Mims Kids

Fred Soper, epidemiologist, who fought the malaria epidemics
Fred Soper, Epidemiologist

Who can stop an epidemic or a pandemic? Scientists who study public health issues are called epidemiologists, or scientists who study infectious diseases. They study how a disease spreads and how to effectively stop it.
Dr. Fred Soper (1893-1977) was known for his public health work, especially in fighting malaria and yellow fever in Brazil. He was known as the Mosquito Killer.

Soper graduated from the Rush Medical College at the University of Chicago in 1918. In 1920-21, he worked in Brazil to try to eradicate the hookworms epidemic from the general population. Much of the work was public health education campaigns. Essentially rural Brazil had few clean bathrooms, so hookworms were rampant in the soil and easily transmitted to others. He worked with cities and villages to build and maintain clean latrines. This photo shows a young Brazilian boy holding a board displaying all the hookworms removed from his intestines by the doctors of the Rockefeller Institute.

A Brazilian boy holds a board displaying hookworms removed from him. Part of the fight against hookworms epidemic. National Library of Medicine.
A 9-year-old Brazilian boy holds a board displaying hookworms removed from him. National Library of Medicine.

Soper then set to work on the “jungle yellow fever” epidemic and the malaria epidemic, both borne by mosquitoes. He earned a reputation as the “Mosquito Killer” for this work. One of his strongest skills was as an administrator in charge of officials who went out to fight the mosquitoes. They searched for standing water where mosquitoes might breed, and searching rivers and streams for the mosquitoes. While they were concentrating on the Yellow Fever problem, mosquitoes arrived from Africa: Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes, the most efficient malaria vectors, were indigenous to Africa. But in 1930, Raymond Shannon, a Rockefeller Foundation entomologist, discovered that gambiae (apparently recently arrived from Africa) were breeding in Natal, Brazil. Three weeks later, a severe outbreak of malaria was underway there.

The threat was under-estimated and the government didn’t take necessary steps to kill the mosquitoes. It took another 14 years to eradicate the mosquito from Brazil and prevent any more malaria outbreaks.

Here’s an excerpt from Soper’s diary which described a different “silence.” “. . .description of a town in Egypt during that country’s gambiae invasion of 1943–a village in the grip of its own, very different, unnatural silence:

Most houses are without roofs. They are just a square of dirty earth. In those courtyards and behind the doors of these hovels were found whole families lying on the floor; some were just too weakened by illness to get up and others were lying doubled up shaking from head to foot with their teeth chattering and their violently trembling hands trying in vain to draw some dirty rags around them for warmth. They were in the middle of the malaria crisis. There was illness in every house. There was hardly a house which had not had its dead and those who were left were living skeletons, their old clothing in rags, their limbs swollen from undernourishment and too weak to go into the fields to work or even to get food.”

Egypt, 1943. Mosquito inspector checks a puddle for mosquito larvae in fight against malaria epidemic. National Library of Medicine.
Egypt, 1943. Mosquito inspector checks a puddle for mosquito larvae. National Library of Medicine.

MY STEAM NOTEBOOK briefly sets up the stories of ten American scientists, using primary source documents. Fred Soper’s story, diaries, and notebooks is just one of the scientists represented. Kids will learn how to make scientific observations and how to record those observations with text, drawings, descriptive and expository writing, and photography.

See Sample Pages from MY STEAM NOTEBOOK


GUEST POSTS: NSTA Linking Literacy, NSTA National Convention, Boston, MA. 9 am – 3 pm, April 4, 2020.
The National Science Teacher’s Association has invited authors of Outstanding Science Trade Books and Best Stem Books to discuss literacy and children’s books at a special Literacy Event. 14 of these authors have contributed guest posts to run from January 7 – April 2, 2020.

See the full author list and the date on which they’ll post at Linking Literacy 2020

Classifying Science Books for Kids

Recently, I had a chance to read “The Durable, Dynamic Nature of Genre and Science: A Purpose-Driven Typology of Science Trade Books” by Professor Laura May and five of her Georgia State University colleagues. The article appeared in the September 2019 issue of Reading Research Quarterly, which is published by the International Literacy Association.

I’ll be honest. The title gave me absolutely no hint of what the article was about, but I trusted the person who sent it to me, and the term “science trade books” sounded promising. So I decided to give it a whirl, and boy am I glad I did.

The article describes a study in which the six researchers read and analyzed the 400 children’s books that appeared on the National Science Teachers Association’s (NSTA) Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12 (OSTB) list between 2010-2017. This list includes fiction, nonfiction, and poetry titles.

2 Function-based Categories of Science Books for Children

In a nutshell, the researchers identified two broad, function-based categories of science books for children:

Accepted Knowledge: These books explain/describe widely-accepted science knowledge or concepts and typically have an expository writing style.

Accepted Knowledge - one category of science books for children.
Accepted Knowledge

Lived Lives of Scientists: These books explore the nature of science or scientific inquiry (how people develop and change scientific understandings). They feature a narrative writing style and generally have a chronological sequence text structure.

Lived Lives of Scientists, one category of science books for kids
Lived Lives of Scientists

The researchers divided each of these categories into various subgroups, which they call “genres.” Overall, the “typology” the researchers developed to better understand the range of OSTBs has a lot in common with my 5 Kinds of Nonfiction classification system, which is both exciting and reassuring.

5 Kinds of Nonfiction, including children's books
5 Kinds of Nonfiction

According to the researchers, the takeaway for teachers is that they can and should “leverage science trade book genres to support the different components of science education.” In other words, all the OSTB books have educational value, but should be used in different ways based on their characteristics. While Accepted Knowledge books work well for introducing and reinforcing NGSS’s Disciplinary Core Ideas, Lived Lives of Scientists books are generally better suited for demonstrating the NGSS’s eight Science Practices in action.

But there’s also a takeaway for the creators of these books. The researchers’ genre categories reveal patterns, or trends, that are worth studying because they show what works. They provide an overview of the techniques children’s book writers have used to present the “what” and “how” of science in manuscripts that were acquired by publishers and then selected as models of excellence by NSTA’s panel of experts.

Thank you, Dr. May, for giving science writers a powerful new tool for thinking about how to organize the ideas and information we collect and then select a lens for sharing the science concepts and processes we’re passionate about with young readers.

Melissa Stewart

Melissa Stewart is the award-winning author of more than 180 nonfiction books for children, including Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs, illustrated by Stephanie Laberis; Can an Aardvark Bark?, illustrated by Caldecott Honoree Steve Jenkins; and the upcoming title Seashells: More than a Home, illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen. Melissa’s highly-regarded website features a rich array of educational resources for teaching nonfiction reading and writing.

GUEST POSTS: NSTA Linking Literacy, NSTA National Convention, Boston, MA. 9 am – 3 pm, April 4, 2020.
The National Science Teacher’s Association has invited authors of Outstanding Science Trade Books and Best Stem Books to discuss literacy and children’s books at a special Literacy Event. 14 of these authors have contributed guest posts to run from January 7 – April 2, 2020.

See the full author list and the date on which they’ll post at Linking Literacy 2020

A few years ago, I read a letter Rachel Carson wrote to her dear friend Dorothy Freeman in a book called Always, Rachel. In her letter, Rachel and her niece, Marjorie, affectionately called Marjie, came across a firefly while at her summer home in Southport, Maine. Around midnight, Rachel and Marjie headed down to the shore to secure Marjie’s son’s raft.

