Posts Tagged children’s books

STEM Tuesday: Snow and Ice– Interview with Author Cindy Blobaum

    We are delighted to interview author Cindy Blobaum for our Ice and Snow theme this month!

Cindy is the author of:


Ice Age by Cindy Blobaum

Explore the Ice Age! With 25 Great Projects

Illustrated by Bryan Stone
Brrr–does it feel cold? Get out your gloves and get ready to experience the Ice Age! In Explore the Ice Age! With 25 Great Projects, readers ages 7 to 10 discover what an ice age consists of, why we have them, and what effect an ice age has on living organisms and ecosystems. The book pays particular attention to the most recent Ice Age, which is the only one humans were around to witness.

Cindy digging up mammoth

Cindy holding a mammoth bone











Cindy digging up a mammoth bone, and then holding one! 



Cindy, thanks for being on our blog. How fun was it to write a book about the Ice Age? 

I’m one of the few people I know who absolutely LOVES winter.  In fact, I drive almost everyone crazy because I sing every time it starts to snow J . The cold weather gives me the opportunity to create snow “somethings” (not usually a snowman), make snow ice cream and go ice skating (outdoors), snow shoeing and skiing.  So writing a book that revolves pretty much around winter-style activities was a blast for me.


Your book is packed full of awesome projects– did you come up with them yourself?

Many of the projects tapped into my experiences as a naturalist (field trip lady). I had the good fortune to take part in a mammoth dig (excavating several mammoth skeletons), I constantly use ice cube glacier models in my geology programs to explain local topology, and teaching people how to throw spears using atl atl’s was a constant part of fall programs for many years. Other projects that explained important concepts are ones that I adapted from other programs. When I started working on Explore the Ice Age, I had a notebook full of ideas and connections, which expanded as I got going.


Did you research them? If so, where can people find cool activities for kids?

Each activity I include is thoroughly researched and tested – with my children and neighbor kids often helping out. Research is one of my favorite parts of writing! The research can include checking books, online resources, primary source materials and of course, asking real experts.  I learn so much that it can be difficult to select what to include and what I have to leave out. For example, I lived in Iowa when I was writing Explore the Ice Age.  When I was working on the mammoth dig, I met an expert on giant sloths. He had created a website with a wealth of information that could be enough for its own book!

As for finding cool activities for kids, there are multiple ways to approach the search. Activity books are an obvious choice, and don’t pass up the old ones!  I have “discovered” many awesome projects that are so old that many people have never seen them, but they are still cool, fun and relevant! Online searches are great, especially if you have the time to actually use “the web” – as in follow many of the multiple possibilities that pop up, especially if you scroll past the first page of results. I also let my mind wander, choosing a word, like “lever” or “insulation” and seeing what I can find that way. And don’t be afraid to adapt activities – try doing them using different materials or in new ways.


Can you give us a sneak peek of one or two of the activities? 


An easy and very effective activity to start RIGHT NOW is Sun Stretch! The purpose of the activity is to measure how much the tilt of the sun changes from season to season.  If you are living in the Northern Hemisphere, use a south facing window. (Use a north facing window if you live in the Southern Hemisphere.)

Write today’s date on a piece of masking tape or similar substance. Right around noon, place the piece of tape on the floor or wall where you see the sunlight end.  At least once a month, do the same thing – putting a new dated piece of tape where you see the sunlight end. The farther you live from the equator, the more change you will see!

Bundled Bottles is an activity that clearly demonstrates the effectiveness of the insulation found on some animal’s bodies. The equipment is zippered baggies, shortening, socks (the thicker, the better), plastic water bottles and a freezer.  After creating a coat that mimics a warm-blooded animal’s body, you measure how long it can keep hot water from freezing.


Can you give any tips to writers who want to break into nonfiction children’s books? Should they start with educational publishers like you have done? 

At a writing conference, I remember a publisher commenting that although children’s fiction titles usually steal the spotlight, young readers eagerly seek out nonfiction to feed their desire to know more and understand how things work. That is who I write for and why I write. The fact that many formal and informal educators (staff/volunteers at museums, nature centers, summer camps, home schoolers) use my books gives me a definite thrill.

