Tag Archives: STEM

Interview and Giveaway with Science Author Patricia Newman

I’m so excited to welcome Author Patricia Newman to the MUF blog today. She writes SCIENCE books!  YAY!

Patricia (middle) is shown here with Lilian Carswell (L) and Brent Hughes (R).  Photo credit:  Elise Newman Montanino


Author Patricia Newman has written several titles that connect young readers to scientific concepts, including Sea Otter Heroes: The Predators That Saved an Ecosystem, a Junior Library Guild Selection and recipient of a starred Kirkus review; Plastic, Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a Green Earth Book Award winner; Ebola: Fears and Facts, a Booklist Editors’ Choice selection; and the upcoming fall 2017 release, Zoo Scientists to the Rescue. In her free time, she enjoys nature walks, the feel of dirt between her fingers in the garden, and traveling. She lives in Northern California with her husband.

Patricia is here to share her newest book,

Sea Otters: The Predators that Saved an Ecosystem (Millbrook Press, 2017)


Why do you write science books? 

I like the way science connects to nearly all aspects of our world. For instance, in Sea Otter Heroes: The Predators That Saved an Ecosystem I show kids how saving endangered predators can benefit our air, our water, and our food supply. In my opinion, for kids to be successful in the 21st century, they will need to become global citizens who look at the bigger picture. Science can help us do that.


How do you choose your subjects for your books?

In the case of Sea Otter Heroes, the subject chose me. I was invited to the David Smith Conservation Research Fellows Retreat in April 2015 by Chelsea Rochman, one of the scientists that I featured in Plastic, Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. She thought her colleagues might be interested in learning more about communicating their research to children.


I conducted a day-long writing workshop, and somewhere in the middle, marine biologist Brent Hughes and his mentor Lilian Carswell (the Southern Sea Otter Recovery Coordinator with US Fish and Wildlife) approached me to see if I would be interested in writing about Brent’s sea otter discovery. He explained to me that he’d discovered a trophic cascade in which sea otters, the apex predator in an estuary off Monterey Bay, restored the natural food chain and healed the ecosystem so it could perform functions that benefit us. The more I spoke with Brent and Lilian, the more I liked the idea. Everyone thinks sea otters are adorable, and every kid knows about food chains, but Brent had found an amazing twist that most kids wouldn’t know about.


You seem drawn to eco-friendly topics. Is that something that you are passionate about? 

Yes, without a doubt. We have only one planet. It sustains us in so many ways. The ocean produces nearly 75% of our oxygen, it feeds us, and it entertains us. In a world where concrete is king, I think kids (and adults) benefit from getting closer to nature. In the current political climate, I want to persuade kids to love nature before they are corrupted by “alternative facts.” Caring is key because we protect what we love.


Tell us a little about how you do your research. How much time do you spend? What type of sources do you look for?

Nonfiction requires digging, and like my colleagues I dig through scientific journals, online sources, books, magazines, and newspapers. I also interview scientists conducting amazing research, and if I’m lucky I take a field trip to visit their labs. For Sea Otter Heroes, I spent a day on Brent’s research boat enjoying the sun on my face and the crisp ocean breeze, watching pelicans dive and sea otters crack open crabs with a rock. There are definitely worse jobs!


Why is back matter useful for readers?

As a researcher, I love back matter because it contains all sorts of gems. But for kids, I hope it extends the reading experience. When a novel or a fictional series ends, we have to say good-bye to beloved characters, but nonfiction science back matter lays more research, more videos, and more books within a child’s reach and encourages continued inquiry—the basis of all science.


Anything that you are working on that you would care to share? Other books that we can look for from you soon?

Photographer Annie Crawley (from Plastic, Ahoy!) and I team up again for Zoo Scientists to the Rescue (Millbrook Press, Fall 2017). We had a great time with this book, traveling to three different zoos, getting up close and personal with the animals, and fighting a fierce Colorado blizzard. The book features three endangered species—orangutans, black-footed ferrets, and black rhinos—and shows how zoos protect them and their wild habitats. Annie and I are excited to introduce our readers to the three scientists that we interviewed. The two women and one man are amazing role models for kids.

For fall 2018, think elephants.


Do you do school and/or Skype visits? Why do you think these are helpful to students?

I visit schools in person or virtually every year. Author visits motivate kids to apply themselves to reading and writing. We introduce them to a variety of literature—some of which is bound to pique their interest. Authors also show kids what real revision looks like and that writing takes perseverance. I tell students that writing is the hardest job I’ve ever had, but even in the face of rejection I refuse to give up on myself. What child who shares a piece of writing with me or asks about writer’s block or struggles to put ideas on paper wouldn’t benefit from believing in him/herself?

If you want to learn more about Patricia’s books or just drop her a line, you can find her on Twitter @PatriciaNewman  or visit her website at http://www.patriciamnewman.com/  to check out some of her other amazing science books:  





It’s Time for a Giveaway!!    Patricia’s publisher, Millbrook Press/Lerner, has generously donated a copy of her Sea Otter Heroes book. For a chance to win, leave a comment below about your favorite animal!

