Interview and Giveaway with Science Author Patricia Newman

I’m so excited to welcome Author Patricia Newman to the MUF blog today. She writes SCIENCE books!  YAY!

Patricia (middle) is shown here with Lilian Carswell (L) and Brent Hughes (R).  Photo credit:  Elise Newman Montanino


Author Patricia Newman has written several titles that connect young readers to scientific concepts, including Sea Otter Heroes: The Predators That Saved an Ecosystem, a Junior Library Guild Selection and recipient of a starred Kirkus review; Plastic, Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a Green Earth Book Award winner; Ebola: Fears and Facts, a Booklist Editors’ Choice selection; and the upcoming fall 2017 release, Zoo Scientists to the Rescue. In her free time, she enjoys nature walks, the feel of dirt between her fingers in the garden, and traveling. She lives in Northern California with her husband.

Patricia is here to share her newest book,

Sea Otters: The Predators that Saved an Ecosystem (Millbrook Press, 2017)


Why do you write science books? 

I like the way science connects to nearly all aspects of our world. For instance, in Sea Otter Heroes: The Predators That Saved an Ecosystem I show kids how saving endangered predators can benefit our air, our water, and our food supply. In my opinion, for kids to be successful in the 21st century, they will need to become global citizens who look at the bigger picture. Science can help us do that.


How do you choose your subjects for your books?

In the case of Sea Otter Heroes, the subject chose me. I was invited to the David Smith Conservation Research Fellows Retreat in April 2015 by Chelsea Rochman, one of the scientists that I featured in Plastic, Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. She thought her colleagues might be interested in learning more about communicating their research to children.


I conducted a day-long writing workshop, and somewhere in the middle, marine biologist Brent Hughes and his mentor Lilian Carswell (the Southern Sea Otter Recovery Coordinator with US Fish and Wildlife) approached me to see if I would be interested in writing about Brent’s sea otter discovery. He explained to me that he’d discovered a trophic cascade in which sea otters, the apex predator in an estuary off Monterey Bay, restored the natural food chain and healed the ecosystem so it could perform functions that benefit us. The more I spoke with Brent and Lilian, the more I liked the idea. Everyone thinks sea otters are adorable, and every kid knows about food chains, but Brent had found an amazing twist that most kids wouldn’t know about.


You seem drawn to eco-friendly topics. Is that something that you are passionate about? 

Yes, without a doubt. We have only one planet. It sustains us in so many ways. The ocean produces nearly 75% of our oxygen, it feeds us, and it entertains us. In a world where concrete is king, I think kids (and adults) benefit from getting closer to nature. In the current political climate, I want to persuade kids to love nature before they are corrupted by “alternative facts.” Caring is key because we protect what we love.


Tell us a little about how you do your research. How much time do you spend? What type of sources do you look for?

Nonfiction requires digging, and like my colleagues I dig through scientific journals, online sources, books, magazines, and newspapers. I also interview scientists conducting amazing research, and if I’m lucky I take a field trip to visit their labs. For Sea Otter Heroes, I spent a day on Brent’s research boat enjoying the sun on my face and the crisp ocean breeze, watching pelicans dive and sea otters crack open crabs with a rock. There are definitely worse jobs!


Why is back matter useful for readers?

As a researcher, I love back matter because it contains all sorts of gems. But for kids, I hope it extends the reading experience. When a novel or a fictional series ends, we have to say good-bye to beloved characters, but nonfiction science back matter lays more research, more videos, and more books within a child’s reach and encourages continued inquiry—the basis of all science.


Anything that you are working on that you would care to share? Other books that we can look for from you soon?

Photographer Annie Crawley (from Plastic, Ahoy!) and I team up again for Zoo Scientists to the Rescue (Millbrook Press, Fall 2017). We had a great time with this book, traveling to three different zoos, getting up close and personal with the animals, and fighting a fierce Colorado blizzard. The book features three endangered species—orangutans, black-footed ferrets, and black rhinos—and shows how zoos protect them and their wild habitats. Annie and I are excited to introduce our readers to the three scientists that we interviewed. The two women and one man are amazing role models for kids.

