Welcome to STEM Tuesday: Author Interview & Book Giveaway, a repeating feature for the fourth Tuesday of every month. Go Science-Tech-Engineering-Math!
Today we’re interviewing Sibert-winner Catherine Thimmesh about Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women. This new edition of her classic 2000 book has been revised and updated. Horn Book says, “Today’s readers will find a laudable increase in the subjects’ diversity as well as a more contemporary focus…A resource as informative as it is empowering.”
Mary Kay Carson: Why did you write this book?
Catherine Thimmesh: I’ve always been drawn to the idea that creativity is not something “merely” relegated to the arts, but that it is a tool used across disciplines and particularly for problem solving. To me, “inventing” is just one word taking the place of three: “creative problem solving.” Also, I’ve always felt strongly about how society treats and depicts (or ignores) women and girls, and so I set out to write a book combining these two interests of mine.
MKC: How did you decide who to profile?
Catherine: The inventors I chose to feature meet subjective criteria I have: do I find this invention cool and fascinating? Do I think kids will find this invention cool and fascinating? Can I make the invention relevant in some way to today’s reader? Will the invention itself expressly turn away boy readers? (Which I don’t want — boys like these stories too, despite the title — and it’s important they see stories of women and girls inventing, not only stories of men.) And, importantly, can I show as much diversity as possible within the pages? (In the original, I didn’t have the internet as a research tool and it was exceptionally difficult to find inventors of color. The new version has a more balanced mix of inventors of different ethnicities and of different countries.
MKC: What makes inventors such an engaging topic for kids?
Catherine: I think kids like reading about inventions and inventors because they recognize themselves in the pages. Even if a kid has never physically invented something, and never tinkers in a maker space, kids think about these things all the time. They’re inventing things in their minds and in their creative play. And they are wildly inventive. So, I think they connect with the idea that anyone, at any age, can invent. And, possible invent something others would use, and maybe even make money!
MKC: Do you choose to write STEM book or have a STEM background?
Catherine: Girls Think of Everything (2000 edition) was my first book. At that time, STEM (as STEM) didn’t even exist. I don’t technically have a STEM background — I have a liberal arts degree, but I took my fair share of required, and many elected, STEM related classes. I love science! But with my books, I don’t approach them as “STEM books” or “this would fit in with STEM curricula” — and thus, in the writing process I’m never trying to write to any guidelines. I choose my book topics in almost the very same way I chose who to include in the inventor’s book: What topic am I excited about/or passionate about/or intrigued with? What topic am I really curious about? What topic do I think kids are curious about? Excited/passionate/or intrigued with? Does my curiosity/interest overlap with kids’? Can I make the topic relevant and accessible to kids? Actually, I think it’s kind of interesting that the majority of my books are STEM books, though I don’t set out to write STEM books. I just set out to satiate and better understand my curiosity. But isn’t that exactly where scientists begin? With curiosity? And isn’t that what kids’ have in abundance?
Win a FREE copy of Girls Think of Everything!
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.
Your host is Mary Kay Carson, author of Alexander Graham Bell for Kids, Mission to Pluto, Weird Animals, and other nonfiction books for kids. @marykaycarson