On the shore, they turned their flashlights off and saw a sea filled with diamonds and emeralds. It was bioluminescence, most likely a form of marine plankton called Dinoflagellates. Rachel joked how one gem took to the air! It was a firefly who thought the flashes in the water were other fireflies signaling to him. Here is what she wrote:

It was one of those experiences that gives an odd and hard-to-describe feeling, with so many overtones beyond the facts themselves. I have never seen any account scientifically, of fireflies responding to other phosphorescence. I suppose I should write it up briefly for some journal if it actually isn’t known. Imagine putting that in scientific language! And I’ve already thought of a child’s story based on it—but maybe that will never get written.”

Rachel and Marjie rescued the firefly but sadly, her family was plagued with illness. Marjie died from pneumonia the following year leaving Rachel to adopt her grandnephew, Roger. Though Rachel did write about teaching children about nature, it’s easy to speculate why this project was never completed. So, I wondered what kind of story would she have written?

Rachel had a strong notion that simply exposing children to the environment would create a natural sense of wonder in them. She believed that once you are aware of the wonder and beauty of Earth, you will want to learn about it.

Cover of Fly, Firefly! by Shana Keller

A scientist and author, Rachel also believed in protecting the world around us. She wrote Silent Spring, a world-renowned book published in 1962. It launched what many consider to be the start of the environmental movement, or as one editorial put it, “a few thousand words from her and she changed the course of the world.”

I hope that by sharing her strange and wonderful experience, we honor Rachel’s ideas to expose our children to nature and remember to support their natural sense of wonder. We might even ask them, if they witness something strange and wonderful, what kind of story would they write?

Shana Keller

Shana Keller lived less than twenty miles from Rachel Carson’s homestead in Springdale, Pennsylvania while writing this book. Like Rachel, she has a deep love of nature and the ocean. Shana continues to write books for children and young inventors and observers of nature. She is happy to share her experience filing a patent for her own invention. In addition to Fly, Firefly!, Shana wrote Ticktock Banneker’s Clock, a Best STEM book(Sleeping Bear Press, 2016), and Bread for Words; A Frederick Douglass Story (Sleeping Bear Press, 2020). For more information, please visit her online at  

  • Twitter: @shanakkeller
  • Facebook:
  • Instagram: theshanakeller

Books by Rachel Carson:

  • Under the Sea-Wind
  • The Sea Around Us
  • The Edge of the Sea
  • Silent Spring
  • The Sense of Wonder
  • Lost Woods: The Discovered Writing of Rachel Carson

GUEST POSTS: NSTA Linking Literacy, NSTA National Convention, Boston, MA. 9 am – 3 pm, April 4, 2020.
The National Science Teacher’s Association has invited authors of Outstanding Science Trade Books and Best Stem Books to discuss literacy and children’s books at a special Literacy Event. 14 of these authors have contributed guest posts to run from January 7 – April 2, 2020.

See the full author list and the date on which they’ll post at Linking Literacy 2020

Guest post by Laurie Wallmark

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve loved math. While other kids were playing outside, I’d be working my way through books of math puzzles. I think I read every math book in our public library, even though most of them were way (way!) above my head. I always thought I’d be a mathematician when I grew up, but I took a detour into computer science instead. In spite of this, my love of math has never gone away.

As a children’s author, I wanted to make sure children realize that anyone, regardless of sex, race, ethnicity, etc., can grow up to be a mathematician. But how do I do this?

Cover of Numbers in Motion

I decided to write a picture book biography, Numbers in Motion: Sophie Kowalevski, Queen of Mathematics, about an unsung woman mathematician. I’ve previously written biographies of mathematicians, but these women were known for their accomplishments in computer science, not math.

Sophie’s road to becoming a mathematician was not an easy one. In order to study outside her Russian homeland, she couldn’t travel without a man, so she participated in a sham marriage. Once in Germany, she was allowed to take classes, but couldn’t receive credit for them. At another university, she wasn’t even allowed on campus, so a professor gave her private lessons. Just as she was about to hand in her doctoral thesis, she found out someone else had just published the same research. She had to start all over again. Not wanting to take any chances this time, she did original research on three problems. Talk about determination.

Sophie Kowalevski’s most important discovery was how to use mathematics to describe the motion of rotating solid bodies, like planets, footballs, and spinning tops. This was a problem so difficult that it stumped other mathematicians of the time, the 1800s. In fact, it was known as the mermaid problem, because like that elusive mythical being, just when you thought you found the solution, it slipped out of your reach.

I hope that when children read Sophie’s story, they realize that although life may place obstacles in your way, you never know what you’ll accomplish if you persevere.

Numbers in Motion: Sophie Kowalevski, Queen of Mathematics (Creston Books) releases March 3, 2020, but is available for preorder now wherever books are sold.


Award-winning author Laurie Wallmark’s picture book biographies of #WomenInSTEM (Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine, Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code, Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life, And Numbers In Motion: Sophie Kowalevski, Queen of Mathematics) have earned multiple starred trade reviews and many national awards such as Cook Prize Honor and Outstanding Science Trade Book. Laurie has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from VCFA. She frequently presents at schools, libraries, and national professional conferences (NSTA, NCTE, ISTE, TLA, etc.). She is a former software engineer and computer science professor.

Find Laurie online at her LaurieWallmark.comFacebook or Twitter

Linking Literacy Event at the NSTA Convention

GUEST POSTS: NSTA Linking Literacy, NSTA National Convention, Boston, MA. 9 am – 3 pm, April 4, 2020.
The National Science Teacher’s Association has invited authors of Outstanding Science Trade Books and Best Stem Books to discuss literacy and children’s books at a special Literacy Event. 14 of these authors have contributed guest posts to run from January 7 – April 2, 2020.

See the full author list and the date on which they’ll post at Linking Literacy 2020

A picture-book biography about Samuel Morse and his team’s game-changing telegraph system hits the STEM criteria right from the start.

S? Check! Morse explored the science of electricity and made it useful for the first time.

T? Check! He helped develop a new technology with its own techniques, skills, methods and processes for code-based communication.

E? Check! His team engineered entirely new devices and systems to solve the problem of slow information exchange.

M? Check! Of course, there’s math! Morse calculated and figured and number-crunched like crazy to stretch wires from coast to coast and beyond—and to make it a worthwhile investment.

cover of Samuel Morse, That's Who!

In researching Samuel Morse, That’s Who!, I learned that he didn’t start out as a STEM superstar. Not at all. Rather, Morse’s impressive record of failures on his way to success caught my attention.

The Failures of Samuel Morse

I first discovered the trail of Morse’s “accursed life” (as biographer Kenneth Silverman called it) while I was researching materials for my book Noah Webster’s Fighting Words at Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library. The facility there holds the most famous portrait of Webster, painted by one Samuel F. B. Morse.

My curiosity sparked, as it often does at the start of a new book, with a question: How was one of America’s most lauded inventors also such an accomplished artist?

portrait of Samuel F. B. Morse
The famous portrait painted by Samuel F. B. Morse. Public Domain. Image courtesy of the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University via Wikimedia Commons.

