Posts Tagged children’s bookstores

STEM Tuesday– Survival Science — Christine Taylor-Butler

Welcome to STEM Tuesday: Author Interview, a repeating feature for the last Tuesday of every month. Go Science-Tech-Engineering-Math!

Today I’m doing something different. I’m not interviewing a different author. I’m going to use the time to talk about writing nonfiction and in particular, the books I wrote as part the “Save The . . .” series developed by Chelsea Clinton and Penguin Random House. The reality is, that in studying and understanding these animals, we may in fact, be learning how to save ourselves.

How I got started: I grew up in an inner city environment surrounded by overachieving nerds at a time when the Civil Rights Act was still being debated. Back then I didn’t think much about what it took to survive. All the basic necessities were available. By the eighth grade I had a math teacher, Walter Havenhill. According to him, I was the only student who took his extra credit problems seriously. So he recommended I look into a school called MIT when I was ready for college. Years later, that’s where I received two degrees. It was during that time I realized my life was about problem solving. Back then there were no computers or cell phones. There was paper, pencil and libraries. There was no topic called STEM/STEAM. Everyone tinkered and experimented and created.

As I grew older I saw a shift in the way students were learning. I had been a college interviewer in the evenings. Over time I found quite a few students focused on how to get into a good college by being the “best” numerically. Most read only what was required to pass a test. But there were others, a small minority, who were exploring the world outside of the classroom. They had inquisitive minds and were sometimes looking around their homes for resources to use. Or going out and knocking on doors to find out how they could help on a project. Those are the students I left engineering to write for. Most of my published work is now nonfiction.

Animal survival:  A few years ago, Penguin Random House asked if I wanted to join a group of authors writing books about endangered animals with Chelsea Clinton. The project looked not only at explaining the animals and their survival instincts, but why they became endangered and how their disappearance created unexpected consequences for the human race. Even better, there was a section on how young readers could get involved.  I was all in.

The books are broken into several parts:

  1. Who the animals are and where to find them
  2. What do we know about these animals? What do they eat, where do they live, and how do they raise their young? What are methods they use to survive their environments?
  3. What happened to make them endangered?
  4. The race to save the animals. Who is helping and what can YOU do to participate.
  5. Resources so you can look up some of the information yourself.

Tiger coverIn Save The . . . Tigers. I learned that once upon a time there were enough tigers living in the wild to fill the Roman Colosseum — twice. Think about that. That was about 100,000 tigers. But now there are less than 4,000 among the six remaining species living outside of a zoo or sanctuary. All survive in various parts of Asia, that range from moist hot rainforests, to cold Russian climates.

Tigers are apex predators. That means they are at the top of the food chain and can briefly run faster than a car drives on a street or highway. They are heavy, so they don’t run for long periods of time. Just short bursts. And they sleep a lot to conserve energy for hunts. Mostly during the day. Hunting is hard work. Tigers are only successful in one out of every twenty attempts to catch prey. And yet, tigers don’t tend to eat humans. They’d rather ambush other animals.

But their bodies and furs became valuable to humans. Hunting them for sport reduced their numbers. Humans moving into their habitats to build farms and homes made things worse. It reduced the prey available for tigers to eat as well. Even so, there are now people studying the animals and helping to increase their numbers. And they’re learning a lot in the process. For instance, did you know that tigers (as well as all cat species) have structures in their eyes that we don’t have? That’s why the eyes glow in light at night. Tigers hunt in dark, so their night vision is better than ours. So watch out!

Orange and black tiger

Photo by Kartik Iyer on Unsplash

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue Whales coverSave the . . . Blue Whales was harder because blue whales are rarely photographed. They are the largest mammal living in the ocean. Some grow as long as 110 feet. That is as long as a 737 airplane. But water covers about 70 percent of the planet. And our oceans are very deep. So the whales weren’t easy to find or catch. A lot of what scientists knew initially was from examining dead bodies and guessing. As humans created steam powered ships it became easier to hunt them. Whale blubber was used for fuel and explosives. Other parts of the whale bodies were used for clothing and umbrellas.

