STEM Tuesday–Peeking into the Mind of a Scientist/Engineer–Interview with Author Heather L. Montgomery

STEM TUESDAY from the mixed up files 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 Heather L. Montgomery, author of SOMETHING ROTTEN: A Fresh Look at Roadkill, a recently-released book that’s stacking up starred reviews. School Library Journal says, “With wry humor, gory detail, and great enthusiasm, . . . this book is not for the faint of heart, but be prepared to laugh along the way and to learn a lot. . . Sure to be a hit among students. A top addition to STEM collections.”

Click the cover for additional information about the book, including research photos and a link to submit your own roadkill stories.




Mary Kay Carson: Why did you write Something Rotten?

Heather L. Montgomery: One day, when I was procrastinating writing a book about rattlesnakes, I went for a run. On my little country lane I came across a rattler who had lost his life to a tire. I had some questions, so I picked him up. No, you probably shouldn’t do that, but I did. And I spent the rest of the day learning from that marvelous guy, his fold-able fangs, his snorkel for when his mouth is crammed full of bunny, his non-existent lung!?! This was research at its best. And then I wondered: who else uses roadkill…

MKC: Care to share a memorable research moment?

Heather: Just about everything about this book has become a favorite moment. From plunging my hands into roadkill compost to talking to a kid who re-builds animal skeletons from roadkill, this research rocked. Another beautiful thing is that the research process became the book.

This might be my favorite part of it all: I had the opportunity to share with readers how questions drove me to slice open a skunk, how one sentence dropped in an interview lead me across the country to meet 400 roadkill professionals, how trusting inquiry carried me right down the road to jaw-dropping discoveries — can you say “contagious cancer”!?!   This book proved it: Inquiry is my life!

Heather L. Montgomery writes for kids who are wild about animals. The weirder, the wackier, the better. An award-winning science educator, Heather uses yuck appeal to engage young minds. During school presentations, petrified animal parts and tree guts inspire reluctant readers and writers.

MKC: Why do you write STEM books?

Heather: Um, Inquiry is my life. Once, I tried to kick the habit of asking questions. It made me sick. I do have a B.S. in biology, an M.S. in environmental education, and over 20 years’ experience teaching about nature, but really it’s just that writing, researching, and teaching about science is who I am at my core.

MKC: The book’s unique first-person voice and the clever use of footnotes are courageous style choices. Who was your audience when writing the book? 

Heather: For years at school visits or educator conferences I talked about dissecting that road-killed rattlesnake. Those audiences showed me the power of story. They taught me to play a game, balancing information and story. And, they laughed with me (this quirky lady asking oddball questions), not at me. Those audiences gave me the confidence to write the way I speak. That was a gift. I began to see that readers would follow me down this road, this rollercoaster of research. Thank you listeners, for showing me how to write this book.

MKC: Any suggested titles for fans of Something Rotten?

Heather: Any of the phenomenal nonfiction by authors Sy Montgomery, Sarah Albee, or Georgia Bragg. Page-turning fiction such as: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly and The Thing about Jellyfish by Ali BenjaminAdult readers might like books by Mary Roach. She showed me how to share my quest for information.

Win a FREE copy of SOMETHING ROTTEN: A Fresh Look at Roadkill!

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 fellow skull collector Mary Kay Carson, author of Mission to Pluto and other nonfiction books for kids. @marykaycarson

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. I can just imagine my students being riveted by this book, along with the occasional ‘ick, ooh, and ahs’ escaping their lips.
    Thanks for introducing me to a great #STEM title.

    • Heidi, I’d love to hear what your students do after they read it! One reader has taken it upon himself to design squirrel crossings for his neighborhood. STEM projects in action!

  2. I was also at NHCMTC today. Excited to use this resource for middle school! My science classes have been counting roadkill for 25 years! It was one of the first internet projects I did with students (with a 300 baud modem). There is a lot of science behind the roadkill numbers and I’m excited to read this book!

    • Sheila, So here is the crazy thing – I listened to that Webcast you did with Brewster Bartlett, tracked him down, and included his project in the book! At the time I could not find enough contact information to find you. I’d love to hear what you all are currently doing! You can contact me at sipsey at hotmail dot com. Let’s keep sharing roadkill stories via #FreshLookatRoadkill.

  3. I learned about this at the CMTC2018 today. Awesome resource for educators. Thanks !

    • Kate, I’m so glad you found us. STEMTuesday is a great group and a way to connect to folks who are on the forefront of STEM literacy. Let us know what topics/themes you would like to see featured!

  4. My grand-daughter is really into math and science–math is her favorite. We encourage her at every opportunity. This book would be great for her.

    • Jo Alice, you might want to look at the STEMTuesday postings from June 2018. That month we focused on books that emphasized the Technology, Engineering and Math aspects of STEM. Might find some great reading for your granddaughter.

  5. I agree, this book is definitely not for the faint of heart, which makes it perfect for kids! Thanks so much for the chance to win a copy!

  6. Heather L. Montgomery’s book completely captivate my nature-loving children. Always packed full of information and intrigue, her books both teach and entertain. I love sharing her books with my children’s teachers, too.

  7. I’m reading this book right now and love it (I’m also a Mary Roach fan ?)! Heather is a dynamic speaker and it comes through in her writing. Plus, I’ve always been interested in roadkill and enjoy doing dissections myself so the topic is fascinating to me.