Welcome to the Izzy Newton and the S.M.A.R.T. Squad #3: The Law of Cavities Blog Tour!
Follow along as we celebrate the release of The Law of Cavities (October 11th) with behind-the-scenes looks from author Valerie Tripp, plus 5 chances to win all 3 books in the Izzy Newton series!
Girls Care Deeply:
Tapping into girls’ profound desire to protect the environment and animals
by Valerie Tripp
Once again, my trusty Lunch Bunch girls were the source of my story’s heart and soul. With a combination of hilarity, dismay, and happiness the girls talked about Outdoor Education Weekend memories like crushes, gelatin for dessert, creepy-crawlies, ancient showers, and ghost stories. And through it all, beneath the jokes, their deep concern for the outdoors, for protecting the environment and animals came through loud and clear. When I listened to this extraordinary group of middle school girls, I learned that they take science seriously – and they also take science to heart. They taught me:
- Science is not cold or arcane. It is a practical, human – sometimes even humorous — part of everyday life that when applied, makes life better.
- It’s okay – in fact, it’s great! — to be smart, caring girl who is interested in science, especially the environment.
- It’s okay – in fact, it’s great! – to be your quirky, unique, honest self.
- It is okay — in fact, it’s essential — to make mistakes, learn from them, and laugh at them.
- The best solutions happen when we listen to different points of view and combine talents.
- Sometimes an idea that seems laugh-out-loud silly is brilliant.
- The steps in the scientific method (identify the problem, gather relevant data, form a hypothesis, test the hypothesis) can be used to solve scientific research problems AND behavior/learning/emotional/interpersonal problems.
How could I celebrate and honor my Lunch Bunch girls’ interest in the environment? Well, my Lunch Bunch girls were rapturous about raptors, especially owls, because “they are so cute.” They wanted the Squad to find that the island was newly inhabited by a kind of owl that is on the endangered animal list. I was thrilled: I love owls, and right here in Montgomery County we have owls we haven’t had before. They’re here because of climate change. And there are certainly owls on the endangered list.
That core idea connected to something in my brain. In 2001, my friend, the poet Mary Clare Powell, sent me her poem “Things Owls Ate”. It begins:
The sixth graders are dissecting them,
regurgitated refuse, indigestible parts
of things owls ate, found where owls roost,
near the white splash markings on barn boards.
The kids say the idea is gross but once they cut
open the hard shells it is soft gray feathers
and hair they first find. At the center of
that bed the bones appear, scapula and tiny skull.
The children are excited to match bone to
bone, using a printed guide, laying out the
frames of tiny eaten things. They learn anatomy.
That quiet poem stayed tucked in my brain for 20 years, waiting to connect to the spark the Lunch Bunch girls gave me for Izzy Newton and the S.M.A.R.T. Squad: The Law of Cavities, a story about owls, and how there are surprises hidden in people and places, just as there are in owl pellets. Mary Clare illustrated for me the metaphorical link between fact and fiction, nature and human nature. My lovely and generous friend Kay Taub gave me an owl pellet of my own to dissect, much to my delight, and a printed guide to learn from. Clearly, generosity is abundant in people who love owls. Bárbara Freitas and Emma Gesiriech, both raptor experts, graciously answered my owl questions with expertise and enthusiasm and came up with even better ideas to bring authenticity to the story. My daughter Katherine, another owl fan, helped me tremendously by recollecting with great good humor and specificity her memories of dealing with dental braces and her 6th grade outdoor education experience. We laughed and laughed and all the while, Katherine was providing me with valuable pages of notes. Katherine’s professional research and writing about the benefits of outdoor education for middle school students was an inspiration—as Katherine herself always is!
My friends Betsy Randall-David and Sara Jarvis sent thoughtful, thorough lists and, during our video call, generated a treasure trove of outdoor, environmentally connected games and activities for Camp Rosalie Edge, all tried and true from Camp Lala-Gigi, which they created for their lucky grandchildren. Essential to my story were Betsy and Sara’s observations and insights about children’s interactions and behaviors while camping. Mary-Grace Reeves, my pen pal since she was a little girl, has just graduated from Stanford Medical School. It was exhilarating how Mary-Grace immediately understood the idea of science-effecting-girls’-friendships and came up with the funny, smart, perfect idea of hair turning green from oxidization, which I loved. Becky Baines thought up the great title: Izzy Newton and S.M.A.R.T. Squad: The Law of Cavities. Thank you, Becky! Shelby Lees and Erica Green are my partners in joy in creating the S.M.A.R.T. Squad stories. I can never thank them enough for asking the question that brought all the elements of this story together: What if Izzy has braces?