More research revealed that young Samuel Finley Breese Morse wanted more than anything to become America’s leading artist—a painter on par with Europe’s greatest names.

Samuel Morse’s masterpiece, “Gallery of the Louvre 1831-33” failed to launch his fine art career as he’d hoped. Public Domain. Image courtesy of the Terra Foundation for American Art via Wikimedia Commons.

Morse needed to fund his artistic dreams with more than the meager income of portrait-painting. So, he did what many people in post-colonial America did: he tried to invent a big money-maker.

Spoiler-alert: he failed.

He failed again and again. Even when he landed on the idea of an electromagnetic telegraph machine with a binary code system, he encountered miscalculations, bad timing, faulty materials, and other serious setbacks while trying to make the whole concept work. It seemed like the telegraph would be one more clunker to add to his list.

But he kept at it.

And he kept at it, for several years.

By the time he succeeded, he’d set aside his paints for good and redirected his creative talents.

STEM = Habits of Mind

To me, Morse’s persistence as well as his ingenuity tells a true STEM story. These “habits of mind” can reveal how an individual addresses STEM-related problems, according to Carrie Launius and Christine Anne Royce in their article “What Makes A Good STEM Trade Book?” on the National Science Teaching Association’s blog (January 13, 2020). They write that STEM books can “teach resilience, grit, and determination…and assist students in understanding that failure may be part of the real-world STEM process.” 

These honest STEM stories give us permission to fail, assess, and try again. Students need to know that mistakes or setbacks aren’t necessarily all bad—they can be opportunities to learn, grow, change, and improve.

In my school presentations, I like to share my manuscript revisions so students can see the writing process—the wild brainstorming, the different forms and approaches, the additions and deletions, and the editorial teamwork that turns a manuscript into a book.

Revision is about trying many, many ways to tell a story.

Thomas Edison said, “I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” That’s the attitude that seems to permeate the stories of most successful inventors.

They keep at it.

I hope my books encourage readers to do the same.

Tracy Nelson Maurer has written more than 100 nonfiction books for children, including the award-winning titles Samuel Morse, That’s Who! and John Deere, That’s Who! (Henry Holt). Her next book, Lady Bird Johnson, That’s Who! (Henry Holt), launches Winter 2021. She loves talking about the writing process and she’s especially looking forward to the STEM-book discussions at the 2020 NSTA Convention’s Linking Literacy event on April 4, in Boston.

Samuel Morse: A STEM Success Story of Failure Learn more at Follow her on Facebook and Twitter (@ReadTracyMaurer).

Linking Literacy event at the 2020 NSTA convention in Boston, MA

GUEST POSTS: NSTA Linking Literacy, NSTA National Convention, Boston, MA. 9 am – 3 pm, April 4, 2020.
The National Science Teacher’s Association has invited authors of Outstanding Science Trade Books and Best Stem Books to discuss literacy and children’s books at a special Literacy Event. 14 of these authors have contributed guest posts to run from January 7 – April 2, 2020.

See the full author list and the date on which they’ll post at Linking Literacy 2020

Glaciers are big. Well, that’s a bit of an understatement. A glacier can be a million tons of massively moving ice. Glaciers are so immense that when I set out to write a book for young readers about them, I was daunted by their sheer size, their massive scope. How to do justice to glaciers in mere words? Where should I begin, to introduce such a remote topic—after all, most children have never laid eyes on a glacier. How to get kids to warm up to such a cold topic?

Iceland glacier
Iceland Glacier melt.

Then, as I delved deeper into the subject of glaciers, I realized that I couldn’t just write a book about all the fun and interesting facts, the incredible beauty, the amazing wildlife. I had to address the most significant issue of our time. Glaciers aren’t just big in size, they’re also of huge significance since they are the proverbial canary in the coal mine—their unprecedented rates of melting are warning us that our planet is in crisis. I couldn’t write about glaciers without writing about climate change.

If glaciers had daunted me, the scope of climate change all but crushed me. The more I researched, the more the appalling statistics discouraged me. How do you begin to explain—to children?!—an issue so immense, so cataclysmic?

Mice On Glaciers

I decided to start with the mice.

Glacier mouse - moss that grows on a glacier.
Icelandic glacier mouse.

My ambition to write about glaciers came from an experience on a delightful Icelandic vacation—a guided hike on a glacier. It was the first time I had encountered an actual glacier, and it was…well, awesome is an overused word. But it did indeed fill me with a sense of awe to ride on the back of this immense mass of ice. The glacier seemed like a living thing, a big frozen animal creeping with infinite slowness across the land.

In that huge expanse of white and blue ice, I noticed that here and there were tiny scraps of green—little balls about the size of ping pong balls. When I took off my mitten and touched one, I discovered that it was about the last thing I expected to find on a barren, icy glacier: a soft, green, living clump of moss. It sat in my hand, sun-warmed and prickly.

These adorably fuzzy little balls of green fluff are as close as anything in the plant kingdom comes to being a mammal. They’re a type of moss, but they’re known as glacier mice–no kidding, that’s really what scientists call them.

So how did a little ball of moss get onto a glacier? The glacier mouse started out as a tiny moss spore, drifting over the ice. It avoided fissures and crevasses and somehow managed to plunk itself down on a pebble, where it sprouted little root-like hold-fasts and tiny leaves, small as mouse’s ears. Eventually it grew into a fuzzy, mouse-sized ball of moss. The dark leaves absorbed sun, melting the ice under them and providing water for the mouse to drink, so to speak. But the round little mouse is only attached to its central pebble, and a gust of wind can roll it across the snow. Whole herds of glacier mice roam across the glacier, wandering wherever the wind blows them. The glacier mice live for decades, thriving in this most barren of all habitats.

These tiny, resilient mice hitching a ride on the giant’s back were, for me, a way to begin to write about glaciers. By starting with these little scraps of life, I was able to take the first step in introducing readers to the complex web of life in and around glaciers. The tiny green mice were a way to link young readers to the immensity of the glacier.  Eventually I worked my way up to tackling a description of the dire problems of climate crisis.

In the classroom, whenever I try to get kids interested in science, I start with nature. With a bug, a worm, an acorn—something they can hold in their hand, a real specimen that they can see and smell and touch. That initial contact with the natural world is often what awakens a child’s interest in the broader and more daunting scientific concepts. From exclaiming over the sliminess of a worm, they can move to an understanding of decomposition. From the spicy scent of a pine cone, they can move to learning about life cycles of plants.

Climate change is infinitely complex, frustratingly abstract, and almost too vast to imagine. The glacier mice were small enough to grasp, both in the hand and in the mind. They became the point of entry, a tiny first step into an immense subject.

Anita Sanchez hiking on a glacier in Iceland.

Anita Sanchez is especially fascinated by plants and animals that no one loves. As an educator for the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, she developed curricula for science programs serving thousands of students. Decades of teaching outdoor classes have given her firsthand experience in introducing students to the wonders of nature. She is the award-winning author of many books on environmental science for children and adults. 

Her middle-grade nonfiction book Meltdown! Why Glaciers are Disappearing will be published by Workman Press in spring 2021.

