Posts Tagged teachers.

STEM Author Spotlight– Laura Stegman

We are delighted to have Laura Stegman, author of The Chambered Nautilus on the blog today.

Laura StegmanLaura Segal Stegman is a Los Angeles-based publicist and author whose middle grade debut novel, Summer of L.U.C.K., and its sequel, Ready or Not, were published by Young Dragons. The Chambered Nautilus, the third in the L.U.C.K. trilogy, will follow. L.A. Parent Magazine lauded Summer of L.U.C.K. as a “good read,” Readers’ Favorite awarded it 5 Stars, and a Macaroni Kid reviewer said, “I was instantly captivated and couldn’t put it down.” Laura serves as a judge for Society of Young Inklings and Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) writer competitions, and she shares her author journey in engaging virtual and in-person visits to schools and libraries. Her non-fiction credits include collaboration on the travel book Only in New York. Her feature stories have appeared in the Los Angeles Times and Los Angeles Magazine. A long-time publicity consultant, she owns Laura Segal Stegman Public Relations, LLC, which has represented a wide-ranging client list of businesses, arts organizations, and non-profit events over the years. She is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of UC Irvine with a B.A. in Drama.

 

 

The Chambered Nautilus book

All about the book! Get ready for a whirlwind adventure with The Chambered Nautilus, the thrilling conclusion to Laura Segal Stegman’s enchanting Summer of L.U.C.K. trilogy.

Best friends Darby, Justin, and Naz are facing their biggest challenge yet. Since last summer’s adventure, they find themselves growing apart, making new friends, and being pulled in different directions. But when a ride at ghostly Mr. Usher’s carnival experiences a mysterious malfunction, the trio reunites to answer his desperate call for help.

With expulsion from camp and the carnival’s very existence on the line, Darby, Justin, and Naz will have to rely on their wits-and one another-to unravel the mysteries surrounding Mr. Usher’s plea. The camp’s newest attraction, the Chambered Nautilus, may hold the key, but it will take everything they have to unlock its secret.

Join them in a heart-pounding journey filled with friendship, courage, and the power of never giving up. Will they save the carnival and their cherished memories before it’s too late? Find out in this magical tale of adventure, discovery, and the true meaning of loyalty.

 

Laura, thanks for answering my questions:

JS: This is such a fun book with a great cast of characters. Were they inspired by yourself? Or maybe kids you knew or grew up with? You don’t have to give specific names, of course, but it’s always fun to learn where authors get their characters.

 

LS: I appreciate your describing The Chambered Nautilus as a fun book! I sure had fun writing it! It’s the third in my middle grade trilogy about three kids whose friendship with a ghost livens up – to put it mildly – their summer camp experiences over a three-year span. In Summer of L.U.C.K., the first book, we meet Darby, Justin, and Naz, who are struggling with communicating, and the ghost, Leroy Usher, who helps them find their voices via adventures in his magical carnival. The kids have more magical adventures in the sequel, but Ready or Not sees Mr. Usher helping Justin, who faces a tricky choice: stand up to bigotry or let fear hold him back. In The Chambered Nautilus, the conclusion to the series, the trio receives an urgent plea from Mr. Usher, and they must figure out how to help him without destroying his beloved, now real-life carnival or getting expelled from camp.

It’s certainly accurate to say that the kid  characters were inspired by me. A lot of Darby is based on my own experiences learning to find my voice. I never lost a parent as a kid, the way Justin does, but I’ve felt his sense of not being heard. As for Naz, whose endearing personality makes me laugh, I share his tenacity and his love of junk food.

 

JS: Your book has a ghost! How cool is that? Can you explain what made you decide to put a ghost in it? 

LS: I needed a character not only with magical powers but who was also deeply compassionate. A friendly ghost fit the bill. I modeled Mr. Usher on the kind of loving, understanding adult that kids like me loved to be around. I had a grade school teacher like that. She helped me navigate tough times and gave me a sense of security and trust. Like her, Mr. Usher adores kids and does everything he can to help them, which is why Darby, Justin, and Naz are so drawn to him. My teacher’s name was Mrs. Warner, and for all I know she has passed on, but perhaps she haunts my old elementary school, still helping kids. Ha!

 

JS: Why did you pick a chambered nautilus? This is not a typical ride at a carnival.

Agreed! The Chambered Nautilus in this book exists nowhere but my imagination. The carnival attraction is shaped like a nautilus shell (think giant snail). When kids enter, they (and readers) learn all about chambered nautiluses and their threatened status. As they go from room to room – each smaller than the last, like a real nautilus – they must answer multiple choice questions about what they’ve learned to get to the final room and win a prize.

