Posts Tagged book clubs

STEM Tuesday– The Impacts of Our Changing Climate– Book List

2021 was the warmest year on record. We’ve seen the impact of climate change first-hand all around the world. Let’s explore books that are bringing climate change impacts to young readers.

When the World Runs Dry: Earth’s Water Crisis by Nancy F. Castaldo

What would you do if you turned on the faucet and the water was toxic or no water flowed at all? Readers will explore worldwide water issues and learn from those impacted and making a difference.

Running Dry: The Global Water Crisis by Stuart A Kallen

Here’s another look at the global water crisis.

Eye of the Storm: NASA, Drones, and the Race to Crack the Hurricane Code by Amy Cherrix

Hurricanes and severe storms leave millions of people in danger. Explore how scientists are studying hurricanes in this Scientists in the Field title.

Weird Weather: Everything You Didn’t Want to Know about Climate Change, But Probably Should Find Out by Kate Evans

Explore everything you should know about weather in this graphic novel.

Fuel Under Fire: Petroleum and Its Perils by Margaret J. Goldstein

Every day, people use about 90 million barrels of petroleum. This book explores the use and the search for that dwindling resource.

Old Enough to Save the Planet: Be inspired by real-life children taking action against climate change by Loll Kirby, illustrated by Adelina Lirius

A look at what young kids can do to save the planet.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: The Secrets Behind What You Eat – Young Readers Edition by Michael Pollan

This young readers edition addresses our eating habits and their global implications.

How To Change Everything: The Young Human’s Guide to Protecting the Planet and Each Other by Naomi Klein with Rebecca Stefoff

Klein explores a trove of things we can all do to help the planet in this age of climate change. It also includes powerful stories of young readers making a difference.

Our World Out of Balance: Understanding Climate Change and What We Can Do by Andrea Minoglio, illustrated by Laura Fanelli

Clear and concise descriptions of climate change and environmental degradation. Monoglio also includes what is being done and ways we can act to build a better world.

The Wondrous Workings of Planet Earth: Understanding Our World and Its Ecosystems by Rachel Ignotofsky

If you loved Women in Science, you’ll love this illustrated tour of our planet’s ecosystems and how they work.

Where Have All The Bees Gone? Pollinators in Crisis by Rebecca E. Hirsch

Hirsch explores bee population decline in her latest STEM title. Readers will explore bee natural history along with ways to slow their decline.

Photo of DESERTS author Nancy Castaldo

Nancy Castaldo has written books about our planet for over 20 years including, THE STORY OF SEEDS, which earned the Green Earth Book Award, Junior Library Guild Selection, and other honors. Nancy’s research has taken her all over the world from the Galapagos to Russia.  She strives to inform, inspire, and empower her readers. Nancy also served as Regional Advisor Emeritus of the Eastern NY SCBWI region. Her 2020 international title about farm and food is THE FARM THAT FEEDS US: A Year In The Life Of An Organic Farm. Visit her at 

Patricia Newman writes middle-grade nonfiction that empowers young readers to act on behalf of the environment and their communities. Academy Award winner and environmentalist Jeff Bridges calls Planet Ocean a “must read.” Newman, a Sibert Honor author of Sea Otter Heroes, has also received an NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book Award for Eavesdropping on Elephants, a Green Earth Book Award for Plastic, Ahoy!, and a Eureka! Gold Medal from the California Reading Association for Zoo Scientists to the Rescue. Her books have received starred reviews, been honored as Junior Library Guild Selections, and included on Bank Street College’s Best Books lists. During author visits, she demonstrates how young readers can use writing to be the voice of change. Visit her at

STEM Tuesday– Invasive Species– Interview with Author Lisa Amstutz

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 Lisa Amstutz, author of Invasive Species. The book is part of the “engaging and informative” Ecological Disasters series, according to School Library Journal.

Mary Kay Carson: How did you come to write Invasive Species?

Lisa Amstutz: This book was an assignment from an educational publisher as part of their Ecological Disasters series. Because of my background in ecology, this one felt like a great fit, and I was excited to dig in! For those who aren’t familiar with this market, some educational publishers hire writers to produce series for them instead of reviewing projects submitted by authors/agents, as most trade publishers do. These series are designed in-house and are highly targeted to the school curriculum. Authors are given a set of guidelines that includes things like word count, reading level, a general outline, number of sidebars, etc.

MKC: The book is so well researched! Did you discover anything especially surprising?

Lisa: The thing that surprised me most was how many invasive species were imported on purpose. For example, the nutria was brought to the United States between 1899 and 1930 by fur farmers. When the market collapsed, farmers released the animals into the wild. Kudzu, aka ‘the vine that ate the South’, was imported in 1876 as an ornamental plant and even promoted by the Soil Conservation Service to prevent soil erosion from the 1930s to 1950s. Today, both are damaging ecosystems. Hopefully we’ve learned our lesson when it comes to moving species out of their natural habitats.

MKC: Do you have a least-liked invasive species? 

Lisa: The brown marmorated stinkbug (at left) is my current nemesis, as it has an annoying habit of moving into my house in the winter!

MKC: For whom is the book written? How does the writing style reflect that?

