Posts Tagged science

Interview & giveaway: Donna Galanti’s Unicorn Island 2: Secret Beneath the Sand

I’m thrilled to have author Donna Galanti here with me today. We’re both unicorn lovers, and she has another delightful book in her Unicorn Island series to share with us. We’re both so glad this book has finally arrived after its long journey.

Book summary

Unicorn Island: Secret Beneath the Sand (Volume 2)
By Donna Galanti
Illustrated by Bethany Stancliffe
Andrews McMeel Publishing (Simon & Schuster)

Unicorn Island is a middle-grade illustrated novel series about a young girl who discovers a mysterious island full of mythical beasts. School Library Journal says that “Fans of unicorns and magic in the real world will enjoy this adventure,” and Foreword Reviews claims it’s “An all-too-human, enchanting middle grade fantasy novel.”

In Volume 2 of the Unicorn Island series, Secret Beneath the Sand, Sam and Tuck are on their way to becoming unicorn protectors when they discover new secrets about the island that threaten unicorns’ existence!

Sam can’t believe how much her life and luck have changed since she came to Foggy Harbor: First, she discovered that unicorns are real, and now she’s on her way to becoming an actual unicorn protector! With her new friend, Tuck, by her side during Uncle Mitch’s lessons, Sam finally feels like she’s home.

But as the long-buried dangers of Unicorn Island begin to surface and a mysterious scourge spreads throughout the herd, Sam learns the truth behind Aunt Sylvie’s disappearance and her own connection to the island. With determination, courage, and fierce loyalty to one another—and to their code as unicorn protectors—the kids set out to protect the island’s secrecy and the unicorns’ very existence.

Donna is giving away one hardcover copy of Secret Beneath the Sand that Kirkus Reviews says is “A sweet but not overly sugary treat for unicorn devotees.” Open to U.S residents only please. Enter below!

Interview with Donna and Laurie:

Laurie: What was the inspiration behind this second Unicorn Island story idea for Secret Beneath the Sand?

Donna: I wanted to continue Sam’s story of becoming a full-fledged unicorn protector while also adding a new layer of mystery to the unicorn magic and solving the mystery presented in book one. I also wanted the characters to explore more of the island itself on their adventures so its mysteries—and challenges—are revealed. With these elements in mind, the story grew. I also knew I wanted to add in new fantastical creatures, and they were fun to create!

L: In the story, a mysterious disease threatens the unicorns. Even though unicorns are mythical, was there any research involved in writing this story?

D: Absolutely! My research was based on real-life science. I looked to the plight of elephants with their tusks being poached as a source of inspiration in relation to unicorn horns and their dire situation in the story. The atrocities that still plague elephants deeply affect me. Recent studies even suggest that as a result of widespread poaching, elephants are rapidly evolving to have no tusks.

L: Throughout the series, you introduce both science and magic. What was your purpose in combining these?

D: I love combining both science and magic in this story as I like to think we can have our feet in both worlds—and together, they can do wonders. It also adds to the conflict of the story as some characters view science as the answer and some view magic as the answer. Together, they discover that maybe both are necessary.

L: The story centers around not just unicorns but family and a sense of home. How does this change for Sam, the main character, in this second book?

Unicorn book coversD: Sam discovered new family in book one, but she is still drawn to solving another family mystery. This drives her to take high-risk actions in Secret Beneath the Sand to uncover the truth in the hope of benefiting those she loves. Through her choices, she comes to strengthen the foundation of her sense of home as she navigates this mystery.

L: You have other fantastical creatures in Unicorn Island besides unicorns. What influenced you to create them and add them into the story?

D: One of my favorite little wild animals are chipmunks. I grew up with them and loved to discover them in the woods. For years, I was sad to not live in chipmunk territory, but since moving last year, I was ecstatic to discover I am now back in chipmunk land! Hence, why they had an influence on me creating a similar creature in Secret Beneath the Sand. As a young reader in school, I was also fascinated with the mythical character of Grendel from the Anglo-Saxon epic poem, “Beowulf.” I’m drawn to tragic characters, and his was quite tragic—and why I’ve included a nod to him in this story. I’ve also been super lucky to have had the amazing illustrator, Bethany Stancliffe, bring these creatures to life!

L: I love chipmunks too! What a fun animal to include with your unicorns! And now that we’ve heard a bit about books one and two, I hope you’ll give us a sneak peek into what we can expect when the third volume of Unicorn Island releases in winter of 2023. Can you share some of what’s next for Sam and her best friend, Tuck, and the unicorns in this final installment of the series?

