Author Archives: Jennifer Swanson

Surging into Nonfiction!

The last few months have been a whirlwind of events for me. I’ve attended three different conferences, where I either presented or attended workshops — all about nonfiction. Why? Nonfiction is HOT right now.  That’s great for those of us who read it and even better for those of us who write it.

Why is nonfiction such a hot topic? That’s easy.  Between the state standards, the Common Core, and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS),  publishers are looking to add lots of nonfiction to their lists.  They are searching for everything from picture book to YA, in the categories of history, biography, science, technology, nature, and much, much more.

Looking to find some great nonfiction books? Check out these awards:

NCTE Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children http://www.ncte.org/awards/orbispictus

 

The book that won this year’s award was:
The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming (Schwartz & Wade)
Here is the tumultuous, heartrending, true story of the Romanovs at once an intimate portrait of Russia’s last royal family and a gripping account of its undoing. Using captivating photos and compelling first person accounts, award-winning author Candace Fleming (“Amelia Lost”;” The Lincolns”) deftly maneuvers between the imperial family’s extravagant lives and the plight of Russia’s poor masses, making this an utterly mesmerizing read as well as a perfect resource for meeting Common Core standards.

 

The Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal winner for 2015 was:
The Right Word: Roget and his Thesaurus by Jen Bryant (Eerdmans BFYR)

2015 Caldecott Honor Book2015 Sibert Medal Winner2015 Orbis Pictus Honor BookFor shy young Peter Mark Roget, books were the best companions — and it wasn’t long before Peter began writing his own book. But he didn’t write stories; he wrote lists. Peter took his love for words and turned it to organizing ideas and finding exactly the right word to express just what he thought. His lists grew and grew, eventually turning into one of the most important reference books of all time. Readers of all ages will marvel at Roget’s life, depicted through lyrical text and brilliantly detailed illustrations. This elegant book celebrates the joy of learning and the power of words.

NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Books for 2015. This is a pretty comprehensive list of some awesome science books! I will include just a few below, but for all, check out the website here:

 

http://www.nsta.org/publications/ostb/ostb2015.aspx
Batman Science: The Real-World Science Behind Batman’s Gear (DC Super Heroes) by Tammy Enz

When it comes to fighting crime, technology is Batmans greatest weapon. From his gadget-packed Utility Belt to his high-tech Batmobile, the Dark Knight tackles Gothams criminal underworld. But does any of his gear have a basis in reality? Or is it merely the stuff of fiction? Batman Science uncovers the real-world connections to Batmans techand much of it will surprise you!

 

 
Bone Collection: Skulls by Camilla de la Bédoyère (Scholastic)

BONE COLLECTION: SKULLS is follow-up to the beautiful book BONE COLLECTION: ANIMALS. This spectacular collection of awesome skulls will take a closer look inside some of the world’s most fascinating creatures. Learn what an animal’s skull can tell us about how each creature lives. Discover the narwhal, the unicorn of the sea. Marvel at how a hippo’s eyeballs nearly pop out of its head. Take a look at the rhinoceros’ enormous beak. Featuring the skulls of pythons, piranhas, rams, bears and more, readers will be amazed by the wide variety of skulls in the animal kingdom.

Where does one go to find out more about  the type of nonfiction books coming out or how to learn how to write fabulous nonfiction?

Check out some conferences!  Many regional and even the national SCBWI conferences are including nonfiction workshops these days.  To find one look here:  https://www.scbwi.org/

 

The Highlights Foundation offers conferences about nonfiction. In fact, I just conducted one at the beginning of the month.

http://www.highlightsfoundation.org/

 

And finally, one of the best conferences (in my opinion) to attend to learn about nonfiction — if you are a teacher, librarian, or aspiring writer, is

the 21st Century Children’s Nonfiction Conference.  http://21cnfc.com/index.html

I went this past June and it was FANTASTIC!  With industry professionals from over 28 organizations including publishers, librarians, the NSTA, Bank Street College, and many more, there is something for everyone.

