STEM Tuesday — Astronomy/ Eclipse — Author Interview

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

This month’s featured STEM author is Meg Thacher, author of Sky Gazing: a guide to the Moon, Sun, planets, stars, eclipses, constellations (Storey Publishing, 2020). Meg teaches astronomy at Smith College and is the academic director for Smith’s Summer Science & Engineering Program for high school girls. Plus, she writes for kids!

Sky Gazing is a fun and fascinating tour of our solar system, with many extra bonus points for its glow-in-the-dark cover! spread from SKY GAZING

Andi Diehn: The format of your book is slightly unusual – it’s big! Why did your publisher decide to go big with this one? What is it about the content that lends itself to taking up a lot of “space” on the page? (pun intended)
Meg Thacher: I think the size (11 by 11 inches), which is similar to many picture books, signals that there will be a lot of illustrations. This large size is not unusual for Storey Publishing’s kids’ books. They publish a lot of how-to books: Backpack Explorer, Cooking Class (Deanna Cook), Cardboard Box Engineering (Jonathan Adolph). All of them, including Sky Gazing, have pages large enough to accommodate diagrams and instructions. Sky Gazing is a book about observing the sky from wherever you are, day or night, with the naked eye. But it also has information on the What causes the Moon’s phases? How does the Sun move through the sky at different times of year? What are the shapes that people all over the world saw in the stars, and what are the stories they told about them? It’s hard to do that that well without illustrations.

Andi: I like how you weave in history, not just science – why is it important for readers to think about astronomy’s role in exploration and culture?

Meg: Astronomy is the oldest science. People started out telling stories about what was happening into the sky, which inspired them to observe these phenomena closely, which in turn helped them to discover the reasons behind them. So those first storytellers were also scientists. It was important to me that readers understand that everyone, everywhere on Earth looked at the sky. No matter who you are, your ancestors were astronomers. And you can be, too!

Andi: I LOVE the hands-on activities! Why include these in the book? spread from SKY GAZING

Meg: This is partly a Storey thing and partly a me thing. Reading about astronomy is fun, but doing activities makes the ideas and concepts more “sticky”. We can read about the path of the Sun through the sky, but if we put a stick in the ground and watch its shadow for a day, we’ll remember it better. We’ll understand the connections between the Sun and shadows, and even deepen that understanding by making a connection to how shadows help us tell time. I use activities in my teaching all the time.

Andi: Your book encompasses your topics from the microscopic examination to a macro view – such as the section on the sun, which includes a discussion of fusion. Did you ever think, when you were writing, whoa, this is way too much for a kid’s book?

Meg: Absolutely! And that’s why there are so many text features. The book is written for kids in grades 4 to 9, which encompasses a huge range of scientific knowledge. I was very careful to check in with the NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) so that I knew what content was age appropriate. The main text should be comprehensible to a fourth grader, but I wanted to have something for the ninth graders, too. So there are sidebars for them that go into more depth. The fourth graders can skip those without losing the general explanation. Photos and diagrams and pictures illustrate concepts in the text, so that readers have a visual representation of the text. One of my favorite features is the graphic novel sequences. For example, there’s a detailed text description of how the Moon was formed on one page, and a series of panels on the facing page, complete with collisions and explosions. One is engaging, and one provides detail.

Andi: In your book, astronomy is super accessible – you have lots of suggestion for how readers can observe the skies above them, even without telescopes or other equipment. Why is that important to include?

spread from SKY GAZING

Meg: I wanted to make astronomy accessible to everyone. Astronomy can be a really expensive hobby if you buy a telescope. Or very frustrating if you buy a cheap one. The sky is up there for all of us to observe—you don’t have to go to a lab or hike through the jungle to get your data. There’s so much to see, no matter who you are or where you live, with your eyes alone. And if you want to go a little deeper, the absolute cheapest or oldest binoculars will help you do that.

Andi: You’re a college professor – when writing this book for younger students, what did you focus on that might be different from your work with older students?

Meg: Actually, I teach a lot of the same things to both audiences. The courses I teach to my college students are focused on observation, with telescopes and the naked eye. The two main things I do differently when writing for a younger audience are to make sure that the topics are developmentally appropriate and that the material is fun and relevant for kids.

Andi: Your tattoo book is so fun! How did that project come about?! Temporary tattoo book

Meg: My publisher again. Storey has a series called Tattoos That Teach. Topics include butterflies, sharks, dinosaurs, and woodland creatures. Astronomy was an obvious fit, so they hired me to come up with a list of astronomical objects and write the blurbs, and they hired Angela Rizza for the pictures. She’s an illustrator and a tattoo artist!


Andi: Is there anything I didn’t ask about your book that you’d like to mention?

Meg: Yes – how it looks! This is down to the illustrator, Hannah Bailey, and the book designer, Jessica Armstrong. When I turned in my manuscript, I included hundreds of diagrams and pictures. I would find them on the web or in books, or make a rough sketch, and these two turned it into a work of art. When I saw the “first pages”—the initial version of the text and illustration, laid out as it would be in the book—I was blown away. From photos and illustrations to page placement and color choices, this book is just gorgeous. It would be a very different book if I was the only involved in its creation.



Meg Thacher teaches astronomy and writes about science. She loves to teach kids and adults about the wonders of the universe. She’s written 30 articles for kids’ magazines: feature articles, interviews and scientist profiles, DIY science activities, and humor. Her first book, Sky Gazing, teaches kids how to observe the sky, night or day, from wherever they are. For more information, check out her website:



Andi Diehn has written 17 nonfiction books plus a picture book on mental health called MAMA’S DAYS from Reycraft Books. She works as aAndi Diehn children’s book editor and marketer at Nomad Press and visits schools and libraries around the country to talk about science, writing, poetry, mental wellness, and anything else kids want to know! Andi also works as a bookseller at her local indie in Vermont – The Norwich Bookstore – and lives in rural New Hampshire with her husband, three sons, and too many pets.

STEM Tuesday
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