Scientists discovered that by reducing the numbers of whales, we hurt the planet. Before they were hunted, whales removed as much carbon from the atmosphere as all the forests on the planet – millions of tons. They ate krill and stored the krill’s carbon in their bodies. You would have to eat 1,000 cheeseburgers to consume the calories a whale eats in a single gulp of krill. And those whales take a lot of gulps per meal. When blue whales dive and poop those actions mix and distribute nutrients throughout the ocean. Now whale numbers are fewer and carbon dioxide on Earth is increasing. Eighty-eight countries have stopped whaling. Three continue to hunt: Japan, Norway and Iceland. There is pressure for them to decrease the amount.

blue whale

Blue Whale sculpture at the Smithsonian

Click here for an interesting video on Blue Whales

Polar Bears coverLast was Save the . . . Polar Bears. With warming climates these bears are at risk, not because of hunting but because of lack of food and sea ice in the Arctic regions. Most bears can eat a variety of foods. Polar bears are different. They eat mostly seals. One seal can last a polar bear for eleven days. The polar bear body can make fresh water from the seals as well. Also, did you know that a pregnant polar bear can go without food for the last months of her pregnancy? She’s pretty hungry when the cubs are born, so hunting seals becomes a priority. She will teach the cubs to hunt when they are older. When they’re old enough, they’ll move away and start living on their own. But seals live and hide their young on sea ice. With global warming, there’s less of that ice to find. When food is scarce polar bears have been known to enter villages. But that’s very rare.

When I first started researching this book that there were 19 populations of polar bears being studied. But NASA had been secretly tracking a 20th population for several years. Those polar bears were found with the help of indigenous tribes. They didn’t rely on sea ice for survival. Could studying the new population give us clues on how to save all the other groups of polar bears too?

polar bears

Photo by Hans-Jurgen Mager on Unsplash

Who is tracking?

There are many organizations, sanctuaries and museums listed in the books. Here are a few to get started.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) keeps track of efforts around the world. They’ve studied 138,000 species so far and rates them based on level of endangerment. There is a significant amount of information on animals you might be interested in studying. The link takes you to their “red list” for endangered animals.

Polar Bears International. They have scientists, Zoom sessions, web cams and tons of information kids might find useful (teachers and librarians too). Too much to describe here.

The Global Tiger Forum is an international group working to conserve tigers in the wild.

International Whaling Commission – has 88 member countries and is responsible for whale management and conservation.

Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute’s global efforts help save wildlife species from extinction. They train future generations of conservationists at research facilities around the world.

What can you do? There are many ways but here are a few tips to get started:

Recycling is a good easy way to start. A lot of animals are harmed by plastics which make their way into the environment and into the oceans. Better yet, can you reduce the amount of plastic you buy? How about filling a water bottle that can be washed and reused?

Don’t buy clothes or jewelry made from animal parts. That decreases the reasons to hunt animals.

Donate to organizations that help save animals. Even a small amount will help increase animal chances of survival. And the money will help create or sustain habitats that provide a safe environment for animals to raise their young.

Look at ingredient labels on foods and other household items. Avoid ones made with palm oil. Healthy forest habitats are torn down and replaced with palm oil farms. That not only hurts the animals but hurts our environment as well. Forest are like lungs for the planet.

Know that a single individual can make a huge difference in healing our planet. Learning about animals is great way to start. The bonus is that many of their survival skills can prove useful if you’re ever in danger. Where to find shelter, food and warmth. How to avoid predators. Don’t forget, humans are animals too.

 

author christine Taylor-butler

Photo by Kecia Stovall

Your host is Christine Taylor-Butler, MIT nerd and author of Bathroom Science, Sacred Mountain: Everest, Genetics, and many other nonfiction books for kids. She is also the author of the middle grade sci-fi series The Lost Tribes. Follow @ChristineTB on Twitter and/or @ChristineTaylorButler on Instagram

Three Cheers for the STEM Tuesday Team!

Save the Polar Bears

 

 

 

 

 

As we come up on our seventh anniversary of STEM Tuesday (yes – SEVEN years!) I thought it would be a great time to remind you of the AMAZING authors who make STEM Tuesday possible.

The STEM Tuesday blog posts are written by a group of award-winning children’s authors, teachers, and writers who are passionate about presenting STEM/STEAM topics in a way that kids of all ages will find exciting, inspiring, and engaging.

You can find more information about each of them by visiting their websites, purchasing some of their books, and also inviting them to your schools and conferences.

 

And now….. Three Cheers for the STEM Tuesday TEAM!