The conference was a great way to connect with editors, educational professionals, and other authors. Workshops on craft and writing were timely, interesting and fun.  They even had intensives for more in-depth learning and also open table discussions to promote exchange of information between authors and editors.

 

++++ Talk about perfect timing, Publisher’s Weekly just discussed the Surge in Nonfiction in one of their articles yesterday. It is titled “Is Children’s Nonfiction Having its Moment?”  The answer is YES!!

You can read the article here: http://www.publishersweekly.com

It is easy to find ways to “Surge into Nonfiction” all you have to do is to look!

Feel free to share below any other great nonfiction books or nonfiction events in your area. Let’s keep this nonfiction vibe going!!

 

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Jennifer Swanson is the author of over 25 books for children. A self-professed science geek, when not writing, she can be found trolling through the internet searching for cool science discoveries and experiments.  Learn more about Jennifer at her website:  www.JenniferSwansonBooks.com

 

 

July New Releases

Happy July!  Hope you are all doing well and keeping cool.  Why not take a break under the nearest shade tree and lose yourself in a new book? Here are a few great ones to take a look at — they release this month!

 

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The Land of Stories: Beyond the Kingdoms  by Chris Colfer  (Little, Brown BFYR)

The Masked Man is on the loose in the Land of Stories, and it’s up to Alex and Conner Bailey to stop him…except Alex has been thrown off the Fairy Council, and no one will believe they’re in danger.  Fairy tales and classic stories collide in the fourth adventure in the bestselling Land of Stories series as the twins travel beyond the kingdoms!

 

 

Serafina and the Black Cloak by Rober Beatty (Disney- Hyperion)

Disney Hyperion presents an exciting new novel for children & adults: a spooky historical mystery-thriller about an unusual girl who lives secretly in the basement of the grand Biltmore Estate. “Never go into the forest, for there are many dangers there, and they will ensnare your soul.”

Serafina’s hunt leads her into the very forest that she has been taught to fear. There she discovers a forgotten legacy of magic, one that is bound to her own identity. In order to save the children of Biltmore, Serafina must seek the answers that will unlock the puzzle of her past.

 

 

The School for Good and Evil #3: The Last Ever After
by Soman Chainani  (Harper Collins)

In the stunning conclusion to the New York Times bestselling School for Good and Evil trilogy, everything old is new again, as Sophie and Agatha fight the past as well as the present to find the perfect end to their fairy tale. Former best friends Sophie and Agatha thought their ending was sealed when they went their separate ways, but their storybook is about to be rewritten—and this time theirs isn’t the only one. With the girls apart, Evil has taken over and the forces of Good are in deathly peril. Will Agatha and Sophie be able to work together to save them? Will they find their way to being friends again? And will their new ending be the last Ever After they’ve been searching for?

 

 

Power of the Fire Dragon: A Branches Book (Dragon Masters #4)  by Tracey West 

The Dragon Masters are going to visit Queen Rose’s kingdom. But Rori and Drake must stay behind. Then a four-headed dragon attacks the castle–and Maldred is riding it! How is Maldred controlling this giant dragon? Will Rori and Drake have to battle the dark wizard on their own?

 

 Who Is J.R. R. Tolkien?  by Pamela D. Pollack (Grosset & Dunlap)

Best known for his epic Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien was born in British-occupied South Africa. His early life was full of action and adventure. Tolkien spent his childhood roaming the British countryside with his family and could read and write by age four. He was naturally gifted with languages and used this skill as a signals officers in World War II as well as in his fantasy writing. By creating alternate universes and inventing languages in his work he demonstrated that imaginary realms were not just for children. Fondly remembered as the “Father of High Fantasy,” Tolkien’s books have inspired blockbuster movies and legions of fans.