But it’s not as simple as all that. The Chambered Nautilus attraction is Mr. Usher’s son’s misbegotten attempt to bring his late father’s plans to life. Mr. Usher never intended it to be built anywhere except in his magical realm, but his son doesn’t know that. And of course everything goes wrong. When pieces of the carnival start disappearing, the three kids must rescue the trapped Mr. Usher so he can go back to rest once and for all.

 

JS: You have a little STEM in your book. Why did you add that?

My favorite book as a kid, The Diamond in the Window by Jane Langton, had a chambered nautilus-related scene, so I knew a little about them. But as I did research for my book, I became fascinated by their intriguing biology, their intricately designed shells, and their precarious status as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. For young readers who’ve never heard of chambered nautiluses, I’m hoping to inspire their interest in these soft-bodied cephalopod class creatures, which have cruised in deep ocean coral reefs for more than 480 million years.

 

JS: What do you want young readers to find interesting and exciting about your book?

LS: Aside from discovering chambered nautiluses, I hope they’ll be engaged by the relationship between Darby, Justin, and Naz and enjoy sharing their adventures. In The Chambered Nautilus and the other two books in the trilogy, there’s a lot about finding self-acceptance, perseverance, ways to deal with life’s unfairness, and the power of friendship. It would be great if my readers also learn that whatever they’re struggling with, other kids struggle too, that they’re not alone, and that help is possible, even if you don’t have the guidance of a friendly ghost).

 

JS: Do you have any tips for writers who want to break into fiction children’s books?

LS: What helps me the most are these things, in no particular order:

1) Reading widely, especially contemporary middle grade but also other genres.

2) Making contact with as many other middle grade writers as possible, especially those at the same stage of their careers as I am.

3) Joining or creating a critique group.

4) Learning as much as possible about the publishing industry by taking advantage of the range of no-cost writer’s resources, from social media (X/Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, for me) to web sites/blogs.

5) Joining the SCBWI and, when eligible, the Author’s Guild, which offers everything from free contract reviews to webinars,  workshops, seminars, and events to website building and hosting and much more.

6) Continuing to write, never giving up, and remembering that there is no age limit to our dreams.

 

JS: What are you working on now?

LS: I’m deep in revisions for my fourth book, a contemporary middle grade novel about a self-conscious twelve-year-old who flourishes in an acting class only to confront her binge eating when it jeopardizes all her progress. This story of healing, self-acceptance, and hope is especially dear to my heart, and I hope it eventually finds a home. I also have an idea for another MG contemporary about a blended family, which is in such rudimentary stages that I haven’t been able to decide where the story begins.

 

Laura Stegman

 

 

 

STEM Tuesday — Astronomy/ Eclipse — Writing Tips & Resources

Astronomy and Poetry

The moon, like a flower
In heaven’s high bower,
With silent delight,
Sits and smiles on the night.

Excerpt from “Night” by William Blake

April is National Poetry month so it’s a natural pairing for STE(A)M Tuesday’s astronomy activity blog. This particular post comes after the eclipse, but we can capitalize on the excitement generated by the event.

What you’ll find in this post is a history of National Poetry Month founded by the Academy of American Poets, a lesson from NASA “Write A Poem About Space.” Then a couple books about poetry and astronomy. Finally some activities that will take curiosity and learning to a new level and help reinforce communication skills.

National Poetry Month

Their website says it was launched by the Academy of American Poets in April 1996, and celebrates poets’ integral role in our culture and that poetry matters. Over the years, it has become the largest literary celebration in the world, with tens of millions of readers, students, K–12 teachers, librarians, booksellers, literary events curators, publishers, families, and—of course—poets, marking poetry’s important place in our lives.

https://poets.org/national-poetry-month

You don’t have to be a poet, or even interested in poetry, to use it as a device for writing with kids. Think of it more as allowing the young writers to communicate what they know with excitement and creative expression.

NASA begins their lesson WRITE A POEM ABOUT SPACE by talking about how many of their scientists were inspired by creative works about space.

Painters, musicians, writers and others have long been inspired by space. In ancient times, storytellers looked to the skies, found patterns, or constellations, and created tales about what they saw. Today, there are countless plays, books, songs and other creative works all about space. These works of art have helped inspire many NASA scientists and engineers to pursue their careers in space exploration. And now, their work is inspiring future poets, filmmakers and artists.

The NASA link is below at the end.