D: In the working title, Beyond the Portal, Sam is inspired to solve the final mystery of her family and save the unicorns. Once again, she puts herself in dire danger to do so, accompanied by her friend, Tuck. I won’t give too much away, except to say that much of this story takes place in a new and perilous setting. Tuck and Sam face the unknown again in a much more impactful way that has far-reaching consequences for all. 😊

Purchase the Unicorn Island series at your favorite bookseller here:

https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Unicorn-Island-Secret-Beneath-the-Sand/Donna-Galanti/Unicorn-Island/9781524871970

 Watch the book trailer for Unicorn Island: Secret Beneath the Sand here:

Download fun Secret Beneath the Sand activities and check out an excerpt from Secret Beneath the Sand below:

Sam frowned. A month ago, it had seemed that Mel, Foggy Harbor’s veterinarian and Tuck’s mom, had cured Barloc of a strange illness. But now that Sam thought about it, the young unicorn had seemed more tired this past week. He was running more slowly and sleeping a lot more.

She knelt in front of Barloc, looking into his violet eyes. I won’t let anything bad happen to you. I promise. She gripped the necklace that Verny had given to her. Made from a unicorn tail, it was a symbol of his trust.

Barloc closed his eyes. I’m just tired. I have been since I got back to the island.

Sam bent her head to his and laid a hand on his horn. It felt warm against her fingers. She frowned and held the back of her hand against his horn to make sure she wasn’t imagining things. It was definitely radiating heat.

“Uncle Mitch,” Sam said, her voice quavering, “I think something’s wrong with Barloc.”

Uncle Mitch quickly knelt down next to her. He checked the young unicorn’s eyes and breathing, then stroked his horn.

“His horn is warm,” Sam whispered. “What does it mean?”

Uncle Mitch shook his head and bit his lip as he continued his inspection. Barloc whinnied softly, looking into Sam’s eyes.

“I know you don’t want to think about this, but . . . it could be the sign of another disease,” Tuck said.

“No!” Sam shook her head and jumped up. As she did, the ground beneath her suddenly rocked. She fell to her knees as the earth buckled. Uncle Mitch grabbed both her and Tuck, pulling them in close as Verny screeched and took to the skies, circling overhead with frenzied dips.

The herd bolted across the meadow in confusion and fear as Barloc bowed his head, digging his hooves into the quaking earth.

 

Donna Galanti is the author of the middle grade adventure Joshua and the Lightning Road, which the Midwest Book Review called, “A heart-pounding thrill ride full of unexpected twists and turns from start to finish.” She’s also the author of the follow up, Joshua and the Arrow Realm, the popular Unicorn Island series, and the Element Trilogy thrillers for adults. Donna is a member of From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors blog, regularly presents as a guest author at schools, and teaches writers through her online Udemy courses. She’s lived in fun locations including England, her family-owned campground in New Hampshire, and in Hawaii where she served as a U.S. Navy photographer for Fleet Intelligence Pacific. Donna is represented by Liza Fleissig of the LRA Agency. Visit her at donnagalanti.com.

 

Enter to win a copy of Secret Beneath the Sand below! Runs 3/11/22 – 3/18/22

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STEM Tuesday — Diversity in STEM– In the Classroom


I read the following two books from our monthly booklist:

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgInspiring African-American Inventors: 9 Extraordinary Lives
by Jeff C.Young

This book follows the lives and achievements of nine African-American inventors. These write-ups were more in depth than those in the other collections I read. There were lots of links to resources provided in the book; however, it seemed like many of them are no longer active.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgWhat Color Is My World? The Lost History of African-American Inventors
by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld,
illustrated by Ben Boos and A.G. Ford

This book is a combination of fiction and nonfiction. While it gives rather brief write-ups for the inventors mentioned, it does a nice job of addressing why diversity in STEM is important.

I also read these two books:

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgUnsung Heroes of Technology
by Todd Kortemeier

This book gives an overview of 12 scientists, mathematicians, and/or inventors whose contributions to STEM have often been overlooked. The majority of the people highlighted in this book are women and/or African-Americans.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgStephen Hawking: Master of the Cosmos
by Robert Sneddon

This graphic novel follows the life and scientific contributions of Stephen Hawking. While still in college, Hawking was diagnosed with a disease that confined him to a wheelchair for much of his life. Hawking contributed greatly to our understanding of the universe and was able to communicate many of these ideas to average readers.

I felt a strong connection to this month’s theme. My years studying and working in engineering had me facing a lack of diversity in STEM on a very personal level. In college, I met the first woman to graduate from my alma mater. In school and while working, I was the only woman in a room full of men on many an occasion. Our family is full of neurodivergents and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Recently, I went through training to become a counselor for BSA’s Citizenship in Society merit badge.

Here are some activities to consider when tying this month’s books to the classroom.

Explore Identities

This month’s theme is “Diversity in STEM.” But what is diversity? Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines it as, “the condition of having or being composed of differing elements.” In terms of people, what are the differing elements?