For fall 2018, think elephants.


Do you do school and/or Skype visits? Why do you think these are helpful to students?

I visit schools in person or virtually every year. Author visits motivate kids to apply themselves to reading and writing. We introduce them to a variety of literature—some of which is bound to pique their interest. Authors also show kids what real revision looks like and that writing takes perseverance. I tell students that writing is the hardest job I’ve ever had, but even in the face of rejection I refuse to give up on myself. What child who shares a piece of writing with me or asks about writer’s block or struggles to put ideas on paper wouldn’t benefit from believing in him/herself?

If you want to learn more about Patricia’s books or just drop her a line, you can find her on Twitter @PatriciaNewman  or visit her website at  to check out some of her other amazing science books:  





It’s Time for a Giveaway!!    Patricia’s publisher, Millbrook Press/Lerner, has generously donated a copy of her Sea Otter Heroes book. For a chance to win, leave a comment below about your favorite animal!

Jennifer Swanson is an award-winning author of over 25+ science books for kids. Visit her at her favorite place to explore the world around her



Jennifer Swanson on FacebookJennifer Swanson on Twitter
Jennifer Swanson
Science ROCKS! And so do Jennifer Swanson's books. She is the award-winning author of over 40 nonfiction books for kids. Jennifer Swanson’s love of science began when she started a science club in her garage at the age of 7. While no longer working from the garage, you can find Jennifer at her favorite place to explore the world around her.
Jennifer is also the creator and administrator of #STEMTuesday and #STEAMTeam2020
  1. They causes you to feel fuller aiding you consume less for your next meal while they leave yyou feeling satisfied.
    You will arrive at enjoy your brand-new snacks unless youu keep processsed foods at home.
    Also, there may be more to fat loss than diet and exercise.

  2. What a wonderful interview. I’m curious to read about Otter Heroes. Congratulations on the release Patricia. Sounds like you had so much fun doing the research.

  3. What great books! I know my kids would love Sea Otter Heroes, and so would I 🙂 At zoos, I always like to visit orangutans~ I especially love it when there’s a wee one to see~ they’re always so playful!

  4. What a great interview! Thanks for sharing insights into back matter and more. I really love the cover.

  5. Great interview! I think sea otters are so cute, too, but my favorite animal is the flamingo.

  6. Wonderful interview with a wonderful writer! Patti is making a difference in how kids (and adults) think about saving our planet.

  7. Sea turtles are my favorite animals.

  8. Thanks for a great interview! Sea Otter Heroes looks wonderful.
    As for a favorite animal, I’ve been enamored with orcas for years.

  9. My favorite animal is a hippo because I was given it by a friend after a long walk in Zimbabwe. You aren’t allowed to marry within your totem, or eat the animal of your totem. Totems are from the tribal days and naturally prevented incest and animal populations. Pretty cool, right?! Since then, I’ve really embraced the idea of “the hippo” and all their odd beauties that come with them.

  10. I love elephants! Excited to read her book about them!

  11. I love penguins! They waddle around in their black and white suits (at least some do) and survive in the harshest of environments, too. Mostly, they make me smile.

  12. I’m lucky enough to be in the same SCBWI district with Patty and have long been a fan of her work. This is a wonderful interview. The book looks spectacular, but that’s no surprise considering the author. I will pass on the giveaway and buy a copy. Thanks for the post.

  13. Loved reading this interview! I get a chance to speak with scientists quite often and I appreciate when their work can get shared with the general public – especially kids!

    I am captivated by whales. Living near the ocean I have had the opportunity to go on many whale watches, both regular and small boat watches. They never cease to amaze me with their grace and beauty.

  14. This sounds like a fascinating book…win or lose I shall read it! Your day on the research boat must have been intriguing…who says nonfiction is dull?

  15. I’m going to pass on the giveaway but wanted to say how much I enjoy the cover of Sea Otter Heroes. I love how these real life pictures of animals are making science engaging to young readers.