 

 Who was Beatrix Potter?  by Sarah Fabiny (Grosset & Dunlap)

Born into wealth in 1860’s London, Beatrix Potter always had a vivid imagination. Her early interests included natural history and archaeology, and Potter delighted in sketching fossils and fungi. After briefly illustrating Christmas cards with her brother, Bertram, Potter wrote and illustrated her well-known book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit. The book was rejected by several publishes until Frederick Warne eventually took a risk and published the story in 1902 – a risk that paid off. Peter Rabbit was a huge success and readers loved hearing about Peter’s mischevious adventures in the lush English countryside. As she got older, Beatrix Potter became a proud conservationist, working hard to defend the landscape she loved so well against industrialization and logging. Now over one hundred years old, Peter Rabbit and his animal friends have become cultural touchstones and continue to delight readers of all ages.

 

 

The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly  (Henry Holt & Co. BFYR)

Callie Vee, Travis, Granddaddy, and the whole Tate clan are back in this charming follow-up to Newbery Honor-winner The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate.
Travis keeps bringing home strays. And Callie has her hands full keeping the wild animals-her brother included-away from her mother’s critical eye. Whether it’s wrangling a rogue armadillo or stray dog, a guileless younger brother or standoffish cousin, the trials and tribulations of Callie Vee will have readers laughing and crying and cheering for this most endearing heroine.

 

 Daniel X: Lights Out by James Patterson (Little, Brown & Co.)

In this sixth and last installment of the Daniel X series, the alien-hunting hero is finally ready to take on the biggest threat in the galaxy: The Prayer–the same beast that brutally murdered his parents long ago. But even with his incredible ability to create almost anything, Daniel will have to push his powers beyond the brink in order to bring down a monster that has the powers of a god. This epic showdown of good versus evil is a thrilling finale to this #1 New York Times bestselling series.


The Golden Specific (The Mapmakers Trilogy) by S. E. Grove    (Viking Children’s)

The eagerly-awaited sequel to the best-selling The Glass Sentence — a historical, fantastical adventure perfect for fans of Philip Pullman!

It is the summer of 1892, one year since Sophia Tims and her friend Theo embarked upon the dangerous adventure that rewrote the map of the world. Since their return home to Boston, she has continued searching for clues to her parents’ disappearance, combing archives and libraries, grasping at even the most slender leads. Theo has apprenticed himself to an explorer in order to follow those leads across the country—but one after another proves to be a dead end.


I’ll Take a Little Science with my Fiction, Please

I have a confession. I’m a huge science geek!  That’s probably why I write nonfiction books– mostly about science and engineering.  But I also like to read  fiction, too.   Even though I tend towards high stake action- adventure, mystery, humorous, and even a little fanasty on occasion, I sometimes miss seeing the science in those books.

So I have to say that I have been delighted to see the trend of science creeping into fiction books lately.  Here are a few good ones that you might want to check out if you are into science, too. These books will surely help you “get your geek on”!

 

The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm
Believe in the possible . . . with this “warm, witty, and wise” novel from “New York Times” bestseller, three-time Newbery Honor winner Jennifer L. Holm
Galileo. Newton. Salk. Oppenheimer.
Science can change the world . . . but can it go too far?
Eleven-year-old Ellie has never liked change. She misses fifth grade. She misses her old best friend. She even misses her dearly departed goldfish. Then one day a strange boy shows up. He’s bossy. He’s cranky. And weirdly enough . . . he looks a lot like Ellie’s grandfather, a scientist who’s always been slightly obsessed with immortality. Could this pimply boy really be Grandpa Melvin? Has he finally found the secret to eternal youth?
With a lighthearted touch and plenty of humor, Jennifer Holm celebrates the wonder of science and explores fascinating questions about life and death, family and friendship, immortality . . . and possibility.

 

 

Wake Up Missing  by Kate Messner

Four kids . . . Two weeks in the Florida Everglades . . . One top-secret science experiment that could change them “and “the world as they know it . . . Meet Quentin, a middle-school football star from Chicago; Sarah, a hockey player from Upstate New York; Ben, a horse lover from the Pacific Northwest; and Cat, an artistic bird watcher from California.The four have little in common except the head injuries that landed them in an elite brain-science center in the wild swamps of Florida. It’s known as the best clinic in the world and promises to return their lives to normal, but as days pass, the kids begin to notice strange side effects and unexplained changes.