Week 1: Book List 

Author Sue HeavenrichSue Heavenrich

Sue Heavenrich is an independent environmental journalist and children’s writer. She has written for a variety of magazines including Ranger Rick, Highlights, Cobblestone, and Organic Gardening as well as local and regional newspapers. When not writing, she’s either in the garden or tromping through the woods. www.sueheavenrich.com

13 Ways to Eat a Fly

 

Writer Maria Marshall

Maria Marshall

@MariaMarshall_

For as long as anyone can remember, Maria had a book in her hands. During the summer of herthird grade year, she read every book in the Library’s children’s section A to Z. She loved to write, make up stories, and create elaborate treasure hunts and maps for my brother and sister. So she went to college and wrote for four years to earn a degree in English and Political Science. Then she took my love of writing and telling stories to Law School. Maria is passionate about using picture and chapter books to make reading and nature fun for children. Check out her Picture Book Buzz Blog

 

 

Shruthi Rao authorShruthi Rao

Shruthi was that kid who actually enjoyed writing essays in school! She wrote her first novel when she was eleven. It was an Enid Blyton rip-off. It was terrible (so she says). She didn’t write stories for a long time after that. Instead, Shruthi got a Master’s degree in Energy Engineering from one of the top schools of India, and worked in the IT industry for four years.

And then, in the 2000s, she rediscovered her love for writing. Shruthi blogged at Hallucinations! and wrote short stories and essays for a number of publications. She now writes books for children of all ages, both fiction and non-fiction. www.shruthi-rao.com

KadooBoo! book

 

Susan SummersSusan Summers

Susan started her career as a zookeeper and enjoyed working with polar bears, wolves, and owls – to name just a few of her favorite animals. Interest in science and nature firmly took hold and she followed that career by becoming a wildlife biologist. In this engaging field, she was able to participate in research on a variety of wildlife, including bears, bats, and fabulous birds! She wanted to share her interest in nature with children, so she got a Master’s in Education, and went on to teach ecology as a museum educator. She had this rewarding career for over 20 years. Currently, she is focused on becoming an author, writing about science and nature among other things. In the meantime, she lives happily with her husband of 30 years and with two fur children that she’d love to tell you about. She’s thrilled to be part of STEM Tuesday [and looks forward to sharing her enjoyment of this topic with you].

Science magazine

Science Scope

 

 

 

 

 

Callie DeanCallie Dean

Callie Dean is a musician, writer, educator, and program evaluator. She teaches applied research at Eastern University and is passionate about the role of the arts in effecting community transformation. She lives in Shreveport, La., with her husband and two sons.  She is the director of CYBER.ORG, a STEM education organization with a national network of more than 25,000 K-12 teachers. Callie has written a wide variety of K-12 STEM curriculum materials, including nine cybersecurity badges for the Girl Scouts of the USA. She’s an aspiring PB/MG author, a member of SCBWI, and a 2022 PBParty finalist. Her  areas of interest include technology, cybersecurity, citizen science, and the intersection of science with art.  www.sojo.net/biography/callie-dean

 

 

Author Lydia LukidisLydia Lukidis

Lydia Lukidis is the author of 48 trade and educational books, as well as 31 e-Books. Her latest STEM book, THE BROKEN BEES’ NEST (Kane Press, 2019), was nominated for a CYBILS Award, and her forthcoming STEM book, DEEP, DEEP, DOWN: The Secret Underwater Poetry of the Mariana Trench will be published by Capstone in 2023. Lydia writes for children aged 3-12, and her artistic mandate is to inspire and enlighten. A science enthusiast from a young age, she now incorporates her studies in science and everlasting curiosity into her books. For more information, please visit www.lydialukidis.com.

broken Bees nest bookThe Space Rock Mystery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week 2:  In the Classroom 

JAnet Slingerland authorAtoms and Molecules Book
Janet Slingerland is the author of more than 20 books for readers in grades K through 12. Her favorite subjects include STEM, history, and the history of STEM.

Janet grew up reading, writing, and conducting science experiments. After working for 15 years writing computer programs, She started writing books.

 

 

Author Carla MooneyBook The Human Genome Carla Mooney 

@Carlawrites

Carla Mooney is an award-winning children’s author from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

She is the author of numerous nonfiction and fiction books and magazine articles for children and teens. She has won several nonfiction awards for her books.