NASA JPL logo

Books

Where Did the Sun Go by Janet Cameron Hoult, is a good example of blending science, writing, myth, and poetry. The author has included eclipse stories from around the world and, based on her experiences, described them using poetic form. In addition, it includes illustrations and instructions for making a puppet show based on the stories. Beyond being fun to read, it is a useful resource for parents, teachers, and caregivers who want to have an in-depth, educational, and creative activity for young children. For older children, an enterprising teacher or parent could take it a step further and create a video or animation. Link below to making videos resources.

Where Did the Sun Go? book

Welcome to the Wonder House by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Georgia Heard, and illustrated by Deborah Freedman, includes poetry about astronomy and other science and creativity subjects, enhanced by particularly dreamy illustrations. Besides the relevant content, the colorful page design and imagery is an excellent example for letting creative imagination run free.

Welcome to the Wonder House book

Good writing will always be the Very Best way of communicating any kind of science so giving young people experience in written communication will be a boost to career readiness, no matter where their path leads. Teachers Pay Teachers has many lessons linking science and poetry. Two are listed below. Take a look yourself. They are set up by age group so you can find what you need.

Astronomy poetry resources.

The Academy of American Poets. https://poets.org/materials-teachers

NASA https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/edu/learn/project/write-a-poem-about-space/

Shooting Video to Make Learning Fun. Julie Green (Author) https://bookshop.org/p/books/shooting-video-to-make-learning-fun-julie-green/9504767?ean=9781610802635

Where Did the Sun Go https://bookshop.org/p/books/where-did-the-sun-go-myths-and-legends-of-solar-eclipses-around-the-world-told-with-poetry-and-puppetry-janet-cameron-hoult/12196130?ean=9781432770808

Welcome to the Wonder House https://bookshop.org/p/books/welcome-to-the-wonder-house/18900473?ean=9781635927627

Poetry Templates for Science Writing https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Poetry-Templates-for-Science-Writing-2424654?st=2bcf8791d949fc8f1974a1182c5548ae

SCIENCE POETRY WRITING https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/SCIENCE-POETRY-WRITING-3869139?st=2bcf8791d949fc8f1974a1182c5548ae

Poetry Templates for Science Writing Book
Write a Science Poem book
Shooting Video to Make Learning Fun book

Margo Lemieux is a children’s book author and illustrator who enjoys many different modes of expression. She designed a number of notebook covers which are available on Amazon.

STEM Author Spotlight: Alison Pearce Stevens

I’m delighted to be highlighting some awesome middle grade STEM/STEAM authors on the blog!

The first up is Alison Pearce Stevens. Her new book, Animal Climate Heroes released March 5th. I’ve read the book and it is PERFECT for curious kids.

Here’s a bit more info:

Animal Climate Heroes book

 

Animal Climate Heroes by Alison Pearce Stevens (Author), Jason Ford (Illustrator)

           Godwin Books, March 5, 2024.   BUY it HERE 

 

Summary: In our left corner we have the meanest villain that’s ever existed. Responsible for rising seas and loss of biodiversity, it’s climate change ready to wreak havoc on the Earth. But in our right corner? We have four superheroes ready to save the day!
Forest elephants protect our forests by trampling trees.
Whales boost ocean health with their massive poo-nados.
Sea otters defend kelp forests from purple invaders.
And echidnas bury tons of soil to stop climate change.

But we can’t leave them in this fight alone. We need to protect our heroes who, in return, defend our planet. Get ready to learn all about these four legged, and two-flippered, creatures and how YOU can be a climate hero too!

 

Reviews:

“Along with explaining sometimes complex ecological cycles and patterns in easy-to-understand terms, the author highlights the role of microbes in decomposition, extolling the benefits of composting and leaving autumn leaves on the ground; she even describes the eco-devastation wrought by artificial lawn fertilizers and free-roaming cats. Ford’s engagingly informal ink-and-wash portraits and diagrams generally come with helpful captions and labels.”―Booklist

“Animal Climate Heroes is a captivating exploration of the Earth’s unsung champions in the battle against climate change. In this riveting narrative, author Alison Pearce Stevens introduces readers to four remarkable creatures who stand as mighty defenders of our planet’s delicate ecosystems. Each chapter is masterfully woven together through scientific insight with engaging storytelling, making complex ecological concepts accessible and intriguing for young readers. Not only will readers walk away informed, but they will also be inspired to take action to help safeguard our planet! Animal Climate Heroes truly promises to be an indispensable resource for curious minds eager to make a difference in the world outside their doorstep.”― Melissa Cristina Marquez, author of Mother of Sharks and Wild Survival

“Fun and fascinating! Animal Climate Heroes gives readers an inspiring look at what earth’s creatures are doing to help fight climate change, but also gives us a compelling reminder of just how amazing our planet really is―and why we ought to protect it. This book belongs on every animal lover’s shelf!”―Jess Keating, bestselling author, scientist, & nature artist

 

Alison, thanks for answering a few questions about your book and your writing.