Her most recent book is Rotten! Vultures, Beetles, Slime and Nature’s Other Decomposers (HMH for Kids, 2019)

For more, see

Linking Literacy - Anita Sanchez

GUEST POSTS: NSTA Linking Literacy, NSTA National Convention, Boston, MA. 9 am – 3 pm, April 4, 2020.
The National Science Teacher’s Association has invited authors of Outstanding Science Trade Books and Best Stem Books to discuss literacy and children’s books at a special Literacy Event. 14 of these authors have contributed guest posts to run from January 7 – April 2, 2020.

See the full author list and the date on which they’ll post at Linking Literacy 2020

When I was a kid, I made a “telephone” from a shoebox and mounted it on the wall in our family’s apartment. My daughter once made a drum set using trash cans, paper plates, sticks, and an abundance of tape. Children are naturally driven to invent, build and create, and these skills are now seen as vital to their development as future innovators, problem solvers and leaders.

cover of made by maxine

Several years ago, while doing research for a freelance writing assignment, I discovered the Maker Movement and became obsessed. I visited makerspaces, attended Maker Faires, and met both adults and children engaged in crazy-cool projects. Some involved technology like Raspberry Pi and 3D printing, while others were low- or no-tech, such as cardboard cities and Rube Goldberg machines.

The Makers I interviewed were motivated by a variety of reasons. Some liked to experiment with new technologies, while others wanted to improve upon existing designs or bring to life ideas from their imagination. But while their interests and skill levels vary, they share a collaborative spirit and almost everything is open source. An added bonus is the environmentally friendly emphasis on recycling and repurposing materials!

I knew I wanted to write a children’s book about a girl who embodied the can-do attitude of these Makers, optimistically believing that failure is never a reason to quit. As a writer, my first draft is never perfect and my stories improve with each revision. Similarly, my character would view each “flop” as just another step in the process, providing valuable information along the road to success. And of course, her projects would always be over-the-top creative, ambitious and loads of fun! That girl became Maxine.

interior page, made by maxine

Maxine likes to make things, but not in a crafty sense. She prefers gears to googly eyes and circuits to coloring books. She deconstructs and reconstructs, tinkers, tweaks and hacks. Like the real-life Makers I met, Maxine embraces new technology and is all too familiar with failure. Educators will appreciate that she intuitively uses the Engineering Design Process* not because she’s following steps she learned in school, but because it makes sense and actually works.

Since its release I’ve heard from many parents and educators about kids’ projects inspired by Made by Maxine. (Chelsea Clinton tweeted that it’s a favorite in her house!) I often raid my recycling bin for materials I can bring to bookstore and library programs, where my storytimes include a “Maker Challenge.” I’m always delightfully surprised by the creations that result.

BIG ANNOUNCEMENT: A new Maxine Book!

There will be a follow-up Maxine book coming out in early 2021! I’ve just seen the illustrations and they’re spectacular – Holly Hatam’s art is whimsical and clever, adding so much delicious detail for readers to explore. I can’t wait for you to see it!


Engineering Design Process from Engineering is Elementary, developed by Museum of Science, Boston

  • ASK: What is the problem? How have others approached it? What are your constraints?
  • IMAGINE: What are some solutions? Brainstorm ideas. Choose the best one.
  • PLAN: Draw a diagram. Make lists of materials you will need.
  • CREATE: Follow your plan and create something. Test it out!
  • IMPROVE: What works? What doesn’t? What could work better? Modify your design to make it better. Test it out!

About Ruth Spiro

In addition to Made by Maxine, Ruth is also the author of the popular Baby Loves Science board book seriespublished by Charlesbridge. Titles include Baby Loves Aerospace EngineeringBaby Loves Coding and Baby Loves Gravity. This spring she continues in her signature style of introducing complex subjects to little listeners in a new series, beginning with Baby Loves Political Science: Democracy! The “Baby Loves” series is illustrated by Irene Chan and Greg Paprocki.

A frequent speaker at schools and conferences, Ruth’s previous presentations include the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, Children’s Festival of Stories, Maker Faire Milwaukee, National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the World Science Festival. Ruth hopes her books inspire kids to observe the world, ask questions, and when it comes to their futures, DREAM BIG!

Connect with Ruth here:

I’m a member of the SteamTeam2020, a group of authors with STEM/science related books that release in 2020.

Science/STEM authors join together to promote their 2020 books.
It’s an amazing list of children’s science titles. Click to see the list.

In Bill Murray’s movie, Groundhog’s Day movie (, he repeats the same day over and over. I asked members of the SteamTeam2020 this question: What science book for kids do you (could you) read and re-read over and over? Why?

Kourtney M. LaFavre: Snowman- Cold=Puddle. It’s a delightful blend of science, math, and poetry.

Linda Rose Zajac: Water is Water by Miranda Paul. It’s lyrical, fun to read, and has gorgeous illustrations. I loved it the first time I read it. I think of the work more as art than as science.

Kirsten Williams Larson: I love PLANTS CAN’T SIT STILL by Rebecca Hirsch, illustrated by Mia Posada (Millbrook, 2016), a lyrical look at the many ways plants “move” without having feet at all.

Buffy Silverman: Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold by Joyce Sidman. Delicious language, variety of forms, journey from the depths of winter to almost spring, clear and compelling sidebars which add a wealth of scientific background.

Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo : The Man Who Went to the Far Side of the Moon: The Story of Apollo 11 Astronaut Michael Collins by Bea Uusma Schyffert. This book is filled with fantastic pictures, sketches, charts and drawings by Astronaut Michael Collins about his trio to the far side of the moon as part of Apollo 11. The very personal nature of the book is the most appealing.

Melissa Stewart: Giant Squid by Candace Fleming I love how Fleming uses rich language to convey the magic and mystery surrounding these colossal deep-sea denizens.

Janet Slingerland Hammond The Street Beneath My Feet by Charlotte Guillain (illustrated by Yuval Zommer). When I was a kid, I always loved the books that gave you a look inside things you can’t normally see. I also remember watching Land of the Lost, where characters get lost in a land deep within the Earth. This book combines those two things, except it offers up factual information about what we might find in the earth beneath our feet.

Lindsay Hanson Metcalf also recommends, The Street Beneath My Feet by Charlotte Guillain, illustrated by Yuval Zommer (words & pictures, 2017). The immersive, fold-out layout gives the reader the experience of digging through the Earth, exploring fossils, archaeology, Earth’s layers, and more. It covers so much that it begs for repeated readings.

Learn more about the SteamTeam2020 Books.

GUEST POSTS: NSTA Linking Literacy, NSTA National Convention, Boston, MA. 9 am – 3 pm, April 4, 2020.
The National Science Teacher’s Association has invited authors of Outstanding Science Trade Books and Best Stem Books to discuss literacy and children’s books at a special Literacy Event. 14 of these authors have contributed guest posts to run from January 7 – April 2, 2020.

See the full author list and the date on which they’ll post at Linking Literacy 2020

When I first proposed Dog Science Unleashed: fun activities to do with your canine companion to National Geographic, they came back to me with the instructions that I should prepare an outline for a paired book on cats. I balked.

“A book of activities for kids to do with their cats? Really? I’m not sure the cats are going to be on board with this plan.”

Cat Science Unleashed book

They assured me they always did pet books in pairs, and that I would think of something.

When working on my dog book, I would have various dogs come spend the day with me. The dog had a playdate, and I did research, a win for everybody. But it was a whole different deal with the cats. Most cats are uncomfortable outside of their territory, so there would be no dropping them off at my house. I had to go to them.