So, I merely combined the deep concern for the environment expressed by my Lunch Bunch girls with the generosity and kindness of owl lovers and the trials of braces and Ta Da! Izzy Newton and S.M.A.R.T. Squad: The Law of Cavities came to be.
A message to readers from author Valerie Tripp:
I hope my readers will come away with this message: You are a scientist. You observe, test, evaluate, and draw conclusions constantly. STEM—Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math—is not restricted to labs or science fair booths or classrooms. You’re doing STEM stuff everywhere, all the time, when you cook, run, feed you pet, quench your thirst, dive into a wave, wash your hands, learn to do a cartwheel, spend time on your laptop, look up at the stars, cut an apple into parts and divvy up the shares. Know this, embrace this, celebrate this—and take responsibility for both exploring AND protecting this extraordinary, exciting, surprising universe. Get out there! Be active, curious, and focused. Take yourself seriously. Your actions matter because they will shape the world we all live in. Be mindful, pay attention, learn, and live fully with courage and zest. And don’t be afraid to fail. Chaos, mess, and failure are essential parts of all creative endeavors like science. Don’t worry. Things heal. Mistakes are forgiven. You have plenty of time to tidy up.
About the Book
Meet the characters, watch the book trailer and check out the Educator and Reader’s Guides on the series website here!
The S.M.A.R.T. Squad is back to tackle more middle school mayhem with science, technology, engineering, math, and friendship!
In this third book in the S.M.A.R.T. Squad series, best friends Izzy Newton, Allie Einstein, Marie Curie, Charlie Darwin, and Gina Carver set out on a mystery-filled Outdoor Adventure Camp experience.
Now that Izzy’s finally found her voice in public speaking class and become an ice hockey star, she’s determined to conquer her “dizzy-Izzy-ness” in new situations―including caring for her brand-new braces on an outdoor education overnight and her friends’ good-natured teasing about her friend Trevor. But the forecast for fun turns cloudy when the girls discover their cabin chaperone is none other than Izzy’s tough public-speaking teacher, Ms. Martinez, and their junior counselor is eighth grade mean girl, Maddie Sharpe.
When an innocent exchange of harmless pranks with Maddie takes a turn for the worse, the Squad turns to science to prove their innocence. That’s nothing, though, compared with the terrifying swamp monster haunting their campsite, a catastrophe befalling Ms. Martinez, and a mysterious disaster threatening the future of camp itself.
With their very survival on the line, will science be enough to save the day?
“Wholesome entertainment for preteens, offering positivity without didacticism.”
“It’s one thing to have children’s books about scientists or podcasts or stories about strong women in STEM, but it’s another world entirely when your children get to feel represented by the characters they’re reading about. The characters in the Izzy Newton and the S.M.A.R.T. Squad series are diverse, smart, and sure of themselves the way all middle school girls are—through their dreams and newly acquired skills they’re still getting used to.”
About the Author
VALERIE TRIPP is the co-creator of the American Girl book series that includes titles featuring Felicity, Josefina, Kit, Maryellen, Molly, and Samantha. Tripp also wrote American Girl’s Wellie Wishers titles, Hopscotch Hill School titles, numerous leveled readers, songs, stories, skills book pages, and plays for educational publishers. Tripp is writer and editorial director of the Boys Camp series, and a writer, editor, and art editor for Sterling Publishing Company. Tripp received a B.A. and honors as a member of the first co-educated class at Yale University and a master’s of education degree from Harvard University.
- Five (5) winners will receive the complete 3-book Izzy Newton and the S.M.A.R.T. Squad series: Absolute Hero, Newton’s Flaw, and The Law of Cavities
- US/Canada only
- Ends 11/13 at 11:59pm ET
- Enter via the Rafflecopter below
- Visit the other stops on the tour for more chances to win!
Blog Tour Schedule:
October 31st — BookHounds
November 1st — Teen Librarian Toolbox
November 2nd — Pragmatic Mom
November 3rd — A Dream Within a Dream
November 4th — From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors