Award-winning MG STEM Books

STEM Tuesday– Award-Winning MG STEM Titles– Your Turn: A Wish for 2022

Welcome to STEM Tuesday: Author Interview & Book Giveaway, a repeating feature for the last Tuesday of every month. Go Science-Tech-Engineering-Math!

Normally this would be the time of the month when I would choose an author from a list identified by our STEM Tuesday team and conduct an interview. This month’s theme was award winning books but I’ve been on both sides of that equation. So I decided, as we head into 2022 to do something different. I want to issue a call to action for those who don’t get awards instead.

Over the past two years authors I interviewed for STEM Tuesday have taught me about spider silk made from genetically modified goats, women who were denied a spot in the astronaut program despite performing better than their male counterparts, and implicit bias in archeology that may skew what we know about ancient civilizations. One author/illustrator judged an MIT contest showcasing implausible scientific ideas. Another learned to dive with a photographer in order to better understand the nature of ocean conservation. And while the world knows about the women showcased in Hidden Figures, one author published a book about fifty additional African American women whose STEM contributions changed the world.

If I were to ask you to name the above authors, would you be able to do it without looking at my interviews? That’s my concern in a nutshell. A select few of these authors have been recognized with awards, but most have not. Nonfiction is a staple for helping young readers develop executive functioning and learn more about the world around them, but the authors are not often celebrated in proportion to their contributions to children’s literature. Even with awards, most authors are still struggling to become household names let alone achieve financial stability.

Writing STEM is hard. The research often rivals an academic research paper. Many of us write for magazines, textbooks, trade publishers and educational publishers. What is often true is that authors need to log a lot of hours in the library, speaking to experts and researching in the field to determine how to best present the subject matter in a way a student can understand. In a sense, we have to do a deep dive to understand the material before we can explain it coherently to someone else. Unique to children’s publishing there are additional rules to follow. There’s an art to working within those constraints. I’ve been asked to do planet books of 4,000 words for upper elementary students and recast those same facts for a beginner readers using only 300 words. It’s not just the word count but the choice of words. For instance, with younger students we have to be mindful about sentence length, how many multisyllabic words in a sentence, and words common for that reading level and Lexile range.

After the books are printed and in circulation, awards are tricky. For every author that receives recognition, there are many equally skilled authors that don’t. And remember, the industry celebrates winners, not runners up. A different committee, on a different day, might have picked a different book entirely from the same pile. I know, because I’ve been on a number of awards committees. There are epic battles and painstaking discussions before a consensus is reached.  I’ve also noticed that the attention paid to award winning fiction authors is sustained much longer than for nonfiction authors. Those awards often translate into more work for fiction authors and higher compensation but not necessarily for their nonfiction counterparts.

I’ve been luckier than most of my peers in this respect. I’ve published more than 90 books for children and have more under contract. So I wanted to raise my voice to challenge the readers of this blog to change the nature of the game. The industry pays attention to where the money is flowing. Publishing pays attention to social media chatter and reviews. You can help my STEM peers by doing the following.

Once a month:

  1. Check out a book (or two) from the library. If you need a place to start, we have great recommendations on our STEM Tuesday site. Books that are checked out stay in circulation longer.
  2. If you’re in a school district, consider adding a book to the school library or classroom. I know budgets are small, but even one book is a boon for that author.
  3. Write a review. It only takes five minutes. Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble.
  4. Give a shout out to an author whose work you admire. Try to pick someone who isn’t getting a lot of marketing support from publishers. The ones the awards committees didn’t announce. I’m all for boosting underdogs. That shout-out will make an author’s day.

 

Win a FREE copy of the book of your choice.

It’s the holiday season so let’s do something positive to start 2022.

This month, instead of me telling you who I found fascinating…this time you tell me.

What nonfiction book have you loved?

What’s next on your wish list?

Enter the giveaway by leaving a comment below.

The randomly-chosen winner will be contacted via email and asked to provide a mailing address (within the U.S. only) to receive the book.

Good luck!

 

Christine Taylor-ButlerYour host is Christine Taylor-Butler, MIT nerd and author of many nonfiction books for kids. You can read about her philosophy  on STEM in this article for the Horn Book. Christine has recently finished a short story for a speculative anthology on Marie Curie’s teen years (2023), a children’s afrofuturism book for Benchmark Publishing set in the Trappist-1 solar system (it exists, look it up!), and a new nonfiction series not yet announced. She is also the author of the middle grade sci-fi series The Lost Tribes. Follow @ChristineTB on Twitter and/or @ChristineTaylorButler on Instagram

 

 

 

STEM Tuesday– Award-Winning MG STEM Titles– Writing Tips & Resources

It’s “Award-Winning STEM Titles” month on STEM Tuesday!

Check out our book list for a great place to start diving into the award winners and this post for classroom ideas. But when approaching this month’s theme from a Writing Tips & Resources angle, I came up with one thing. One thing common to all award-winning books is they’re well written. I hear you screaming, “Captain Obvious.” I understand. “Write good books” is not the most helpful thing from a writing craft advice viewpoint but that’s all I got. 

It’s also the end of the year. Another pretty tough year for many. I hope you all are well and creating the things only you can create and taking things one day at a time.