 

Frank Einstein and the Anti- Motor Motor by Jon Scieszka 


Frank Einstein loves figuring out how the world works by creating household contraptions that are part science, part imagination, and definitely unusual. After an uneventful experiment in his garage-lab, a lightning storm and flash of electricity bring Frank’s inventions—the robots Klink and Klank—to life! Not exactly the ideal lab partners, the wisecracking Klink and the overly expressive Klank nonetheless help Frank attempt to perfect his Antimatter Motor . . . until Frank’s archnemesis, T. Edison, steals Klink and Klank for his evil doomsday plan! Using real science, Jon Scieszka has created a unique world of adventure and science fiction—an irresistible chemical reaction for middle-grade readers.

 Edison’s Gold by Geoff  Watson

Solving a centuries-old family mystery is Tom Edison’s only hope to stop his family from moving to Kansas. His famous name­sake and great-great-grandfather, Thomas Edison, had discovered the secret formula for changing metal into gold, and now Tom and his friends are on a whirlwind adventure to find the key to this monumental discovery. But can the three friends uncover Edison’s secret formula in time and escape the clutches of an evil billionaire?

Full of gadgetry, historical rivalries, secret societies, and bad guys galore, Geoff Watson’s Edison’s Gold is a thrilling adventure for middle-grade readers.

 

 

E ye of the Storm by Kate Messner

In the not-too-distant future, huge tornadoes and monster storms have become a part of everyday life. Sent to spend the summer in the heart of storm country with her meteorological engineer father, Jaden Meggs is surprised at the strides her father’s company StormSafe, has made with custom shelters that keep her family safe in even the worst of storms. At her exclusive summer science camp, Eye On Tomorrow, Jaden meets Alex, a boy whose passion for science matches hers. Together, they discover that her father’s company is steering storms away from the expensive neighborhoods and toward the organic farming communities that are in competition with his bio-engineered food company, NatureMade. Jaden must confront her father, but when she does, she uncovers a terrifying family secret and must call on both her scientific knowledge and her faith to save the people she loves most from one of her father’s monster storms.

Brendan Buckley’s 6th grade Experment by  Sundee T. Fraizer

Brendan Buckley is headed to middle school on a whole new adventure. When his alternative energy idea gets him paired with new girl Morgan Belcher for the national science competition, Brendan is skeptical. But their partnership clicks, and they embark on a methane-producing experiment involving bottles, balloons, and the freshest cow manure they can find.
As Brendan spends more time on the experiment, he has a lot of big questions: Does his police detective dad really think he’s a science-nerd whimp? Will he and Khalfani, his best friend and Tae Kwon Do sparring partner, remain best friends? And can Brendan prove that his scientific pursuits really “could” be world-changing?

 

 The Secret Chicken Society by  Judy Cox

When Daniel’s class hatches chicks as a science project, he adopts them. When he finds out that his favorite bird, Peepers, isn’t a hen but a rooster, and therefore illegal to keep in the city of Portland, the Secret Chicken Societyis quickly formed to save Peepers. This warmhearted chapter book about an environmentally-conscious family will provide plenty of clucks and lots of chuckles for young readers.

download (25)The Contagious Colors of Mumpley Middle School by Fowler Dewitt

Wilmer has always known that the greatest science comes from the keenest observations. So when he observes his classmates looking a little green…and orange…and chartreuse-fuchsia polka-dotted…he knows that it’s up to him to find the cause of this mysterious illness—and its cure.

But with his arch nemesis, Claudius Dill, hot on his heels; the eagle-eyed biology teacher, Mrs. Padgett, determined to thwart his plans; and a host of fluorescent classmates bouncing off the walls at increasingly dangerous speeds, can Wilmer prove he has what it takes to save the sixth grade from a colorful demise before it’s too late?

If you know of any more “science-y” middle grade fiction books, please feel free to share below. I’m sure all of us science lovers out there would be thrilled to add them to our “to be read” list!

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40891_1381959640245_1569575144_30796630_633978_nJennifer Swanson is a  self-professed science geek and the author of over 20 nonfiction books for kids. You can find her at her website at www.JenniferSwansonBooks.com