Just like you have to do your research for your subject matter, it is also imperative to research potential publishers. Due to my writing style and content, it makes the most sense to work with publishers who know/understand/work with that format, which is mostly educational publishers. If your writing is more narrative, look for publishers who feature that style of titles. Two other nonfiction styles (this list is not exhaustive) are short facts/records/lists and curriculum/activity sheets. Each one has a separate but sometimes overlapping audience and publisher. .


What are you working on now? 

I recently updated Explore Gravity (Nomad Press), expanding it for older readers (ages 9 – 12). I am also working on updating Geology Rocks to get it back in print with Chicago Review Press. With my new full time position, quite honestly, it would be very difficult to start a project right now – although as always, I have a notebook and file folder full of ideas!


Thanks for being on our blog, Cindy, and sharing all of this great info on your book and STEM!

You can discover more about Cindy HERE 



Jennifer Swanson authorJennifer Swanson is the award-winning  author of 45+ books for kids, mostly about STEM, and also the creator and cohost of the Solve It for Kids podcast.  You can hear her recommendations for the best STEM books for kids in 2023 on NPR’s Science Friday, here!


Interview with debut author Nancy Hudgins

Nancy Hudgins always wanted to write for children, but her roles as attorney, business owner, mediator, and mom kept standing in the way. A number of years ago, Nancy decided to pursue her dream in earnest. Nancy began taking the advice that many writers offered her; write, research, join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, attend conferences and connect with fellow writers.

Nancy’s work paid off, as her first book, Ursula Nordstrom: Books Good Enough for Children, will be published by Cameron Kids books in fall, 2025.

Nancy’s journey is inspiring…check it out!

Please share a bit about your publication journey…

Five years ago, I wrote a picture book biography of Ursula Nordstrom and took it to an Andrea Brown Literary Agency retreat. Amy Novesky led one of my critique groups. We both became animated talking about Ursula. My manuscript was an early (likely, dreadful) draft, but even so, Amy was encouraging and invited me to send her a revision. I was new to picture books and couldn’t figure out a way into the story, so I set it aside, but I loosely stayed in touch with Amy. She was always supportive of my writing. Much like Ursula was with her writers.

Fast forward to Publishers Weekly’s announcement of Beth Kephart’s picture book on Ursula, Good Books for Bad Children. So much for all my research! When I saw Cameron Kids was beginning to publish middle grade books, I asked Amy if she would be interested in a middle-grade biography of Ursula. She said yes, so I learned how to write a nonfiction book proposal. I sent the proposal to Amy in April and in June I had a book deal and a wonderful agent, Rachel Orr.

Why did you choose Ursula Nordstrom as the subject of your first biography?

I read Leonard Marcus’s Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom when it came out and loved Ursula’s sense of humor. Years later, when I began trying to write books for children, I remembered it and re-read it. As a prospective writer, it was hard not to like Ursula. She was so supportive of her writers and artists and so deft in helping them produce their best work. Her letters open a door to the way in which the iconic books she edited were made. I was curious about those details, and I thought kids who liked to read books would be curious, too. And maybe kids who aren’t so in to books could be intrigued by their origin stories.

Why is her story significant to middle-grade readers?

I think it’s likely middle-grade readers have been exposed to at least one of the books Ursula edited—picture books such as Goodnight Moon, Harold and the Purple Crayon, Little Bear, Bedtime for Frances, Where the Wild Things Are, The Giving Tree, Stevie, In the Night Kitchen, and Where the Sidewalk Ends; middle-grade books like Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web, Harriet the Spy and Freaky Friday. That may draw them to this biography. Then, they’ll discover one woman published ALL of them! She was extraordinary. I’m hoping they’ll admire Ursula, as I do, and also enjoy the stories behind the stories. They may discover some classics they hadn’t read before, too. I also write about the editing process, which may help them in editing their own writing.

What resources have you used for your research?