In order to fulfill my STEM Tuesday duty and not find myself sent to the doghouse, here’s an “Award-Winning STEM Titles”-themed post (I used the term “themed” lightly).

As they used to say on Monty Python, “Now for something completely different.” A comic version of how I imagine a STEM Tuesday Award Show would go.

Thanks for supporting STEM Tuesday!

Enjoy all the award-winning middle-grade book lists. Use these lists as portals to find new authors and subject matter to explore. Remember one thing about book award lists, the books on award lists are almost always well-written but not all well-written books are fortunate enough to land on an award list. 

All we are saying…is give books a chance.

Doesn’t that sound like it should be a holiday song?

 

Mike Hays has worked hard from a young age to be a well-rounded individual. A well-rounded, equal opportunity sports enthusiast, that is. If they keep a score, he’ll either watch it, play it, or coach it. A molecular microbiologist by day, middle-grade author, sports coach, and general good citizen by night, he blogs about sports/training-related topics at  www.coachhays.com and writer stuff at  www.mikehaysbooks.comTwo of his science essays, The Science of Jurassic Park and Zombie Microbiology 101,  are included in the Putting the Science in Fiction collection from Writer’s Digest Books. He can be found roaming around the Twitter-sphere under the guise of @coachhays64 and Instagram at @mikehays64.

 


The O.O.L.F Files

This month’s Out Of Left Field (O.O.L.F.) Files highlight the award winners in STEM. 

  •  The Best of STEM Awards

      • There’s so much awesome to check out on this site. I’ve barely scratched the surface.
    • EDUCATORS CELEBRATE TOOLS THAT ENGAGE CRITICAL THINKING
      • “An award to finally put the spotlight on the innovative products, technologies, and services that are changing the world of STEM education. The Best of STEM Awards is the only award program created for and by teachers, and the winners will be determined by specially selected STEM educator judges and by email from fellow educators.”
    • The Best of STEM Awards 2021

  • SMART Scholarship Program

      • The Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship-for-Service Program, funded by the Department of Defense (DoD), is a combined educational and workforce development opportunity for STEM students.
      • Mission: The SMART Scholarship-for-Service Program enhances the DoD civilian workforce with innovative scientists, engineers and researchers across the United States.
      • Vision: SMART creates a highly skilled DoD STEM workforce that competes with the dynamic trends in technology and innovation to protect national security.
  • Finding the right book to read.

 


STEM Tuesday– Award-Winning MG STEM Titles– In the Classroom

This month, we’re looking at award winning books. I decided to look at the best STEM books I read this year. Turns out, they were all award winners in one way or another.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgBOMB: The Race to Build – and Steal – The World’s Most Dangerous Weapon
by Steve Sheinkin (2012)

This is a nonfiction book that reads more like a novel. It was the recipient of numerous awards, including a Newbery Honor and the Robert F. Sibert Award.

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgThe Superpower Field Guide: Beavers
by Rachel Poliquin (2018)

This is a superfun look at all things beavers. It was a Junior Library Guild selection and ALA Notable Book.

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgThe Wisdom of Trees
by Lita Judge (2021)

The main text is written in poetry. Additional text on each page provides tons of amazing information about trees. Although presented as a picture book, it’s great for older readers. It’s on the New York Public Library’s Best Books of 2021.

 

Here are some ideas for working with award-winning books.

Check Out The Awards Lists

Look through awards lists and pick out a few books to read. There are lots of them. Here are a few that often highlight STEM books. (This is a big reason why my to-read list only ever seems to grow.)

NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Books – https://www.nsta.org/ostb22
AAAS/Subaru Prize for Excellence in Science Books – https://www.sbfprize.org
Green Earth Book Award – http://www.natgen.org/green-earth-book-awards#WINNERS2021
Mathical Book Prize – https://www.mathicalbooks.org
(Robert F.) Sibert Medal – for informational books – https://www.ala.org/alsc/sites/ala.org.alsc/files/content/awardsgrants/bookmedia/sibertmedal/sibert-medal-honor-books-to-present_0.pdf
Bank Street Best of the Year – https://www.bankstreet.edu/library/center-for-childrens-literature/childrens-book-committee/best-childrens-books-of-the-year/2021-edition

Create Your Own Awards

Some of my favorite books were not award winners. Celebrate your own favorites by creating your own awards. These awards could be fun – Book Most Likely to Keep You Up At Night – or serious – Best STEM Book. You could try to pick one big award winner like the Newbery, or put together an award-winning list like the Bank Street book list.

Come up with the qualities that your award-winning books should have. If you have categories, determine what qualifies books to go in them.

Have everyone submit their pick for the award(s). Have them give a persuasive speech as to why their book should be the winner. Act like a jury or vote as in an election to determine the winners.

Weigh In On the Kids’ Book Choice Awards

Voting has already closed for this year, but be sure to check out the Kids’ Book Choice Awards starting in August. Here’s the link: https://everychildareader.net/choice/about


Janet Slingerland has written more than 20 nonfiction books for children, including the award-winning The Secret Lives of Plants! (Pennsylvania School Librarians Association Top 40 in 2013). For more information about Janet, check out her website at http://janetsbooks.com.