book?

The title is The Dolphins of Shark Bay, and it already appears on Amazon with a release date of November 5, 2013. I should get a final proof of the layout in the next week or so.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

I was at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference a few years ago to receive an award for The Frog Scientist. In a presentation on the ethical implications of dolphin intelligence the speaker casually mentioned that some wild bottlenose dolphins in Western Australia use tools. Are you kidding me? I thought. I MUST find out more…

3. What genre does your book come under?

The Dolphins of Shark Bay is a nonfiction science book for children age ten and up. It’s illustrated with amazing color photographs by Scott Tuason, who also shot the photographs for my book Project Seahorse.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

The dolphins would play themselves, and cheesy computer-generated scenes would be banned. I would cast Sandra Bullock as Dr. Janet Mann. Eric Patterson could play himself because he’s already ridiculously good-looking. I would be played by Steven Colbert in drag.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Everyone knows dolphins are smart. The Dolphins of Shark Bay seeks to answer the question: Why are dolphins smart? (Okay, two sentences).

6. Who is publishing your book?

The Dolphins of Shark Bay will be published by Houghton Mifflin this fall.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About six months.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Surprisingly, there are very few books on bottlenose dolphins for middle grade children and young adults–mostly “factoid” books. In format Dolphins is much like other “Scientists in the Field” titles.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I’ve been a scuba diver for twenty-eight years, and each time I’ve seen wild dolphins underwater it was like a visitation from an angel. (Not that dolphins are actually angelic, as you’ll discover in The Dolphins of Shark Bay.)

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Many of the female dolphins in Shark Bay are incredible innovators and amazing athletes. The lives of adult male dolphins, on the other hand, perpetually resemble a sixth-grade slumber party where everybody is talking about everybody else and trying desperately to wiggle into the “cool” crowd. I would not want to be a male bottlenose dolphin!

Check out the Scientists in the Field blog for news and updates on all the Scientists in the field titles, their authors, and their subjects.

And be sure to catch this week’s roundup of Nonfiction Monday posts over at Perogies & Gyoza today.

Nonfiction Monday Giveaway: Ocean Sunlight




by Molly Bang & Penny Chisholm

The Blue Sky Press, 2012

Category: Picture book

If you were reading this blog back in 2010, you might remember my love for LIVING SUNLIGHT, the brilliant picture book, also by Bang and Chisholm, that introduced young readers to the process of photosynthesis and the chemistry of life on our planet. I still recommend that book to kids, teachers, and strangers on the street; it is simply the most accessible look at the topic I’ve ever seen.

And now, a sequel to sing about!

OCEAN SUNLIGHT furthers the story, sharing with readers the tale of a “billion billion billion” tiny plants floating in the ocean’s surface layer, turning sunlight into energy that further fuels life on Earth. With only 781 words spread across forty-four beautifully illustrated pages, Bang and Chisholm have created another masterpiece. This is a book everyone can read and learn from. This is a book everyone should read and learn from.

So, would you like a copy? Signed by Penny Chisholm?

Great! Just leave a comment on this post by 5pm EST on Thursday, March 14, 2013.  If you spread the word about the contest on your social media outlets, leave me a second comment telling me so and I’ll add your name to the raffle drawing a second time. On Thursday night I’ll hold the raffle and on Friday morning I’ll post the winner.  A couple rules:

1. Winners must live in the continental United States. I’ll send the book to the winner by USPS Media Mail next Monday.

2. Please remember to check back on Friday to see if you’ve won; I’ll post instructions then for how to get me your mailing address.

3. If you already won a giveaway this month (I’m looking at you, Mary Laughton and Laura Purdie Salas) you can’t enter again.

4. Good luck, and happy reading!

A few last links before you go:

For a peek at the other SB&F Prize-winning titles raffled off here lately, check out this post about Sy Montgomery’s TEMPLE GRANDIN and this post about Terrie Williams’ THE ODYSSEY OF KP2.

And for a the weekly lode of great children’s nonfiction, check out this week’s round-up of Nonfiction Monday posts over at Sally’s Bookshelf.

Nonfiction Monday Giveaway: Temple Grandin




By Sy Montgomery

Houghton Mifflin, 2012

Category: Middle Grade Biography (148 pages)

Welcome to week two of my very own science book lovefest …

After a smashing weekend celebrating science books at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) two weeks ago, I was inspired to share some amazing science books via raffles here at my blog. I bought extra copies of three SB&F Prize winning titles and asked the authors to sign them; last week I raffled a signed copy of The Odyssey of KP2, by Terrie Williams and next week I’ll raffle a signed copy of Ocean Sunlight, by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm. This week, though, is all about Sy Montgomery and her astonishing biography of Temple Grandin.