 

 

author Karen Latchana Kenney

book Folding Tech   Karen Latchana Kenney

@KLatchanaKenney

Karen writes books about animals, and she looks for them wherever she  goes—from leafcutter ants trailing through the Amazon rain forest in Guyana, where she was born, to puffins in cliff-side burrows on the Irish island of Skellig Michael. She especially enjoys creating books about nature, biodiversity, conservation, and groundbreaking scientific discoveries—but also  civil rights, astronomy, historical moments, and many other topics.

 

 

Jenna GrodzikiJenna Grodinski

Jenna Grodzicki is the author of more than twenty fiction and nonfiction children’s books. Her books include Wild Style: Amazing Animal Adornments (Millbrook Press 2020) and I See Sea Food: Sea Creatures That Look Like Food (Millbrook Press 2019), the winner of the 2020 Connecticut Book Award in the Young Readers Nonfiction Category. Jenna lives near the beach with her husband and two children. In addition to being a writer, she is also a library media specialist at a K-4 school. To learn more, visit her website at www.jennagrodzicki.com.

I See Seafood book

Wild Style book

 

 

 

Week 3: Writing Tips & Resources

 

Writer Mike HaysMike Hays

@coachhays64

Mike Hays has worked hard from a young age to be a well-rounded individual. A well-rounded, equal opportunity sports enthusiasts, that is. If they keep a score, he’ll either watch it, play it, or coach it. He also is a history fanatic, especially regional history. A molecular microbiologist by day, middle-grade author, sports coach, and general good citizen by night.

 

 

Margo LemieuxMargo Lemieux

A recently retired professor of art, Margo is devoted to seeing that the A stays in STEAM. Science & technology need the heart that comes with art. It was lack of heart that led to the ecological crisis we have today. The process of creativity is closely related to that of scientific inquiry.

She is a  published picture book writer and illustrator, editor, poet, and amateur ukulele player. In her art projects, she often included science concepts as a way of connecting learning.

 

 

Week 4: Author Interviews

author christine Taylor-butler

Save the Polar Bears
Christine  has written more than 80 books including The Lost Tribe series. She has been an advocate for diversity in character representations and led by example.

Taylor-Butler majored in civil engineering and architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, graduating in 1981. She has written nonfiction for Scholastic, including for their True Book educational series.

 

 

Andi DiehnAndi Diehn

Andi Diehn grew up near the ocean chatting with horseshoe crabs and now lives in the mountains surrounded by dogs, cats, lizards, chickens, ducks, moose, deer, and bobcats, some of which help themselves to whatever she manages to grow in the garden. You are most likely to find her reading a book, talking about books, writing a book, or discussing politics with her sons. She has 18 children’s nonfiction books published or forthcoming. www.andidiehn.com

 

Space Adventurer Book Cool Women in Technology

 

And me,

author jennifer swanson

The Lost Forest book  Jennifer Swanson

@JenSwanBooks

Jennifer Swanson is the award winning author of over 40+ nonfiction books for children, mostly about science and technology. Jennifer’s love of STEM began when she started a science club in her garage at the age of 7. While no longer working from the garage, Jennifer’s passion for science and technology resonates in all her books but especially, BRAIN GAMES (NGKids) and SUPER GEAR: Nanotechnology and Sports Team Up (Charlesbridge), Astronaut-Aquanaut, and Parents’ Choice Gold Award Winner, Save the Crash-test Dummies. Her  BRAIN GAMES book was even #13 on the The Planets.org 50 Best Science books Ever Written.

 

We hope you are enjoying our STEM Tuesday blog. If you use it in your classroom or homeschool, please let us know. And if you have a topic that you would like us to cover that we haven’t yet, leave your suggestion in the comments below.  GO STEM!!

 

The Middle Grade Slump

kid with book

Storm clouds have gathered over the land of middle grade literature, and the forecast is uncertain. Referring to 2023 sales, consumer behavior advisor Circana reports thatSales of books for children ages 8-11 are posting the steepest year over year declines within the children’s book market in the U.S.”

But haven’t print sales decreased overall? Yes, print sales were down 3% in 2023. However, sales of middle grade books declined by 10%. And that came on the heels of 2022, which saw its own steep decline in the middle grade market. The middle grade market is in a slump.