Lisa Amstutz is the author of ~150 books for children. She has also written for a variety of magazines and newspapers. In 2021, she joined Storm Literary Agency as an associate literary agent. Lisa’s background includes a B.A. in Biology and an M.S. in Environmental Science/Ecology. She specializes in topics related to nature, sustainability, and agriculture. Lisa lives on a small farm with her family. Find her online at

Lisa: Because it is targeted to schools and libraries, this book provides a broad and straightforward overview for kids exploring this topic on their own or for a research project. Photos and sidebars add interest. As always, I tried to use engaging language, concepts kids can relate to, and fun facts to hook the reader and draw them into the topic.

MKC: Do you choose to write about STEM books? Is STEM your background?

Lisa: I have a B.A. in Biology and an M.S. in Environmental Science/Ecology. After working in my field for a few years, I realized I liked writing about science even better, and as a bonus I could work from home. I love exploring new topics and sharing that excitement with kids. I’m also passionate about helping readers connect with the natural world and learn to care for 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?

Lisa: I’m at the very beginning stages of a new project at the moment. After choosing a topic from my long and very random list of ideas, I’m currently gathering information and resources online and through my local library. For a longer project like this one, I use Scrivener or OneNote to easily record and categorize information. I always footnote as I go, so it’s easy to go back and double check facts. For me, this part is the most fun—I love learning new things!


Win a FREE critique by author and agent Lisa Amstutz!

The lucky winner receives one critique (query letter, picture book manuscript, or first 10 pages of a longer manuscript or project). Enter by leaving a comment below. The randomly-chosen winner will be contacted via email.

Good luck!

Your host is Mary Kay Carson, author of Wildlife Ranger Action Guide, The Tornado ScientistAlexander Graham Bell for Kids, Mission to Pluto, and other nonfiction books for kids. @marykaycarson

STEM Tuesday– Invasive Species — Writing Tips & Resources

Looking at Language

When it comes to studying the use of language, this month’s topic “invasive species” is a prefect. Just take a look at the word “invasive.” What emotions does it conjure? In what other contexts have you heard that word used? Would you consider the term to be objective or subjective?

In the STEM disciplines, educators work hard to help students understand the value of objectivity. We all want engineers designing bridges to take an objective approach to measurement! When studying the natural world, objectivity helps us uncover truths unhampered by personal biases, emotions, and beliefs.

But no human is perfectly objective. To promote better practitioners of STEM, we must help students develop the intellectual tools to think critically about their own and other’s biases. An inquiry into the language used in STEM books is a great way to introduce that. It’s also a great way to learn more about writing STEM texts.

Reading STEM books we gain more than facts; we have opportunities to understand communication strategies as well.  Through studying these texts, we can learn to parse out bias in statements. When we extend our personal study with discussion, we can explore more complex topics such as perceptions of others, understanding nuance, and author’s purpose.

Titles Talk

Take a look at just the titles:

  • Science Warriors: The Battle Against Invasive Species, by Sneed B. Collard III
  • Tracking Pythons: The Quest to Catch an Invasive Predator and Save an Ecosystem, by Kate Messner
  • Invasive Species In Infographics By Renae Gilles

Read each title and jot down a few words about the feelings it evokes in you.

Do different titles evoke different emotions? If so, try to identify the words that led you to those reactions?

Take a look at their table of contents. If you don’t have access to the physical books, you can view table of contents here for Science Warriors, here for Tracking Pythons, and here for Invasive Species In Infographics. List the emotion that comes to mind as you read each chapter title. Do you notice any patterns?

Digging Deeper

Now, select one book to dig into. Feel free to select one from this month’s list or a nonfiction title of your choice.

“What” questions to ask:

  • What words in the text evoke emotions?
  • Create a list of emotional words from the text and rank them on a spectrum from strongest to weakest. Compare your list to that of someone else also studying the same text. Discuss your differences.
  • Does the emotive language always support the same point of view?

“When” questions to ask:

  • In which parts of the sentence/paragraph/chapter/book is emotive language used most frequently?
  • Can you spot any patterns in the use of emotive language (location, sequencing, etc.?

“Why” questions to ask:

  • Why might an author use emotive language in this passage?
  • Pick a few words that strike a chord in you. Why does that word cause that reaction?

“How?” questions to ask:

  • How obvious is the emotive language?
  • How did the author use language to support a premise?
  • How could you re-write a sentence to be more objective?


Balancing it Out

Now that we understand how authors are intentional in their use of specific words, let’s think about other techniques. Opinion, bias, and subjectivity are expressed or balanced using techniques that reach far beyond word choice. What other techniques did you notice in this book? Were specific techniques are used to balance bias or convey objectivity?


Your Turn

  • What is your opinion about this use of emotive language?
  • Is it warranted?
  • Was the author “fair” in their use of language?
  • Is your response based on your opinions about the topic?

Thanks for getting curious about the use of objective language in STEM books!

Heather L. Montgomery writes for kids who are wild about animals. An award-winning author and educator, Heather uses yuck appeal to engage young minds. Her books include: Something Rotten: A Fresh Look at Roadkill, Who Gives a Poop? Surprising Science from One End to the Other, and What’s in Your Pocket? Collecting Nature’s TreasuresLearn more at