The first three cats I went to see refused to come out from under the bed for the entire hour and a half I was there. The next pair I visited were willing to tolerate my presence, but turned their nose up at every treat and activity I had brought. The cats that followed were quite clear on what activities they would not do, what they would only do if they thought I wasn’t watching, and what they might do with their owner, but only if I stayed away.

It turns out that cats do NOT respond differently to silhouettes of angry cats versus friendly cats (no matter how many hours you spent carefully drawing and cutting the pictures

There are lots of guides to interesting activities to do with dogs. There are not very many for cats. I had to start from scratch with almost every activity Cat Science Unleashed. I would start with an interesting fact about cats, and then work to find a way to use it in an interesting way. Gradually, I began to develop a list of useable activities.

If it suits them, cats can be lured to show off their balance beam skills.
Or express their displeasure that you have moved the furniture.

I hope students will see that even the “failed” research taught me something. It was only through the activities that didn’t work that I was able to develop the ones that did. In that sense, there were no failures. Only one more fun day with a cat.


Jodi Toppen-Wheeler

Jodi Wheeler-Toppen is a former science teacher and the author of the Once Upon A Science Book series (NSTA Press) on integrating science and reading instruction.  She also writes for children, with her most recent book being Cat Science Unleashed: Fun Activities to do with Your Canine Companion. Visit for more information on her books and staff development offerings.

GUEST POSTS: NSTA Linking Literacy, NSTA National Convention, Boston, MA. 9 am – 3 pm, April 4, 2020.
The National Science Teacher’s Association has invited authors of Outstanding Science Trade Books and Best Stem Books to discuss literacy and children’s books at a special Literacy Event. 14 of these authors have contributed guest posts to run from January 7 – April 2, 2020.

See the full author list and the date on which they’ll post at Linking Literacy 2020

When I committed to telling the story of Maria Sybilla Merian’s remarkable contribution to the understanding of insect metamorphosis (The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Science), I realized two things were crucial: I had to use both text and art to convey my message (as she did), and I had to follow in her footsteps by raising caterpillars myself.

Girl who drew butterflies cover

As a writer/researcher working in the 21st century, I have access to the latest technology, including Google searches, digitized academic papers, and actual videos of butterflies sliding out of their pupae. Maria, who lived from 1647-1717, had none of this. She had no database to work from, aside from a few difficult-to-find volumes by other insect enthusiasts. She had no GoPro to film the continuous development of her caterpillars, which were hidden away in boxes in her kitchen. Insect study was a risky sideline for her at first. Her main source of income was her art, and—as a middle-class woman of her time—she was not supposed to be dabbling in any sort of science, much less that of “evil vermin.” She had to gather her caterpillars discreetly, she had to actually watch them to learn about them, and, in addition to all this, she had to quickly paint what she saw to document her research.

She had her own keen power of observation, and she had her paints. That was it.

caterpillars in a jar

I can’t paint, but I have a camera. And I have a pair of eyes. So, in the midst of all my research—museums visited, books read, endless facts chased down—I ordered a little cupful of Painted Lady caterpillars online, installed them in my porch, and began to watch them. Oh my gosh, how they consumed me! I brought them leaves. I posed them on sticks to photograph them. I talked to them. I asked them to please wait until I was in the room to perform their miraculous transformations (they rarely did).

Butterfly unfolding its proboscis

I missed a few crucial moments, but I did have an exciting moment of discovery one day. A newly emerged butterfly, expanding its rumpled wings, began to curl and uncurl its proboscis (straw-like tongue). But . . . the proboscis was forked, like a snake’s! What??? I rushed to the internet to make sense of what I was seeing, and learned that many butterflies need to “zip up” their probosces upon emerging, in order to use them to suck nectar. What a thrill to have made this discovery first-hand! Even more thrilling, I later found evidence in Maria’s art that she’d observed this behavior this as well.

moth with proboscis shown

What I learned was that in the end, some of the best science comes from two things: your own eyes, and a way to document what you see so you can share it with others. This was Maria’s method, and it became mine as well. I watched, and then I used photographs, prose, and even poetry to convey the wonder of what I’d seen. In the process, I developed a passion for insects that changed my understanding of the natural world.

It’s my hope that a book like The Girl Who Drew Butterflies will inspire other young naturalists to find interesting things to watch—and to record their discoveries in any way they choose. If we can instill a passion for first-hand observation (and subsequent story-telling) in our students and readers, we will have fostered a generation that both sees and treasures the natural world.

Joyce Sidman, children's book author of Newbery Honor books
Portraits of Joyce Sideman on Friday, Dec. 8, 2017, in Wayzata, Minn. (HMH/Andy Clayton-King)

Joyce Sidman’s books have won a Newbery Honor (Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night) and two Caldecott Honors, and in2013, she received the NCTE Award for Excellence in Children’s Poetry for her body of work. Her latest book, The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Science, recently received the Robert F. Sibert Medal from the American Library Association. Joyce also teaches poetry in elementary schools through the COMPAS organization of St. Paul, MN.

Linking Literacy - a session on using children's literature in the science classroom at the 2020 NSTA Convention.

GUEST POSTS: NSTA Linking Literacy, NSTA National Convention, Boston, MA. 9 am – 3 pm, April 4, 2020.
The National Science Teacher’s Association has invited authors of Outstanding Science Trade Books and Best Stem Books to discuss literacy and children’s books at a special Literacy Event. 14 of these authors have contributed guest posts to run from January 7 – April 2, 2020.

See the full author list and the date on which they’ll post at Linking Literacy 2020

Unleash the Secret Power of Science Writing in Your Classroom

Note: Cheryl Bardoe and Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano will present a session at NSTA with the above title. Join us for strategies and classroom activities to help your students write about science in ways that engage them and their readers.  

Cheryl Bardoe: Finding the “Hook” in Science Writing

I love research. I love asking questions and ferreting out the answers. The challenge then is to sift through the myriad of factoids to craft compelling stories. As I wrap up the research phase, I take a step back and ask:

  • What is the most exciting thing I’ve learned?
  • What has been the biggest surprise to discover?
  • Why is this topic important?

Journaling helps me process and prioritize information—and by the time I’m done, I know where I’m going to start each story. In writing about 18th-century mathematician Sophie Germain, I was impressed how her determination led to a breakthrough on what was considered to be an impossible puzzle. Hence the title and text refrain, Nothing Stopped Sophie. With Behold the Beautiful Dung Beetle, I was inspired by the pivotal role these insects play in ecosystems. Thus the text, “One animal’s waste is the dung beetle’s treasure.” The story line turns the tables so that readers can view things that are often considered ugly—beetles and dung—as beautiful.

Nothing Stopped Sophie cover

            Teachers can use this approach to help students write about animal life cycles, volcanoes, gravity, and any STEM topic. After students gather their information, invite them to free write around these questions. This process of synthesizing and prioritizing information helps students understand their research topics at a deeper level. It’s also an opportunity to express big ideas from their research in their own words, taking an important step away from the words of others that they may have transcribed when taking notes. Then when students start writing, they can look in their journals for an idea to hook readers at the beginning their reports/essays/nonfiction stories. The rest of their information can flow from there. Helping readers connect to the material is the key to making science writing compelling!

Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano: Focusing Images to Convey Ideas

Big Bang cover

Another secret to creating powerful nonfiction is found in the images that often accompany text. These include photographs, illustrations, and imagery found in metaphors, similes, and analogies. Work on my first national book, Big Bang: The Tongue-Tickling Tale of a Speck That Became Spectacular–expanded my own abilities.

Here’s a passage from the book. Michael Carroll’s illustration follows.

“Picture a balloon with dots all over it. The balloon is like empty space. The dots are like galaxies. The dots start out close together. However, as you blow up the balloon, the dots get farther away from each other, just like the galaxies in the expanding universe.”

Initially, this illustration concerned me. The image depicts the passage of time.  Here, the galaxies stay exactly the same. Yet in reality, they change. Would this image create a misconception? It might… but Mike, a talented, experienced artist illustrator, had a more immediate concern. I’ve kept his insight in mind in all of my projects since.

Generally, an effective (nonfiction) illustration focuses on one key idea aligned to the text. Given the context, did it make sense to introduce galactic evolution in this picture? (Nnnnooo.)

While sometimes it is appropriate to tweak details for accuracy, all writers—authors, teachers, and students—are wise to consider illustrations as simplifications aimed at increasing our audiences’ ability to grasp main ideas. Because of this, choosing images is a lot like selecting metaphors and analogies. Any one image or analogy can’t represent all aspects of the phenomenon it illustrates. Effective writers and readers are aware of these limits, and choose carefully within these limits. As we see with Cheryl’s storytelling thoughts above, we see that effective communication involves careful, yet subjective, selection of which details to emphasize.

In the Classroom

You can bring this lesson to life with this classroom activity, which involves any thoughtfully chosen images from nonfiction text, first shown out of context. In the activity, you use three simple questions adapted from Harvard University’s Project Zero resources to guide students to consider the details of an image, their initial interpretations of the image, and questions about it. Next, you lead students to examine the text that the image was intended to accompany. They can consider the content of both the image and the words and compare their initial responses to what the image’s intended meaning. As critical thinkers, they are empowered to consider whether they think their own interpretations are enhanced by this pairing of text and image, and the extent to which they think illustration and/or text might are effective.

By beginning with strong visuals and putting students’  meaning-making front and center of the literacy experience, this lesson promises to engage students who may be intimidated by or otherwise disengaged from the text; give them a new way of approaching and strengthening their own reading, writing, and, more generally, thinking. 

STEM authors and educators Cheryl Bardoe and Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano, M.Ed., first collaborated over a decade ago on a project funded by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Pixels and Panoramas, which helped teachers and students investigate how examining the relationship between parts and wholes could deepen student understanding of science and art.

Cheryl Bardoe, children's book author

Cheryl Bardoe writes literary nonfiction that synthesizes science, math, history, and culture for young readers. Her award-wining books include Nothing Stopped Sophie: The Story of Unshakeable Mathematician Sophie Germain; China: A History; Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age; Behold the Beautiful Dung Beetle; and Gregor Mendel: The Friar Who Grew Peas. Her books have been recognized by the NSTA, NCTM, NCTE, ALA, and Bank Street College, among others. As a teacher of writing, Cheryl encourages writers of all ages to have fun and be confident in their own unique voices.

Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano, children's book author

Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano Known for clear metaphors and their lively voice, Carolyn’s books for curious kids include the IRA (now ILA) Notable Big Bang! The Tongue-Tickling Tale of a Speck That Became Spectacular, the widely acclaimed A Black Hole is NOT a HoleNational Geographic Kids’ Ultimate Space Atlas, and contributions to HarperCollinsChildrens’ popular Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out-Science series and the Engineering is Elementary curriculum storybooks. Her work has been recognized by many literacy organizations, and has been translated into several languages. Also a STEM education consultant, Carolyn works nationally with schools to bring dynamic, clear, and inspirational professional learning to K-8 teachers and to research and develop leading STEM curricula. She began her career as a museum educator, first with a small nature center in Connecticut and later with the Museum of Science, Boston, where she led exhibit-based educational programming, worked in exhibit development, and served as the Professional Development Director of Engineering is Elementary. She has served as a researcher and developer for Harvard University’s Project Zero, TERC, Citizen Schools, WGBH Boston, and numerous other institutions. She now offers author programs and curriculum and professional development services through two organizations that she co-founded and co-runs: Blue Heron STEM Education and STEM Education Insights. She is also in training to become a mindful awareness facilitator for children and the broader community. Her diverse interests are tied together by her passion for helping ignite curiosity and overall well-being in children and the adults who serve them by fostering learner-centered, empowering experiences and environments. Contact her for information about her author visits and educational consulting at

Linking Literacy at the NSTA Convention in Boston, MA, April 4, 2020.

GUEST POSTS: NSTA Linking Literacy, NSTA National Convention, Boston, MA. 9 am – 3 pm, April 4, 2020.
The National Science Teacher’s Association has invited authors of Outstanding Science Trade Books and Best Stem Books to discuss literacy and children’s books at a special Literacy Event. 14 of these authors have contributed guest posts to run from January 7 – April 2, 2020.

See the full author list and the date on which they’ll post at Linking Literacy 2020

Linking Literacy with boy holding book.

Kids I meet when I speak at schools love to ask me, “What is your favorite children’s book?”

Since the age of 9, my favorite children’s book has been Charlotte’s Web. You won’t find this beloved story of friendship and the power of words in the categories of science or engineering, but maybe it belongs there as well. E. B. White was meticulous about factual, scientific details of spiders in Charlotte’s Web, and used these details to help spin his fictional, emotional story. The webs Charlotte weaves in the book are marvels of science and engineering—today, real spider webs inspire and inform biologists, nanotechnologists, chemical engineers, biomedical researchers and STEM pioneers in many other fields.

I have to admit I didn’t notice the science in Charlotte’s Web as a child. I was an insatiable fiction reader, and no one I knew was a scientist. For me, the book was a journey of imagination to a place much bigger than my own small world. Now as an author of STEM books, I try to create journeys of imagination for children to places where they can explore big ideas in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Weaving STEM and literacy takes many forms; my favorite form for bringing STEM work to life is picture books, especially using photographs of and by scientists. Children reading or looking at my book Scientists Get Dressed get to “meet” real scientists at work in places children cannot actually go, like floating out in space, clambering over a live volcano, and more. And through the book’s unique lens of what scientists wear, children—who love to dress up—can even imagine themselves as scientists and engineers making discoveries, saving lives and saving the planet.

Jane Veltkamp, biologist/educator who cared for Beauty
Raptor biologist Janie Veltkamp protected by puncture-proof, kevlar-lined gloves while handling Beauty the bald eagle (Photo: Glen Hush, (c) Jane Veltkamp)

Scientists Get Dressed was inspired by real scientists and science educators I have known and worked with closely. After coauthoring the book Beauty and the Beak: How Science, Technology, and a 3D-Printed Beak Rescued a Bald Eagle with raptor biologist/educator Janie Veltkamp, I found myself thinking not just about the STEM content of Janie’s real life work, but about the clothing she must wear to do it. To protect herself from the powerful, ripping beaks and talons of wild birds of prey, Janie wears arm-length, puncture-proof gloves lined with Kevlar which is stronger and lighter than steel. Meanwhile my friend Dr. Marian Diamond, world renowned brain scientist and STEM education pioneer, wore a crisp, white coat for her life’s work in the laboratory, and tight lab gloves to handle human brains in the lab and classrooms.

The immediate spark for the book came when my 9-year-old grandniece showed me a photo of her water chemist mother, Dr. Lucy Rose, wearing chest waders in an icy stream. I knew her mother did research on freshwater pollution, but I suddenly realized I had NO idea how her mother did her work, or what she wore to do it. “That’s what Mommy does?” I asked in astonishment. Then began my own research to bring to life, in a book, how scientists do their work whether they’re collecting freezing snow samples on a glacier or burning lava samples on a volcano, being hoisted by a harness from a wheelchair to the high forest canopy, or snorkeling with massive, endangered whale sharks.

Cover of Scientists Get Dressed
Astronaut Mae Jemison getting dressed for spaceflight with help from spacesuit safety expert Sharon McDougle (Photo: NASA)

Christine Royce, author of the “Teaching Through Trade Books” column in NSTA’s Science and Children journal, has recognized that “While the scientists in the book include pioneers in their fields and environmental heroes, Scientists Get Dressed captures the important fact that scientists work everywhere, and are everyday people children might encounter.” One of those everyday people is Sharon McDougle, former spacesuit safety expert for NASA’s Space Shuttle, who appears on the book’s cover helping astronaut Mae Jemison prep for her historic space mission.

Author Deborah Lee Rose
Water chemist Dr. Lucy Rose wearing waterproof chest waders and gloves to test for pollution in an icy stream (Photo: Ethan Pawlowski, (c) Lucy Rose)

In an interview titled “Suiting Up for Space and STEM,” on the National Girls Collaborative Project blog for National Mentoring Month (January), McDougle looks back on her own experience and ahead at the future of STEM work. “Space exploration is not just about astronauts. There are all kinds of space-related jobs that kids can imagine themselves doing, and end up actually doing when they’re grown up,” she says. “As space exploration technology continues to develop, new STEM jobs are being created all the time. So a child today might someday work in a job that doesn’t exist yet!”

McDougle exemplifies how Scientists Get Dressed connects to the NGSS standard Science is a Human Endeavor. Read my full interview with her at You can also find more resources connected with the book, including the hands-on Scientists’ Glove Challenge STEM Activity in the free educational guide to Scientists Get Dressed at

Deborah Lee Rose, author
Deborah Lee Rose, author

Deborah Lee Rose is an internationally published children’s author and national STEM book award winner, including the AAAS/Subaru Prize and the Bank Street College Cook Prize for Beauty and the Beak, and the DeBary Award for Scientists Get Dressed. Her newest STEM/literacy book Astronauts Zoom! will be published in fall 2020, for the 20th anniversary of astronauts living on the International Space Station. Deborah was also senior science writer for UC Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science, where she worked with science educators, scientists and engineers to create groundbreaking STEM education projects like the national, NSF-funded STEM activity website Her website is  

GUEST POSTS: NSTA Linking Literacy, NSTA National Convention, Boston, MA. 9 am – 3 pm, April 4, 2020.
The National Science Teacher’s Association has invited authors of Outstanding Science Trade Books and Best Stem Books to discuss literacy and children’s books at a special Literacy Event. 14 of these authors have contributed guest posts to run from January 7 – April 2, 2020.

See the full author list and the date on which they’ll post at Linking Literacy 2020

Linking Literacy at 2020 NSTA Convention

Guest Posts by Science Authors

Here’s the schedule of guest posts by these amazing authors of award winning children’s books!

January 7Deborah Lee RoseScientists Get Dressed
January 14Cheryl Bardoe and Carolyn DeCristofanoNothing Stopped Sophie and A Black Hole is Not a Hole
January 21Joyce SIdmanThe GIrl Who Drew Butterflies
January28Jodi Wheeler-ToppenCat Science Unleashed
February 4Ruth SpiroMade by Maxine
February 11Anita SanchezRotten
February 18Tracy Nelson MaurerSamuel Morse, That’s Who!
February 25Laurie WallmarkNumbers in Motion
March 3Shana KellerFly, Firefly
March 10Jennifer SwansonSave the Crash-test Dummies
March 17Melissa Stewart
March 24Alexandra SiyTBD
March 31Mary Kay CarsonWildlife Ranger Action Guide
April 2Darcy PattisonPOLLEN: Darwin’s 130-Year Prediction
POLLEN: Darwin's 130-Year Prediction | Mims House. A scientific mystery about Darwin's orchid.
POLLEN: Darwin’s 130-Year Prediction: 2020 NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book | Mims House

The National Science Teacher’s Association announced the list of 2020 Outstanding Science Trade Books on December 3, 2019. Among the books is our title, POLLEN: DARWIN’S 130-YEAR PREDICTION.

national science teachers assocation outstanding trade book seal
Four of Mims House books have been named Outstanding Science Trade Books.

We are thrilled!

This is the fourth NSTA – OSTB for Mims House

POLLEN – Searching for the Pollinator of Darwin’s Orchid

POLLEN: Darwin’s 130-Year Prediction tells the story of Darwin’s orchid, a Madagascar orchid and how it is pollinated.

Darwin received a box of orchids on January 25, 1862. Among them was a Madagascar star orchid with an 11 inch long (about 28 cm) nectary, the place where the nectar gathers. How, Darwin wondered, could this orchid be pollinated?

After experimenting, he predicted that a giant moth would be the orchid’s pollinator. Darwin died without ever seeing the moth. In fact, it took 130 years before anyone could travel to Madagascar and photograph the orchid in the wild.

In 1992, German entomologist, Lutz Thilo Wasserthal, Ph.D decided to try to photograph the elusive moth at the orchid. By 1992, however, the rain forest in Madagascar had been over-harvested and finding the orchid was difficult.

Read the book for the whole story!

Other Awards for POLLEN

  • Starred Kirkus review
  • Eureka! Nonfiction Honor book from California Reading Association
  • 2020 NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book
  • Junior Library Guild selection

You can now buy paperback and hardcover books right from this site! Thanks for your support!

Buy Print Book

I read my first fantasy and science fiction books in sixth grade–and was hooked for life. Lord of the Rings and Frank Herbert’s Dune have been with me since I was eleven years old. I’ve read and re-read them. Perhaps that’s why I love writing scifi and fantasy for middle graders.

The Blue Planets World series

covers of THE BLUE PLANETS WORLD SERIES by Darcy Pattison |
The Blue Planets World series. Perfect gift for the 8-14 year olds in your life.

Kirkus Reviews says, “…an astute piece of characterization…junior high readers should approve.”

The planet Rison will implode soon. They desperately need a new blue planet, a water planet. But Earth is crowded. Will humans be able to open their hearts to an alien race?

Allegorical, it examines the conflicts that inevitable arise when refugees seeks a new home. But it brings it down to a specific family: Jake Rose is the test-tube child of a human Navy doctor and the Risonian ambassador to Earth. He is caught between cultures, between the conflicting needs of both races, and desperately searches for his own place on Earth.

His parents send him to stay with his human grandparents on Bainbridge Island, just off Seattle’s downtown. There, he discovers a Risonian installation. They’ve had sleeper cells on Earth for twenty years.