Jennifer Swanson is an award-winning author of over 25+ science books for kids. Visit her at her favorite place to explore the world around her www.JenniferSwansonBooks.com



Author Nancy Castaldo Talks about her New Nonfiction Book and a Giveaway!

Today I am so excited to be interviewing

Author Nancy Castaldo



about her awesome new STEM book:

Although it has only been out a few weeks, Nancy’s book has garnered some FANTASTIC reviews:

* “A terrific, engrossing resource.”
—Booklist, STARRED review

“An impassioned call to action…”
—School Library Journal

“Castaldo delivers a sobering global status report—and a call to action…Well-crafted and inspiring.”

“Castaldo breaks down threats like climate change and disease, while providing a greater sense of interconnectivity in nature and within world communities.”
—Publishers Weekly
Congratulations on the success of your new book, The Story of Seeds: From Mendel’s Garden to Your Plate, and How There’s More of Less to Eat Around the World (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016).  The book looks fantastic! I can’t wait to read my copy.


How did you come up with this idea?

Thank you! There wasn’t one spark that fueled the idea for this book – there were many! My daughter was working at a local farm store and completing her Girl Scout Gold Award project. She had come up with a 30-mile diet in which you ate food produced or grown within 30 miles of your home. It was eye-opening to realize the benefits of this for both the health of the environment, the local economy, and us!  It brought food front and center at our house. As an environmental educator I was well informed about issues of the environment – including loss of habitat and endangered species, but I began to learn about endangered seeds, endangered crops, and the crisis we’re facing. Soon it seemed that everywhere I turned there were issues with our agriculture and native plants — from war-torn Iraq to the fields in Iowa.  What’s the best way to get the word out? A book, of course!


What kind of research did you have to do for this book?

The research for THE STORY OF SEEDS took me to California, the Hudson Valley, and all the way to Russia in the middle of winter.  I tasted heirloom watermelon, discovered jeweled-colored corn, visited seed banks that store our future food, and celebrated biodiversity in our fields, farms, and tables. I met the most dedicated seed scientists and activists along the way!


Was it hard to get a publisher interested in this idea?

I am so lucky to have an editor who championed this book along its path. Without her it might not have happened.


When did you start writing? What drew you to nonfiction?  

I have been writing since I was a kid. My first published piece was a poem in Seventeen magazine. I was 16!  Before I was writing books, I was writing magazine articles for a variety of publications – from the Sierra Club Wastepaper to Family Fun. During those days, I was also a contributing editor for Berkshire Magazine. It was great fun to explore topics and stories and share them in this form. Books followed.


Why books about science?

I write mostly about science because I am an environmental educator and my undergrad work was in biology and chemistry. I love being outside and learning about the world around me. Sharing it through writing is the icing on top!


What part of science to you like the best?

I enjoy writing most about how we (humans) interact with our environment.


You’ve been writing for a few years, can you share some of the different books that you’ve written. Any favorites among them?

My first book was published in 1995, so it has been a few years! I have written activity books that explored various ecosystems, a historical fiction picture book about pizza, a National Geographic title about polar bears, and a middle grade titled, SNIFFER DOGS: HOW DOGS (and THEIR NOSES) SAVE THE WORLD.  It’s impossible to pick a favorite. I will admit, though,  that I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of writing and photographing SNIFFER DOGS. It does hold a special place in my heart, as do the dogs and handlers I met along the way.


Is there a particular age range that you enjoy writing?

I have written for the very young set to young adult readers. I enjoy it all. Every story dictates how it will be told. Some are meant to have young readers and some older readers. It really depends on the story.


In your school visits, what do you talk about? Do you get the kids interested in science and the environment?  

I love taking to students about research. It’s the lifeblood of nonfiction and the part I love the best. Learning how to conduct research is a life skill that they will be able to use in every aspect of their life.  The environment is awe-inspiring. Through tales of research both in and out of the field I strive to inspire kids to explore the world around them. My goal is to empower them to make a difference wherever they live.


Any upcoming books or projects that you are currently working on that you can share with us?

I’ve had a blast working on my upcoming BEASTLY BRAINS. It’s all about animal intelligence and is due out early in 2017. I’m currently at work researching the next book for middle grade readers. Let’s just say that I’ll be doing a lot of traveling in the coming year to meet some rare creatures.

Cover Reveal!!


Anything you’d like to add?

With the amount of research I need to conduct for my books my school visits are limited these days. Teachers should contact me as early as they can to book a visit. When I am not available to visit a school in person, there is always Skype!  I love meeting students and chatting about science and research any time I can!

Thanks for hosting me!

My pleasure, Nancy. I love to see the success of great middle-grade STEM books!

To learn more about Nancy,  go to her website at NancyCastaldo.com

For all you teachers and librarians out there, be sure to check out the

THE STORY OF SEEDS curriculum guide.
You can find it here:


Nancy has generously offered to giveaway an autographed copy of her book. Leave a comment below to be entered.  If your comment has something to do with seeds or planting you get a double entry!



Jennifer Swanson is the author of over 25 books for children. Her titles focus mostly on STEM/STEAM topics. You can find more information about her at www.JenniferSwansonBooks.com