JAS: This is such an intriguing way to approach climate change, how did you come up with it?

APS: During the Covid shutdown, I watched a lot of webinars, and during one of them, the presenter said that her favorite fact was that sea otters help fight climate change. I had also seen an article about the role of great whales in climate, and I knew it was a great angle for a book.

JAS: Can you give us a short explanation of how you relate climate change to animals?

APS: The key is to remove the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Animals don’t do this! But many animals, including the four featured in the book, help boost photosynthesis in trees, plants, and algae. (For anyone who hasn’t thought about photosynthesis in years, plants use the process to combine carbon dioxide and water to make food.) Exactly how the animals boost photosynthesis in their local plants or algae varies by animal and ecosystem, and the book goes into more detail about each one. The gist of it is that these animals are helping photosynthesizers get what they need to grow, whether that’s nutrients, space, or water, and that helps remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.


JAS: Can you give us a sneak peek of one or two of the animals that you highlight?

APS: Absolutely. Sea otters are helping to protect kelp forests. Kelp can literally grow up to two feet a day, and it sucks lots of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere to make that happen. Forest elephants tend their forest like gardeners, planting seeds, dropping plenty of fertilizer, and pulling weedy trees. This reduces competition for the massive tree species, so they get enough water and nutrients to flourish. The bigger the tree, the more carbon it stores. Elephants are absolutely essential to maintaining tropical forests in Africa.

JAS: What do you want young readers to get out of your book?

APS: Two things: I want every reader to understand how incredibly important nature is to us. It’s not just about climate (even though that’s all we hear about in the news), it’s about protecting all kinds of natural systems. We need them as much as they need us. And I want everyone to feel empowered to take steps to reduce their impact on the planet. Yes, industries play a huge role in this, but each and every one of us can reduce our personal impact, as well. By taking some of the steps I recommend in the book, people can tread more lightly on Earth and help sway industries to make more sustainable decisions.

JAS: Can you list a few actions that everyone can take to reduce climate change?

APS: Ride a bike instead of driving—or at least turn off the engine instead of idling. Rethink your lawn care practices if you own a home or talk to your landlord about how the property is maintained if you rent and there are green spaces. Most fertilizers are products of the oil industry and applied excessively; they wash downstream along with herbicides and other pesticides. When they reach the ocean, they harm marine life (and there’s good evidence they’re harming us, too). Lawnmowers and leaf blowers release huge amounts of carbon dioxide and other pollutants, so making changes to lawn care practices can go a long way. Even replacing a showerhead with one that’s EPA Water Sense certified can cut your carbon footprint and reduce the amount of water you use. All of those changes save you money, to boot.

JAS: Do you have any tips for writers who want to break into nonfiction children’s books?

APS: Be persistent and work on your craft—attend conferences, workshops and webinars to really learn how successful authors create their stories. And get to know other people in the kidlit community. It’s incredibly supportive, and many of my writing opportunities arose from events I attended and the connections I made while I was there.

JAS: What are you working on now?

APS: I am planning a second research trip for THE WILD MILE. This MG NF will be part of Holiday House’s Books for a Better Earth collection. It features efforts to rewild cities—to re-create lost habitat in an effort to bring wildlife back into the concrete jungle. THE WILD MILE will look at these efforts in general and specifically highlight the Wild Mile project in downtown Chicago.

 

Thanks so much for joining us, Alison. You can learn more about Alison below. 

Alison Pearce Stevens Headshot

Bio: Alison Pearce Stevens has been chased by a trumpeter swan, bitten by a bronze-winged duck, and served as a climbing wall for geckos and baby bats. She used to be a beekeeper and still thinks pollinators are some of the coolest things on the planet. Once upon a time, she was Dr. Stevens, science professor, until life took her overseas, at which point she started writing about science and nature for kids, because she’s an educator at heart and had to find new ways to share cool things with the world’s most curious people.

Alison writes lots of fun nonfiction: articles, picture books, and middle grade books. All of her work is inspired by a love of science and nature. She a regular contributor to Science News Explores, Highlights for Children, ASK, and other kids’ magazines, and has co-authored four books for National Geographic Kids. Rhinos in Nebraska: The Amazing Discovery of the Ashfall Fossil Beds (2021) and Animal Climate Heroes! (2024) were both Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selections. Rhinos also won three Nebraska Book Awards. Detective Dogs are on the Case will release in September 2024.