STEM Tuesday– Tiny Worlds (Microscopic/Nanotech)- Interview with Author Nicola Davies

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 Nicola Davies about her book TINY CREATURES: The World of Microbes. School Library Journal calls it a “look at these minuscule organisms and the effect they can have on everything from our bodies to the soil to the clouds in the sky.”

Mary Kay Carson: How did you come to write Tiny Creatures?

Nicola: There are so many things in children’s lives that are related to microbes from always being told to ‘cover your mouth when you sneeze,’ ‘wash your hands before dinner,’ and having to be vaccinated, to favourite foods like cheese and yoghourt. Microbes are everywhere, an incredibly important part of all our lives, so it made sense that even the smallest children should know about them. Also, I loved the idea of invisible, magical worlds when I was little and in microbes we have one all around us, all the time!

MKC: You dug up lots of fascinating facts about microbes during your research! What especially surprised you?

Nicola: As a biology student long ago I was fascinated by the forms of microscopic plants, such as diatoms and unicellular animals like euglena and amoeba. Since then the technology of micro photography has advanced and there are even more beautiful photographs of these astounding mini life forms; looking at those was a real delight.

Nicola Davies is an award-winning author and a zoologist whose seemingly boundless enthusiasm for studying animals of all kinds has led her around the world. Fortunately for young readers, she is just as excited about sharing her interests through picture books. When not swimming with whales, sharks, or sea lions, traveling game reserves in Kenya, or off on other scientific expeditions, Nicola Davies gives writing workshops for students, writes books, and once she made a chair. She lives in Wales.

But I think the most amazing statistic I learned was the contribution to the oxygen in the air we breathe made by marine diatoms. One in every five breaths that you take is essentially provided by these beautiful, microscopic little plants. It was yet another example of how all life on earth is connected in a complex network, a network which supports us all and which we damage at our peril.

MKC: Do you have a STEM background?

Nicola: My life’s passion is zoology, although admittedly usually I am concerned with multicellular organisms. I did a Natural Sciences degree at Cambridge and did post grad study on bats and whales.

MKC: How would you describe the approach you took on this book? 

Nicola: Simple and accessible. I knew it wasn’t necessary or possible to put the whole of microbiology into a picture book, but I wanted to provide readers — both children AND their parents — with a seedbed of knowledge that would let them understand some of the basic things they may encounter in everyday life. I also wanted to inspire a sense of wonder and also of humbleness- we think our sense tell us everything we need to know but there is so much that we don’t see. It’s important to remember that real knowledge and understanding come first from admitting that you don’t know everything! My job as STEM picture book author is to make sure that at the end of the book, my readers understand a little and want to understand a lot more. My books aim to be a gateway into a world of lifelong learning and dialogue with the world.


Win a FREE copy of Tiny Creatures!

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 is Mary Kay Carson, author of The Tornado Scientist, Alexander Graham Bell for Kids, Mission to Pluto, Weird Animals, and other nonfiction books for kids. @marykaycarson

STEM Tuesday
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  1. Biology and microbiology were my favorite subjects in school, both high school and college. I am looking forward to reading this book and using it for mentor text.

  2. I’m so grateful that you have brought the importance of a fragile system that we seem to ignore until it becomes an emergency. I’m hoping our next generation of children will be more careful with our ecosystem. Thank you!

  3. Would love to have a copy for my school library!

  4. would love to win this for my son!!