Posts Tagged book clubs

STEM Tuesday– Celebrating Diversity in STEM– Book List

Changing the Equation: 50+ U.S. Black Women in STEM by Tonya Bolden

Bolden examines the lives of trailblazing Black female computer scientists, inventors, mathematicians, and more to inspire young readers.

The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer

An inspiring story about the power of books and STEM-thinking. A fourteen-year old Malawi boy who cannot attend school educates himself and learns how to build a windmill to help his village.

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

A perfect book for aspiring astronomers and astrophysicists that tells the story of the extraordinary Black women behind the U.S. space program.

How to Build a Museum: Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture by Tonya Bolden

Delve into the creation of a new museum from the architect’s plants to curating the collection.

Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky

Take a peek into the lives of women who chose STEM for their life’s work, trailblazing through a field with few women.

101 Black Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics by L.A. Amber

Young readers will be inspired by the women included in Amber’s book who paved the way for other women of color in STEM fields from the 1800s to today.

Susan La Flesche Picotte: Pioneering Doctor by Diane Bailey

This biography of the first Native American Woman to graduate medical school is a great addition to any middle school STEM shelf.

Astrophysics for Young People In a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson with Gregory Mone

This young readers edition of Tyson’s popular adult version will get kids excited about the universe.

Path to the Stars: My Journey from girl Scouts to Rocket Scientist by Sylvia Acevedo

Sylvia Acevedo’s experience as a Girl Scout transformed her. She was one of the first Latinx to graduate with a master’s in engineering. Also available in Spanish.

What Color Is My World? The Lost History of African-American Inventors by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with Raymond Obstfeld, illustrated by Ben Boos and A.G. Ford

Discover African-American inventors with basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.


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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 www.nancycastaldo.com. 

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Patricia Newman writes middle-grade nonfiction that empowers young readers to act on behalf of the environment and their communities. The Sibert Honor author of Sea Otter Heroes, Newman 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 www.patriciamnewman.com. Stay tuned for her upcoming Planet Ocean – March 2, 2021.

 

GROUND ZERO –Interview and Giveaway with Author Alan Gratz

I was thrilled to be able to read Alan Gratz’ new book, Ground Zero.  His books are so awesome! Such fun and exciting reads. And this one is no different. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to read about 9/11. Yes, it’s been 20 years, but like most of us, there are a lot of emotions tied up in that very difficult day. But Alan did a fantastic job with this book! He did a great job of handling the facts of the event, while masterfully weaving together two different action-packed stories. He kept me on the edge of my seat wondering what would happen next. Of course, if you read Alan’s other books, you’ve seen this type of heart-pounding action before.

 

In time for the twentieth anniversary of 9/11, master storyteller Alan Gratz (Refugee) delivers a pulse-pounding and unforgettable take on history and hope, revenge and fear — and the stunning links between the past and present.

September 11, 2001, New York City: Brandon is visiting his dad at work, on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center. Out of nowhere, an airplane slams into the tower, creating a fiery nightmare of terror and confusion. And Brandon is in the middle of it all. Can he survive — and escape?

September 11, 2019, Afghanistan: Reshmina has grown up in the shadow of war, but she dreams of peace and progress. When a battle erupts in her village, Reshmina stumbles upon a wounded American soldier named Taz. Should she help Taz — and put herself and her family in mortal danger?

Two kids. One devastating day. Nothing will ever be the same.

 

 

Reviews! 

“The pace is quick (don’t blink or you’ll miss something!), its emotions deeply authentic, and the highly visual settings resonate with accuracy. With a moving author’s note, pertinent back matter, and a surprise twist which brings the book full circle, Gratz delivers another winning read.” — Booklist, starred review

“Gratz’s deeply moving writing paints vivid images of the loss and fear of those who lived through the trauma of 9/11.” — Kirkus Reviews

 

Alan was gracious enough to answer a few of my questions about this amazing book:

Ground Zero was an amazing read, but a bit difficult for us who remember so vividly that very dark day. Was it hard to do the research for this book? To relive 9/11 all over again?