Most often, diversity in STEM (or any other organization/discipline) focuses primarily on race, gender, and sometime sexuality. But there is so much more to it than that. If we start looking at what makes up a person’s identity, the possible factors seem almost limitless. (There’s an interesting, short write-up about identity in Sydney University’s 2019 Anthology here: https://www.usydanthology.com/2019/04/12/lodens-wheel-of-diversity.)

Have students define some aspects of their own identities.
(For help in defining some of these, there’s a great write-up from Appalachian State here: https://cae.appstate.edu/sites/cae.appstate.edu/files/big-8-identities.pdf)

Ability:
Race:
Ethnicity:
Gender:
Religion:

If you want to include even more aspects of identity in this exercise, go ahead. When we factor in all the different things that make up who we are and compare those with others, we find out we are much more alike than we might assume upon first glance.

Once students have defined some parts of their own identities, have them find a scientist/inventor/mathematician highlighted in this month’s reading (or in one of the links below) who has an identity that matches them. Then have them read about someone who seems very different.

Have a discussion or have students write their thoughts on the following:
– How does it make them feel to learn about amazing achievements by someone who shares similar identities with them?
– Do they feel any differently about those whose identities are very different from their own?
– Why do they think it’s important to have diversity in STEM?

Explore How Progress in STEM Works

In What Color is My World?, Mr. Mital talks about scientific knowledge as being handed from person to person like a bucket brigade.

Set up your own bucket brigade. Line students up around the room. Then have them pass something from person to person – it doesn’t have to be a bucket. In fact, a book might be more appropriate, since STEM is all about passing knowledge and ideas from person to person.

Once you’ve had the students pass the scientific knowledge (book, bucket, whatever) successfully down the line, take a few people out of the line. All the other students should stay in their positions – they should not move closer together to fill the gaps.

Have them pass the scientific knowledge along the line again. What happens when it gets to the gaps in the line? Think about/discuss how this relates to diversity in STEM.

If you don’t have enough people to conduct this activity, try creating a domino train/fall (http://www.domino-play.com/TopplingBasic.htm). Remove a few dominoes from different locations to see how that changes things.

Discover More

Since a lot of the links given in the books I read didn’t work, I decided to dig up a few more. Here are some links to a variety of people who made inspiring contributions in STEM fields but are either from underrepresented communities and/or their contributions are largely unsung. You will find many of the people covered in the books among those listed on the web sites.

This article was written in relation to What Color is My World?: https://invention.si.edu/lost-histories-african-american-inventors

Native American Scientists and Engineers: https://www.sciencebuddies.org/blog/native-american-scientists-engineers

12 Disabled Scientists Who Made the World a Better Place: https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/87068/12-disabled-scientists-who-made-world-better-place

Hispanic Scientists and Engineers: https://www.sciencebuddies.org/blog/hispanic-scientists-engineers

Inspiring Scientists and Engineers to Know – Asian American Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month: https://www.sciencebuddies.org/blog/aanhip-scientists

6 Important LGBTQ Scientists Who Left a Mark on STEM Fields: https://www.osc.org/important-lgbtq-scientists-who-left-a-mark-on-stem-fields

LGBTQ+ scientists in history: https://www.asbmb.org/asbmb-today/people/061821/lgbtq-scientists-through-history

Unsung innovators of color: https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/these-unsung-american-inventors-changed-the-world/ss-AAMy3V3

10 Black Inventors Who Changed the World: https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/86923/11-african-american-inventors-who-changed-world

NASA’s Innovators and Unsung Heroes: https://www.nasa.gov/50th/50th_magazine/unsungHeroes.html


Author Janet Slingerland Janet Slingerland has written more than 20 books for children. To find out more about Janet and her books, check out her website – – or visit her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

STEM Tuesday– Diversity in STEM– Book List

These books introduce scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and inventors who are largely overlooked. And too often, because of their race or gender, even their residency status, they don’t even get credit for their work.

ANTHOLOGIES

Scientists Who Changed History by DK

Using a fun set-up beginning with a quotation and list of milestones and including intriguing spot and profile illustrations, an insert about a competitor or subsequent scientist, and a big, bold sidebar of accomplishments, this book examines 86 scientists from the astronomer and mathematician Thales of Milatues (624-546 B.C.E) to computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee (present). Broken into seven time periods, each section also includes a “directory” and brief bios of 13 other scientists from that time. A wonderful examination through time and across the globe of both well-known and forgotten scientists.

Stolen Science: Thirteen Stories of Scientists and Inventors almost Written Out of History by Ella Schwartz

This book presents biographies of scientists and inventors whose stories have been forgotten or outright ignored by history. Too often, due to their race, gender, even residency status, credit for their discoveries were given to other people. Sidebars offer deep dives into the science and technology.

