Today I am so excited to be interviewing
Author Nancy Castaldo
about her awesome new STEM book:
Although it has only been out a few weeks, Nancy’s book has garnered some FANTASTIC reviews:
* “A terrific, engrossing resource.”
—Booklist, STARRED review
“An impassioned call to action…”
—School Library Journal
“Castaldo delivers a sobering global status report—and a call to action…Well-crafted and inspiring.”
“Castaldo breaks down threats like climate change and disease, while providing a greater sense of interconnectivity in nature and within world communities.”
Congratulations on the success of your new book, The Story of Seeds: From Mendel’s Garden to Your Plate, and How There’s More of Less to Eat Around the World (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016). The book looks fantastic! I can’t wait to read my copy.
How did you come up with this idea?
Thank you! There wasn’t one spark that fueled the idea for this book – there were many! My daughter was working at a local farm store and completing her Girl Scout Gold Award project. She had come up with a 30-mile diet in which you ate food produced or grown within 30 miles of your home. It was eye-opening to realize the benefits of this for both the health of the environment, the local economy, and us! It brought food front and center at our house. As an environmental educator I was well informed about issues of the environment – including loss of habitat and endangered species, but I began to learn about endangered seeds, endangered crops, and the crisis we’re facing. Soon it seemed that everywhere I turned there were issues with our agriculture and native plants — from war-torn Iraq to the fields in Iowa. What’s the best way to get the word out? A book, of course!
What kind of research did you have to do for this book?
The research for THE STORY OF SEEDS took me to California, the Hudson Valley, and all the way to Russia in the middle of winter. I tasted heirloom watermelon, discovered jeweled-colored corn, visited seed banks that store our future food, and celebrated biodiversity in our fields, farms, and tables. I met the most dedicated seed scientists and activists along the way!
Was it hard to get a publisher interested in this idea?
I am so lucky to have an editor who championed this book along its path. Without her it might not have happened.
When did you start writing? What drew you to nonfiction?
I have been writing since I was a kid. My first published piece was a poem in Seventeen magazine. I was 16! Before I was writing books, I was writing magazine articles for a variety of publications – from the Sierra Club Wastepaper to Family Fun. During those days, I was also a contributing editor for Berkshire Magazine. It was great fun to explore topics and stories and share them in this form. Books followed.
Why books about science?
I write mostly about science because I am an environmental educator and my undergrad work was in biology and chemistry. I love being outside and learning about the world around me. Sharing it through writing is the icing on top!
What part of science to you like the best?
I enjoy writing most about how we (humans) interact with our environment.
You’ve been writing for a few years, can you share some of the different books that you’ve written. Any favorites among them?
My first book was published in 1995, so it has been a few years! I have written activity books that explored various ecosystems, a historical fiction picture book about pizza, a National Geographic title about polar bears, and a middle grade titled, SNIFFER DOGS: HOW DOGS (and THEIR NOSES) SAVE THE WORLD. It’s impossible to pick a favorite. I will admit, though, that I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of writing and photographing SNIFFER DOGS. It does hold a special place in my heart, as do the dogs and handlers I met along the way.
Is there a particular age range that you enjoy writing?
I have written for the very young set to young adult readers. I enjoy it all. Every story dictates how it will be told. Some are meant to have young readers and some older readers. It really depends on the story.
In your school visits, what do you talk about? Do you get the kids interested in science and the environment?
I love taking to students about research. It’s the lifeblood of nonfiction and the part I love the best. Learning how to conduct research is a life skill that they will be able to use in every aspect of their life. The environment is awe-inspiring. Through tales of research both in and out of the field I strive to inspire kids to explore the world around them. My goal is to empower them to make a difference wherever they live.
Any upcoming books or projects that you are currently working on that you can share with us?
I’ve had a blast working on my upcoming BEASTLY BRAINS. It’s all about animal intelligence and is due out early in 2017. I’m currently at work researching the next book for middle grade readers. Let’s just say that I’ll be doing a lot of traveling in the coming year to meet some rare creatures.
Anything you’d like to add?
With the amount of research I need to conduct for my books my school visits are limited these days. Teachers should contact me as early as they can to book a visit. When I am not available to visit a school in person, there is always Skype! I love meeting students and chatting about science and research any time I can!
Thanks for hosting me!
My pleasure, Nancy. I love to see the success of great middle-grade STEM books!
To learn more about Nancy, go to her website at NancyCastaldo.com
For all you teachers and librarians out there, be sure to check out the
Nancy has generously offered to giveaway an autographed copy of her book. Leave a comment below to be entered. If your comment has something to do with seeds or planting you get a double entry!
Jennifer Swanson is the author of over 25 books for children. Her titles focus mostly on STEM/STEAM topics. You can find more information about her at www.JenniferSwansonBooks.com