Yes. I thought, “Oh, twenty years have passed. This won’t be any harder than anything else I’ve written about.” But I was wrong. It was very difficult, emotionally, for me to research and write this book. 9/11 is still such a raw nerve for me, it turns out–and for many of us who lived through it. And I wasn’t even in New York or Pennsylvania or the Pentagon, and didn’t have my own personal connection to it! But like so many Americans, I felt like part of me had been carved out by the events of that day, and it took a long time to fill that hollowness back in. It turns out, it still hadn’t entirely been filled in. At the same time, I knew that for today’s middle schoolers, 9/11 is ancient history. It happened before they were born. They don’t have that same visceral reaction to reading about it or thinking about it as adults do. And it was important to try to show them how that feels for me and so many other adults, especially as many of us still have trouble talking about it.

I love how you weave two different storylines with their own characters together. You keep the suspense going in both at the same time. Do you write each storyline by itself first? Or do the two stories come to you at the same time?

When I’m writing multiple, parallel POVs, I start by researching and thinking about the story for each. I haven’t figured out every beat of the stories at this point; I don’t know every chapter. But I’ll figure out what the larger story is for each kid. I’m definitely looking for parallels throughout. “Oh, here they both see a helicopter. Oh, here they’re both trapped in a dark place underground. Oh, here they see their world come tumbling down.” Little parallels too. “Oh, here Brandon mentions toy Wolverine gloves, and here Reshmina puts sticks in between her fingers and pretends to attack her brother like a giant cat.” Then I’ll put together the individual chapter outline for one of the stories–often the first of the stories we’ll read in the book. In Refugee, that’s Josef’s story. In Grenade, it’s Hideki’s. In Ground Zero, it’s Brandon’s. I plot that story out all the way. Then I go back and start plotting the details of the next story. That way I can build in parallels and connections to the first, but with an idea already where I want to go overall. I think if I were building two or more stories at once, simultaneously, I might be too tempted to pull off in different directions that then don’t connect in the end. It’s tricky, but researching and having a strong idea of each story first and then building each one separately seems to work best for me. When I write the actual book though, I write it straight through, jumping from character to character, because I want the whole book to feel like one story. One novel. Not two or three separate stories I mashed together.

The storyline of the girl in Afghanistan is so vivid and real. Where did you find the research on Afghanistan? Did you contact people who lived there?

Thanks. For the Afghanistan War side of the story, I relied heavily on the amazing reporting that’s still being done by newspapers and magazines and radio and TV networks around the world. That war’s been going on so long that there are already lots of books about it too. And thanks to contacts I’ve made at UNICEF due to my work with Refugee, I was also able to speak via Zoom with the UNICEF team on the ground in Afghanistan to get a better idea about the situation there now. The World Trade Center side of the story has of course been covered extensively here in the United States. I read a number of books that went into great detail about what happened before, during, and after that day, but it was the first hand accounts from survivors that were the most important part of my research. Everything that happens in my story really happened to people inside the Twin Towers that day.

You write about some amazing places in the world, not just in this book, but in all of your books. How do you learn so much about them to give such distinct details? Are you able to visit them?

I almost never get to visit the places I write about, unless it’s after the fact! Which I regret. But my deadlines are often such that I don’t have a lot of time to travel as a part of my research, and of course there’s the cost of visiting far-flung places. I wish I could! In the case of Afghanistan, of course, that’s not a place I would visit now even if I could. The 2020 Global Peace Index ranks Afghanistan as the most dangerous country in the world. I hope Afghanistan is one day peaceful again, and that I’m able to visit. To make up for not visiting, I try to learn as much about a place and a people as possible through books and interviews and other media. Not just the historical events I’m writing about, but everything from the food they eat to the religion they practice to the music they make and the stories they tell. And more, of course. Not all of that will make it into the book, of course. It can’t. But I want to get to know a place and a people as much as possible before I write about them. Most importantly, that includes how they think. It’s a terrible mistake to assume that another culture shares the same attitudes and beliefs and values that you do–and worse, to assume that YOUR attitudes and beliefs and values are the “right” ones. In everything I read and learn about a place and a people, I’m trying to empathize with them as much as possible, and see life through their eyes, not mine. That is, after all, what I’m hoping to help my young readers see too.