There’s a lot of speculation about the cause of this downward trend. There are supply chain issues, the cost of paper, and increasing book prices to take into account. But there isn’t one factor alone that has produced the current state of affairs. It’s a combination of factors that have joined forces to create the perfect storm.

 

Pandemic Effects

Event cancellations and supply chain issues caused a major disruption during the pandemic, and these issues have not completely resolved themselves. Increasing book costs and unstable profit margins are a direct result of this continuing recovery.

pandemic earth in mask

Another pandemic effect could be the widespread learning loss attributed to school closures. According to Education Week, “Analyses of student test scores have repeatedly shown severe declines in academic achievement.” These gaps in learning form a compounding deficit, especially in reading.

However, in a recent issue of Publishers Weekly, Circana BookScan books analyst Karen McLean notes that the decline in children’s book sales “is really a return to 2019 levels, before the pandemic led to a jump in children’s sales.” It may be reasonable to suggest that a surge in sales during the early part of the pandemic has skewed trends and statistics in the years since 2020. 

 

Book Challenges

Book challenges and book bans have certainly affected the middle grade market. School Library Journal reports that school librarians were “more likely to avoid buying books or to remove titles from collections because of their content” in 2023. This certainly affects sales, but in a larger and more concerning context, it affects readership.

Trying to avoid conflict, some school libraries have severely limited students’ access to circulation, placing restrictions on students’ ability to check books out. Many teachers have eliminated classroom libraries altogether, and still others have opted out of reading aloud to students.

School library book crates

Book challenges have created a threatening environment. For many school personnel, it’s just not worth the hassle to provide books for students. Sadly, the trend resulting from book challenges is contributing to a declining interest in reading among students.

In Publishers Weekly’s Spring 2024 Children’s Preview, Molly Ker Hawn of the Bent Agency says, “The drop in school and library sales, thanks to book challenges and restrictive local and state-level legislation, makes me really concerned about the whole middle grade ecosystem.”

 

The Changing Landscape of Literature

School Library Journal’s Teen Librarian Toolbox (TLT) suggests that trends in middle grade books may be causing some readers to pause. One trend they note is that middle grade novels are aging up, with the typical middle grade protagonist now being 12 or 13. 

Additionally, TLT points out that middle grade novels “are growing increasingly longer, which can be a real hindrance to many readers. We don’t need all the books to be shorter, but we need more shorter books to be an option.”

 

The popularity of graphic novels among this age group should be an indication that many students are averse to hundreds of pages of solid text. Perhaps the formula for the next break-out middle grade hit will find its success in an innovative format.

 

What’s Working

We’ve heard the grim news. Let’s talk about what’s working in middle grade. Graphic novels continue to top the sales charts, especially when they are products of series. While this format initially struggled to achieve legitimacy among many adult gatekeepers, it has proven itself to be an effective port of entry for budding book enthusiasts.

We see consistency in the popularity of books by authors like Dav Pilkey, Jeff Kinney, and Raina Telgemeier, but there’s another trend in graphic novels that deserves some attention. According to Publishers Weekly, adaptations are driving the market. Many backlist books are seeing a resurgence in popularity because they have been adapted into graphic novels.

The Baby-Sitters Club

Ann M. Martin’s Baby-Sitters Club chapter books have been adapted into graphic novels, and guess what? The original chapter books have seen a new surge in popularity. The same is true of Mary Pope Osborne’s Magic Tree House books.

Lemoncello's Library Graphic adaptation cover

Following suit, you can now find graphic adaptations of Chris Grabenstein’s Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library and Paula Danziger’s Amber Brown series. Based on the track record of adaptations, we may see a resurgence in the popularity of these backlist titles.

 

Looking Ahead

Will the storm clouds continue to gather over the land of middle grade? Or will the sun break through and usher in the dawn of a brand new day? Time will tell. Given this uncertain forecast, what should middle grade authors do?

Authors, of course, should keep writing. Stories are derived from passion and creativity. They are crafted through revision and feedback. And they are always born with an uncertain future. 

Every creative act is a risk taken by the creator. Whether that creation finds success in the market or not, it is a personal triumph for the author who has turned a solitary, irresistible idea into a gift to share with the world. The great hope to which we can all cling is that middle grade readers will soon rediscover the joy of books.