Temple Grandin is a scientist and a professor of animal science at Colorado State University. She has revolutionized the meat packing industry by designing and implementing humane meat processing facilities. And she is autistic.

Temple’s life story is inspiring, and Sy shares it beautifully. With a window into Temple’s growing up years, readers begin to understand the behaviors that so confused and scared Temple’s classmates. By watching Temple put her mind to work on problems that vexed her–the cruel way animals are sometimes treated in captivity–readers embrace Temple’s unusual and extraordinary way of thinking. By hearing Temple say, “If I could snap my fingers and be nonautistic, I wouldn’t … It’s part of who I am,” readers come to appreciate that this world of ours needs all kinds of minds. Theirs. Yours. Mine. Temple Grandin’s. All of them.

Of the books I’ve read this year, this is the one that changed me the most. I wish I could give every person I know a copy. But since I can’t, I’d like to give YOU a copy. Leave me a comment below before 5pm EST on Thursday (March 7, 2013) and I’ll add your name to my raffle. If you spread the word via your blog or your social media outlets and let me know that you have done so in a second comment, I’ll add your name to the raffle a second time.

Ground rules:

1. Winners must live in the continental United States. I will send the book to the winner by USPS Media Mail next Monday.

2. Please remember to check back on Friday to see if you’ve won; I’ll post instructions then for how to get me your mailing address.

3. If you won last week (I’m looking at you, Mary Laughton) you can’t enter this week.

4. Good luck, and happy reading!

And don’t forget to catch this week’s full Nonfiction Monday roundup at the Supratentorial blog!

Nonfiction Monday Giveaway: The Odyssey of KP2




By Terrie M. Williams

Penguin, 2012

Category: Adult/Young Adult Nonfiction (283 pages)

Happy Nonfiction Monday, friends! I am fresh back from an amazing weekend of celebrating children’s science books, including Citizen Scientists, at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and I am super-excited to share some of the other SB&F Prize-winning titles with you. So … let’s have a giveaway!

(In fact, let’s have three. I’m going to raffle signed copies of the SB&F Prize winners in the picture book, middle grade, and young adult categories over the next three Nonfiction Mondays, so be sure to visit again.)

This week’s title is The Odyssey of KP2, by Terrie M. Williams.

Dr. Williams is a rock-star marine mammal researcher (check out her lab web page, and her TEDx talk for proof) and her book shares the story of an abandoned Hawaiian monk seal pup, KP2, who comes to live and work in her lab at UC Santa Cruz. It’s an irresistible tale, but for me, the power of this book lies in the way KP2’s life story is woven into the larger human drama of politics, spirituality, species loss, the nature of science, and the wonder of maternal connection. It’s obviously a great choice for any young person considering a career in science, especially women, but truly, friends, this is a story for all of us.

Okay … want a copy of your own? Signed by Dr. Williams? Just leave a comment on this post before 5pm on Thursday and I’ll enter your name in my drawing. If you spread the word about the giveaway and let me know that in a comment too, I’ll add your name a second time. On Friday, I’ll post the winner’s name here on my blog.

A few ground rules:

1. Winners must live in the continental United States. I will send the book to the winner by USPS Media Mail next Monday.

2. Please remember to check back on Friday to see if you’ve won; I’ll post instructions then for how to get me your mailing address.

3. Good luck, and happy reading!

One last thing: for a look at other nonfiction titles that books bloggers are reading and loving this week, visit this week’s Nonfiction Monday host, Shelf-employed blog. You’ll find a complete round-up there tomorrow.

The Man Who Planted Trees


Lost Groves, Champion Trees and an Urgent Plan to Save the Planet

By Jim Robbins

Spiegel & Grau, 2012

Category: Nonfiction for Grownups

We can wait around for someone else to solve the problem of climate change and the range of other environmental problems we face, from toxic waste to air pollution to dead zones in the oceans to the precipitous decline in biodiversity, or we can take matters into our own hands and plant trees.

If you have even a smidgeon of doubt that this statement is true, read this book. I predict that when you’re done, you’ll plant a tree. Or twenty.

Postscript: For those of you who are truly into nonfiction, particularly children’s nonfiction, don’t forget about the weekly Nonfiction Monday celebration. Check it out here!