I have read that you use a storyboard to brainstorm ideas and write extensive outlines for your books before you even start writing. How does that help you to see the story?

Outlining helps me see the larger path a story is taking. It helps me see the plot twists and emotional beats in a story from high above, and make sure I have those well-paced throughout the story. Outlining helps me see if I’ve taken too long to move from Act One to Act Two, if I’m spending too long (or too short a time) in Act Two, and if Act Three is too quick or too slow. I can see the parallels I build into my multiple POV stories. Outlining also helps me keep track of secondary characters and storylines, and make sure I haven’t gone too long without returning to them. My outline board helps me save time too. I don’t end up doing as much wholesale rewriting when I have taken the time to hammer out plot decisions in advance. I still do a LOT of rewriting, of course. And some of the outlined plot will change in revisions. But I can generally get most of the big problems figured out before I ever write the first word of the actual book.

Do you have any tips to give writers who might like to write books like yours?

I like the way you ask that: “writers who might like to write books like mine.” Because there are as many different ways to write books as there are authors, of course, and no one way is the right way. But if you’re looking to write books like I do… Get to the action early and often. Be accurate where it matters, but don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story. Make your story more about the individual characters than the moment in history. And perhaps most importantly, have something to say. Don’t just tell an action-packed story. Have a theme. A message beyond the action and the thrills. Refugee challenges young readers to see the plight of otherwise invisible refugees and open their hearts and communities to them. Grenade says, “Hey, war isn’t all fun and games, and look what happens to the people caught in the middle.” Allies says we’re stronger when we work together. And similarly, Ground Zero says “It’s not us against the world. It has to be everyone, working together. That’s how we survive.” What is your story about? Answer that, and make sure you return to that question or idea or theme throughout your book. Then you’ll have a book your readers really can’t put down.

 Excellent interview, Alan! Thanks so much. Alan’s publisher, Scholastic Press is offering a giveaway of 1 copy of the book. To enter, leave a comment below and/or tag @mixedupfiles on Twitter. 

STEM Tuesday — Polar Ecology — Interview with Author Rebecca Barone

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 Rebecca Barone, author of RACE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE EARTH: Surviving Antarctica, a thrilling narrative nonfiction tale that chronicles two different centuries’ treacherous expeditions to the South Pole and the men who raced to be first. The newly released book has received multiple starred reviews, including one from Booklist that says:  “Readers will be caught up in the real-time action sequences and should end up rooting for everybody as these determined individuals face unimaginable physical and mental hardships.”

Mary Kay Carson: Tell us a bit about Race to the Bottom of the Earth and how you came to write it.

Rebecca Barone: First off – thank you Mary Kay Carson and the team at STEM Tuesday for hosting me today! It’s an honor to be featured here! Race to the Bottom of the Earth is the story of two races through Antarctica: one in 1912 to be the first to reach the South Pole and one in 2018 to be the first to cross Antarctica solo, unsupported, and unassisted.

Antarctica has always captured my imagination! There’s something about how entirely inhospitable it is to life, and yet humans go there! I’ve always been mesmerized by the contrast. When I saw a New York Times headline in November, 2018 that two men were attempting a “first” in Antarctica – right as I was sitting at home eating lunch – I rushed to read the article. As luck would have it, I had read a Wikipedia article about the 1912 race to the South Pole not too long before. So that adventure was fresh in my mind as I was reading about the 2018 race.