I visited one of Ursula’s boarding schools in New England and explored the village on Long Island where she lived as a little girl. I did research in person at university and public library archives. Many archives now have online finding aids, which is a great way into the details of their collections. I also looked at magazines, journals and newspapers online. And, of course, books.

What is relevant about Ursula’s role in the publishing world to the industry today?

I don’t think I’m the best person to speak to this. It’s all new to me. I can say that Ursula was willing to challenge the status quo. She took risks. She backed up her authors and illustrators. She organized a public stand against book banning.

What have you learned about the process of writing nonfiction that you would like to share with our readers?

There’s always more than one side to a story. Try to find as many viewpoints as possible. You can’t do too much research. I’m happiest when I find something that challenges the assumptions I have based on what I’ve previously read. It’s hard to curate someone’s life. I want to get it right.

And finally, based on your journey, what advice do you have for writers?

Find curious, discerning, thoughtful critique partners! They’ll make you think. Remember your audience. Sometimes I get carried away and write pages about something I’m interested in for some arcane reason. During revision, I realize I’ve written those pages for me, not for my readers! They get cut.

STEM Tuesday: Snow and Ice– Writing Tips & Resources


Accordions and Information

The five-paragraph essay. Love it or hate it, it’s a thing. One of the reasons it is so hard to teach? Young writers rarely see pure examples in their pleasure reading. Still, this formulaic approach can help young writers learn to organize their thinking and writing.

So, how do we teach them to use this tool?

Step By Step

My favorite is the accordion method. Start by printing each of the sentences below on a separate sheet of colored paper.

Green paper:

  • Bugs have wicked cool mouthparts.
  • These mouthparts allow insects to chow down on their favorite food.

Yellow paper:

  • Some bugs have hypodermic needles for mouths.
  • A few insects use sponges for mouths.
  • And, others have strong grinding jaws.

Post those in random order on the board or wall. Challenge students to physically re-arrange them into a logical paragraph. This can be done together on the board or students can copy onto sticky notes and work individually on their desks.

Now, on the board, lay the sentences out with the yellow ones indented to look like an outline. Introduce the color scheme and provide examples from texts they are familiar with (textbooks, student writing, etc.):

Green = General topic

Yellow = Reason, detail or fact

Red = Example or explanation

Accordion it!

Next, demonstrate how a paragraph, like an accordion, can be lengthened if we add additional information. Show the new sentences below and have students move these examples into place on the outline.

Red paper:

  • The assassin bug stabs its sharp proboscis through the exoskeleton of other insects.
  • The house fly uses its labella to sop up spit-soaked food.
  • The mandibles of a cockroach crush with a force five times stronger than human jaws.

Rewrite on the board in standard paragraph form.

Once students are comfortable with the color scheme, challenge them to use highlighter markers to color-code pre-written paragraphs. You can write your own or use examples from textbooks or STEM Tuesday’s reading list. For example, Page 30 of What was the Ice Age:

“To have enough energy, Megatherium needed to eat a lot! It ate grasses, buts, and fruits. It dug roots out of the ground with its sharp claws. It stood on its hind legs to pull leaves from the highest branches. Some scientists think Megatherium might have even eaten meat.”

Once they are ready, have students use this color-coded sticky notes to create a paragraph about their favorite animal.  For some fun, let students swap yellow and red notes to create silly paragraphs.


To extend the lesson, demonstrate how a single paragraph can be lengthened like an accordion into a 5 paragraph essay, a section of a longer work, or an entire book. For example, in Ice: Chilling Stories from a Disappearing World students can study the introduction as one accordion and the entire book as another.

Finally, have students examine nonfiction trade books, magazines, and a variety of informational texts. Are super-structured paragraphs common? Discuss why and why not. Are they more common in one type of informational text? Is the formula more common in the over all text than as paragraphs? Do students prefer them or not?


Prepared by:

Heather L. Montgomery writes books for kids who are wild about animals. She is author of 17 nonfiction books for kids, including What’s In Your Pocket? Collecting Nature’s Treasures and the upcoming Sick! The Twists and Turns Behind Animal Germs.