We love book launches here at the Mixed Up Files and especially when it is one of our own bloggers. It was my great pleasure to read Jen Swanson’s new book Brain Games this weekend. It’s colorful and packed with great information in an accessible format. I have a confession to make, I’m a total brain anatomy nerd. So right off the bat I have to know which is your favorite lobe? Mine is the temporal lobe, always has been. I’m a musician.
I have to say that mine is probably the frontal lobe. I’m a scientist which makes me think and approach life logically all the time — sometimes whether I want to or not! Ha.
This book is so visually dynamic. National Geographic does a great job of making books that really jump off the shelf and into kids hearts. We sell lots of them at the bookstore because they are so vivid. So which comes first in the book making process, words? Images? A little bit of both?
Let me start by saying that this book was a huge undertaking. I was tasked with taking a very popular, heavily video-enhanced TV show and turning it into a 2-dimensional book, but without losing any of the excitement and interactiveness of the show. My first task was to watch all of the episodes of the TV show, Brain Games. Yep, all about 24 hours of them. Then, I had to figure out which challenges from the show would translate easily into a book. I did that by searching for images on the internet. When I submitted my first draft, it was full of images of the brain, images of challenges, and of course, all of the words to explain everything. I guess you could say that I worked with images and words simultaneously. That is not always how it happens with an NGKids book, but in this case, it was the only way to handle this one.
One of the things I really appreciated about the book is that it wasn’t just an ad for the tv show. Which is great because lots of kids who will love this book may not have access to the show.
How did you got into the field of writing science for kids. Were you a total science nerd as a kid? Did you study science in college?
I have been a science geek since birth, I think. I started a science club in my garage when I was about 7. My mom gave me a microscope which was my prized possesion. We used to look at flowers, grass, trees, even water samples from our creek under it. I have carried my love of science with me ever since. I studied chemistry in college at the U.S. Naval Academy, and went on to earn my M.S. Ed in K-8 science from Walden University. My “day” job is as a middle school science instructor for John’s Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth, where I get to work with gifted students from all around the world. Yep, I’m a science geek extraordinare!!
Did you have a science teacher that really inspired you?
As for a teacher that inspired me, the one that comes to mind is my 7th grade science teacher, Mrs. Roth. You see, back when I was in school there weren’t many female science teachers. And she was the BEST! It showed me that women could do science, too. Couple that with very supportive parents and I was destined to love science my whole life. After all, SCIENCE ROCKS!
Speaking of science nerds, Hank Green did the forward for this book. How did that come about? Did you get a chance to talk to him?
No, I actually didn’t get to meet Hank Green. My NGKids editor knows him. Although I do love the Crash Course videos. My daughter who is in high school has to watch some of them for her classes, which is very cool.
What’s up next for you?
I have a book coming out with Charlesbridge in June 2016 titled SUPER GEAR: Nanotechnology and Sports Team Up! It is an exciting look into the world of sports and how the microscopic of science is helping athletes to perform better than ever before. Want to hit a golf ball farther, swing a tennis racket with more oomph, or even swim faster? Nanotechnology can help with that!
Plus, I have two more books releasing next year. NGKids Everything Robotics takes the reader on a peek inside the world of robotics and how it is changing our world as we know it. Forces and Motion by Nomad Press comes out in 2016 as well. It’s an interactive book full of experiments and activities to help kids learn more about the basics of physics.
Sounds like you’ve got no end of fascinating projects to work on. Blog readers if you’d like to win a copy of Jennifer’s newest title Brain Games, please leave us a comment below and we’ll pick a winner in one week. Jennifer will be glad to answer your questions in the comments section all day today. Thanks Jennifer for sharing this really fun book.
I can’t wait to get this book for my fifth grader. Happy book birthday, Jen!
Thanks Hillary! I hope he loves it!
Thanks everyone for your comments! I’m glad to hear you like science books!! 🙂
awesome book and article. My k-6 kids would love this
Happy Book Birthday! Such a great way to inspire love for science 🙂
Happy Book Birthday, Jen! I know my kids will love your book.
This sounds fantastic (and so do the other books mentioned)! What a great interview~ this is the kind of book I’d love to read with my young girls 🙂
Yay! Girls who love science!!! 🙂
This looks like a super book. Thanks for the interview and the post. I enjoyed reading this.
Thanks Brenda! They were really fun to write. And that’s why I like to write for middle grade readers. I think there needs to be fun, interactive science books to capture their imagination and make them want to learn more! 🙂
With common core there has been an emphasis on reading more non fiction, our school even require’s one non fiction book per trimester. Personally, I think this is great, but often times it is difficult to find just the right book that my kiddo will want to read. I’m excited to see these titles, they all would be a big hit and certainly great kid appeal.
Brenda, excellent! Glad to hear it. 🙂