It was like a lightning bolt hit. Before I had even finished the NYTimes article, I knew that I had to put these two races together into a story. What really sealed it for me was finding out that neither race was intended to be a race. That the two adventures could parallel each other, entirely inadvertently, more than a century apart, was like a story-telling gift. I had to write this book!

MKC: The book goes back and forth in time, in alternating chapters, between the two races. Why did you choose this structure? Did you write it in that order?

Rebecca: From the start, I was struck by the parallels between the two races. By placing the two stories so directly side-by-side, I wanted my readers to draw history forward into the present. It’s so easy to place 1912 as nothing more than static, black-and-white pictures in a textbook, but they’re really men with personalities and characters like people we know and love today.  I did an in-depth outline in the book’s order, but I drafted it with each timeline separately. Even more so, I went through and wrote all of Amundsen’s story, then I went and wrote all of Scott’s, then O’Brady’s, and finally Rudd’s. It wasn’t in the book’s order at all!

MKC: How was your research process different for the 1912 and the 2018 race?

Rebecca: I could talk with people involved in the 2018 race! (Not so much with the men who were around in 1912…) Both involved a ton of reading to research. But it was wonderful to talk with some of the Antarctica expedition experts involved in setting up both O’Brady’s and Rudd’s journeys. And I shouldn’t be glib about the 1912 race; talking to experts in 2018 was certainly helpful with the Amundsen/Scott race, too. Even today, it seems like anyone who is interested in Antarctica comes down heavily as either Team Amundsen or Team Scott. It kept me on my toes to talk with people so heavily invested with Antarctic history!

Rebecca E. F. Barone is an engineer who has worked on a diverse array of projects: NFL injury analysis, development of gait biometrics, and engine calibration of hybrid cars. Realizing her love for books in addition to numbers, she now describes the world with words rather than equations. Race to the Bottom of the Earth is now available, and her second book, about breaking the Enigma cipher of WWII, will launch in the fall of 2022. Visit her at rebeccaefbarone.com or follow her on Twitter @rebeccaefbarone.

MKC: To whom did you imagine yourself writing to while drafting the book?

Rebecca: I always write for myself. If I don’t like it, if I can’t get excited about it, then I figure no one else will.

MKC: Why do you choose to write STEM books? Do you have a STEM background?

Rebecca: I do have a STEM background! I’m a mechanical engineer! I love knowing how the world works, and STEM has taken me to some pretty amazing places: hot testing development cars in Death Valley, learning about car crash biomechanics in Spain, and even developing injury criteria on the sidelines of an NFL game. I don’t see STEM and books as all that different – both describe our environment, both are ways of explaining and making sense of the world around us. They’re both ways of telling stories. If I ever do write fiction (who knows?!), I imagine even those stories would have some STEM elements to them as well. I can’t imagine divorcing any story from technical subjects – for me, the narrative and the STEM inform and support one another.

MKC: For readers who loved Race to the Bottom of the Earth, what other middle-grade books would you suggest?

Rebecca: I’m deep, deep into researching and drafting my next book about breaking the Enigma cipher in WWII (so much fantastic STEM!!), so I’m woefully behind on new MG. But, from 2019/2020, I loved Jennifer Swanson’s Save the Crash Test Dummies. I mentioned it earlier, but I worked in an auto safety lab in grad school where we regularly crashed cars, and I loved revisiting that topic in her book. She did such a great job of weaving information in an accessible, entertaining way! For older readers, I thought Candice Fleming’s The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh was spectacular. She makes the subject and the themes immediately and obviously relevant to readers living through the events of the early 21st century.

Thanks again for inviting me to the STEM Tuesday blog! If any of your readers have more questions about Race to the Bottom of the Earth, I’d love to chat via social media or my website.

Win a FREE copy of RACE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE EARTH!

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 Wildlife Ranger Action Guide, The Tornado ScientistAlexander Graham Bell for Kids, Mission to Pluto, and other nonfiction books for kids. @marykaycarson