STEM Tuesday Exploration — Interview with Author Jennifer Swanson and Giveaway

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 author Jennifer Swanson who wrote this month’s featured book, Astronaut-Aquanaut: How Space Science and Sea Science Interact.

The book invites readers along on a journey of exploration to two very different but similarly extreme environments—outer space and the deep ocean. Through fascinating text, interviews with experts, and hands-on activities, Astronaut-Aquanaut challenges young people to think about limitations on human explorers and how technology strives to overcome them.

Mary Kay Carson: Congratulations on Astronaut-Aquanaut being chosen as a Junior Library Guild selection! How did you come to write this fabulous book?

Jennifer Swanson: Well, it all started with a conversation I was having with my National Geographic Kids editor, Shelby Lees. We were discussing a different book on space that I was doing with her and talking about how astronauts train to go into space. I happened to mention that it was probably much different from how people trained to work under the ocean. That got me thinking. Was it different? I had to find out! Like any good nonfiction author, I  started researching. To my surprise, I found out that astronauts and aquanauts do a lot of things in common when training. As we say in the writing world, that fascinating tidbit of information was my HOOK! and one I was sure would make a great book!

Buy a copy of Astronaut-Aquanaut!

MKC: It looks like you got to interview some famous aquanauts and astronauts. Do you have a favorite moment or happening you’d like to share?

JS: There are so many with this book. Being a science geek and getting to talk to real astronauts and aquanauts made me feel like I was a groupie talking to a bunch of rock stars. Probably my two favorite moments were speaking with Dr. Kathy Sullivan on the phone for an hour (she was the FIRST woman to walk in space! And I remember her doing that)  and also meeting Fabien Cousteau in person. He is an amazing aquanaut in his own right, but also grandson of the famous Jacques Cousteau, who I grew up watching on television.  But really, talking to all of these experts was quite thrilling!

MKC: Why do you choose to write STEM books? 

STEM author Jennifer Swanson

JS: I LOVE STEM. I have since I was a kid. I was 7 when I started my own science club in my garage. My love of science has followed me my whole life. I have a B.S. in chemistry from the U.S. Naval Academy, and a M.S. Ed in K-8 science education. Aside from writing books for kids about science, I also teach middle school science online for Johns Hopkins University. I guess you could say that I am the epitome of a science geek. And proud of it!

MKC: For readers who loved Astronaut-Aquanaut, what other middle-grade books would you suggest?

Wow. There are so many!  Smash! Exploring the Mysteries of the Universe with the Large Hadron Collider by Sara Latta is really cool! Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly is one of my favorites. The movie was AWESOME, too! All of the Scientists in the Field series books by HMH.  As for fiction, there is The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer Holm and Michelle Houts’ new Lucy’s Lab series. I really loved that– it reminds me of me as a kid. There are so many great books with STEM and STEAM in them these days. It’s such a great time for all of us who love it!

MKC: Could you give us a peek into your process by sharing where you are right now on a current project and how you’re tackling it?

JS: Well, that’s an interesting question. I typically juggle several projects at once, sometimes simultaneously. Right now I’m waiting for edits on a long-term young-adult nonfiction STEM book that I did. I also just turned in an outline for another middle-grade STEM book and am about to have a call with the expert to do my initial interview. I like to make sure that my books with experts highlight their passion about their research because that really brings depth to the story. Finally, I am knee-deep in researching another topic and plan to start writing that proposal soon. I seem to work better with a lot of things going at once. 🙂

More about this week’s author……

Jennifer Swanson dreams of one day running away to the Museum of Science and Industry–then maybe she could look at all the exhibits and try out all the gadgets without competing for them with her kids. An author of twenty nonfiction science books for grades 3-6, Jennifer’s goal is to show kids that Science Rocks! She lives in sunny Florida with her husband, three kids and two dogs. When not writing she’s on the hunt for fun science facts. Learn more about Jennifer and her books at

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Win a FREE copy of Astronaut-Aquanaut!

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!

Your host this week is Mary Kay Carson, fellow space geek, science nerd, and author of Mission to Pluto and other nonfiction books for kids.

STEM Tuesday
STEM books ENGAGE. EXCITE. and INSPIRE! Join us each week as a group of dedicated STEM authors highlight FUN topics, interesting resources, and make real-life connections to STEM in ways that may surprise you. #STEMRocks!
  1. It sounds like this book is really great! Jen is the best! I’d love a copy for my science outreach programs.

  2. What a great way to get kids interested in science!

  3. This book sounds amazing! Space and the ocean–two favorite environments to read about in our house. Thanks for a great interview and helpful insights.

  4. Oh I love this concept…thanks for sharing!

  5. Aquinas would love to have this book in their school library! Okay, I admit I too would like a copy.

  6. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Sheila is very generous…I want a copy for myself (insert evil laugh). But I promise to let my kids read it. Congrats, Jen!

  8. Would love to win this for my nephew’s inquiring mind.