The Secret Lives of Scientists, Engineers, and Doctors. Volume 1&2 by Faisal Hossain

Brief introductions to current STEM professionals, many written in first person, about the inspiration or experiences that spurred them into their research and careers. Includes a note of where they are working or researching.

Inspiring African-American Inventors: 9 Extraordinary Lives by Jeff C.Young

Spanning from 1848 to 2008, each of the biographies contains a “Lifeline” with key moments, discoveries, and for some posthumous awards. Portraits, invention diagrams, and period ads help round out an honest evaluation of their lives, creativity, and societal struggles. A list of “report links,” detailed chapter notes, and further reading make this a great place to begin research.

Brilliant African-American Scientists:9 Exceptional Lives by Jeff C. Young

Following a similar format, this book examines scientists from the 18th to 20th centuries who influenced astronomy, space telescopes, blood & plasma storage, biology, physics, developing computer science, and chemotherapy. It is also a straightforward presentation that could encourage further research.

What Color Is My World? The Lost History of African-American Inventors by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Set within the framework of a fictional story of two twins, eleven fold-out flaps contain brief facts about inventors, their creations, and their influence on today’s society. Additionally, the book takes a more in-depth look at the life and discoveries of Lewis Howard Latimer, James E. West, Frederick McKinley Jones, Dr. Percy Lavon Julian, and Garrett Morgan. Sources and further information round out this fun exploration of important history.

A Native American Thought of It: Amazing Inventions and Innovations by Rocky Landon

Opening with a map of Traditional Native American territories, this informative, photo-illustrated book examines the shelters, modes of hunting & fishing, preparing food & clothing, medicine, transportation, communication, and games created by the various tribes many of which have continued or inspired current actions or inventions. It includes a brief look at Native Americans today, native languages, and further readings.

1001 Inventions and Awesome Facts from Muslim Civilization: Official Children’s Companion to the 1001 Inventions Exhibition (National Geographic Kids)

A cursory, but extensive, examination, from the 7th century into the 20th century, of the astrological, mathematical scientific and medical discoveries, as well as the musical, farming, games, and school creations that have been made by Muslim scientists and individuals. A fun map of highlights functions as a great “table of contents” and the section formats are highly visual and snippet oriented. A wonderful collection of facts and individuals.

INDIVIDUAL BIOGRAPHIES

Benjamin Banneker by Heather Lehr Wagner

Born in 1731, Banneker was a free Black man who worked his own farm. A curious child, he studied nature and wildlife and was fascinated by mechanics. He built a clock after taking a pocket watch apart. Later, he helped survey land that would become District of Columbia. This biography does not sidestep issues of race and forced labor.

Who was George Washington Carver? by Jim Gigliotti

Carver was born to enslaved parents near the end of the Civil War. He was curious and hungry for education, which he achieved despite racism and Jim Crow laws. He taught at Tuskegee College, where he developed products that used peanuts (glue, dye, plastic) – but not peanut butter!

Daniel Hale Williams: Surgeon Who Opened Hearts and Minds written and illustrated by Mike Venezia

Williams, known for ground-breaking heart surgery, began his medical career as a doctor’s assistant – a tough job in the later 1800s. After graduating from medical college, he discovered no hospital would accept a black doctor. When local hospitals refused to take his patients, he started his own hospital, a non-segregated institution that also provided training for black nurses and doctors.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Young Readers Edition by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer

William Kamkwamba opens with life in Malawi: a mix of magic and science. His curiosity led him to fixing radios, a library, and eventually books about generating energy. As draught brings famine and death to the area, he builds a windmill to pump water for crops and produce electricity. A fun and inspiring read for kids (and adults).

Al-Khwarizmi : the inventor of algebra by Corona Brezina

This book shows Al-Khwarizmi the scholar: an astronomer, mathematician, geographer. His purpose was to help people solve math dilemmas in their everyday lives. In addition to developing algebra, he helped chart the course of planets, mapped the earth, and introduced the system of numbers we use today.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

“Asian American scientists in STEM classrooms: increasing inclusion and visibility” https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/article/asian-american-scientists-stem-classrooms-increasing-inclusion-and-visibility/

“The Secret Lives of Scientists and Engineers”https://ny.pbslearningmedia.org/collection/secret-life-of-scientists-and-engineers-diversity-in-stem/

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STEM Tuesday book list prepared by:

Sue Heavenrich writes about science for children and their families, from space to backyard ecology. Bees, flies, squirrel behavior—things she observes in her neighborhood and around her home—inspire her writing. Visit her at www.sueheavenrich.com

Maria Marshall is a children’s author, blogger, and poet passionate about making nature and reading fun for children. When not writing, critiquing, or reading, she bird watches, travels the world, bakes, and hikes. Visit her at www.mariacmarshall.com