20% Off the Hardcover Series

covers of THE BLUE PLANETS WORLD SERIES by Darcy Pattison |
The bundle includes all three hardcover books.

Read an excerpt

Here’s the opening of SLEEPERS:

The Great White

The Great White shark moved silently through the surf, propelled by short sweeps of its crescent tail. It had no conscious thought for what it was doing so close to shore. It just hunted. The water shone brilliantly under the Milky Way, and its myriads of stars reflected on the face of the gentle ocean swells.

A lone figure emerged from a dark beach house, trotted down the weathered boards across the dunes to the beach, scuffed through the soft sand and slowed to walk straight to the water’s edge.

Wet sand under his feet now, Jake Rose threw a darting glare over his shoulders, and then turned to stare out to sea. He took a deep breath, letting the salty air fill his lungs, and suddenly the longing was overwhelming. I will go skinny dipping tonight.

Defiant, Jake removed his shirt, flip-flops, and swim trunks, tossing them beside a piece of driftwood. He splashed into the warm August surf until he was immersed chest-deep, and he scooped water to splash over his shoulders, his face, and his hair.

A hundred yards off shore, the shark heard the splash and stirred, moving toward the disturbance, an arrow spiraling towards a bull’s-eye. The shark closed in, his dorsal fin cutting through the water less than a dozen feet to the teen’s side.

At the sight, a shiver of fear ran down Jake’s spine, but he was committed. Without stopping to think further, he bent his knees and dove, arms outstretched, splitting the glittering breaker.

Underwater, Jake’s eyes adjusted to the dark. There it was, circling. The shark’s row of teeth flickered, stark white in the gloom. Its circle collapsed inward until the shark darted past, just a few feet away from Jake’s face.

Time to move, Jake realized.

Quickly, Jake inhaled, the gills under his arms undulating as they expanded and contracted with each breath. Water-breathing through his Risonian gills felt as natural and regular as breathing air through his human lungs. When he pressed his legs together, the villi wove together with what his father jokingly called a Velcro system that turned his legs into a long tail.

Jake swept his tail in a powerful thrust that sent him speeding away from the shark. But as he did, he felt a strange vibration in the water. Confused, he stopped and looked back at the Great White, who now held stationary just staring at Jake.

Perplexed, Jake waited for a repeat of the vibration. Nothing.

Had the vibration been an attempt at communication? he wondered. If he were home on Rison, there’d be no doubt. But here? On Earth? Clumsily, Jake flapped his hands, sending his own vibrations through the water.

With its short fins, the Great White beat out a series of vibrations in answer.

Jake attempted a rough translation: “Friend. We swim.”

He repeated the exact vibrations back to the shark, and immediately the shark repeated the phrase: “Friend. We swim.”

Crude, but effective, exulted Jake.  They understood each other—after a fashion.

“Cousin,” Jake called in a bubbly voice. “Before us is the open sea. Take me out to explore!”

The Great White didn’t understand the words, of course. Nevertheless, he swam toward deeper water, pausing now and then, as if to be sure that Jake followed.

Jake reveled in the too-long-forbidden feel of warm seawater buoying him upward and the joy of a strong tail that sent him coursing behind the Great White. With wild abandon, Jake followed his guide. They were just two wild creatures off to explore the Gulf of Mexico.

covers of THE BLUE PLANETS WORLD SERIES by Darcy Pattison |

On this Saturday, small businesses band together to make a splash! Mims House, as a publisher and online bookstore, is participating for the first time this year.

Read & Write Series – 20% off


  •  “. . .breezy and engaging introduction to genre writing.”
  • “The model essay can be used across multiple genres (informational and narrative nonfiction in addition to opinion).”
  • “. . .useful for teachers showing early elementary students the relevancy, power, and importance of effective writing.” –Booklist 6/17/15
  • VERDICT: A good choice to help the visual learners write narrative essays. School Library Journal, November, 2015
  • “. . .fill(s) a niche for teachers. . .”  – School Library Journal 5/1/15

When cousins Dennis and Mellie decide to get pets, they must make hard decisions about the best cat or dog for their families. They use nine criteria to help decide among the breeds. Books 1 and 2 of THE READ AND WRITE SERIES documents the struggle in opinion essays that act as mentor texts for students writing their own opinion essays.

But the fun doesn’t stop there. In Book 3, Dennis must take his dog to the vet—if he can catch him. The adventure of getting a pet, owning a pet and caring for a pet is the backdrop for a series of fun writing lessons focused on opinion, narrative and informative essays. While the series models the entire writing process, it fills an instructional gap by concentrating on prewriting or planning before writing. In the end, though, it’s the cousins and their pets that will keep readers turning the pages.

Book 4 picks up the story when Dennis and Mellie go to Grandma’s birthday party and have to write informative essays. There’s a how-to essay mentor text for first graders and a longer informative essay for the older grades.

20% Off Retail Price – Buy Today for 20% OFF

Buy Now
Narrative, Informative & Opinion Essays Printables |
4-book hardcover series on writing essays with kids. Be sure to download the printables.

Download the Free Printables – It’s a Lesson!

Read And Write Series -Complete Handouts |
Buy Now

When an alien family is shipwrecked on Earth, their son must figure out how to survive 3rd grade! It’s especially hard because the school principal is head of the Alien Chaser’s Society. She’s convinced that one of her 3rd graders is an alien–if she can just figure out which one.

This chapter book series is perfect for the 7-10 year old crowd who are learning to read longer books. With a reading level of 3.0, it’s a high interest story with lots of humor.

Get the 4-Book Hardcover Set at 20% Discount

Here’s the basic question: how will aliens manage to live on Earth? They need a way to earn a living so they can buy food, housing and make a home on this crazy planet. But what can aliens do that anyone would pay them for?

Publisher’s Weekly says book “amusing” and “engaging and accessible.”

School Library Journal Review says, “VERDICT This fun chapter book series is out of this world.”


Shipwrecked. Befriended. Hunted.


Kell discovers that his neighbor, Bree Hendricks, turns 9-years-old next month and she wants a party with an alien theme. That should be simple as flying from star to star. But things aren’t that easy: Earthling’s ideas about aliens are totally wrong.


Even worse, Principal Lynx is a UFO-Chaser and suspects aliens around every corner.

Will the Aliens totally blow the Aliens Party? Will Principal Lynx capture Kell and his family and them over to the government?


Fun and Humor: Super Heroes, Super Heroines, and a Parade!

For Kell, the Friends of Police Parade is a big deal, his first Earthling parade. With Bree’s help, he must figure out how to deal with City Hall, figure out fund-raising and find super heroes and super heroines to march in the parade. To make things worse, Principal Lynx believes someone in third grade in an alien, and she has a new Alien Catcher App on her smart phone. Survival on planet Earth just got harder for the Smiths, those friendly aliens from Bix. Will the Society of Alien Chasers catch Kell and his family? Or will they outsmart Mrs. Lynx again.

Secrets, Giants and Alien-Chasing Dogs.


If you’re an alien on Earth, you have one giant secret to keep. After a while, even friends want to tell your secret. Kell and Bree plan a birthday party with giants—Big Foot, Cyclops, Goliath and the Jolly Green Giant—while they struggle with keeping their own giant secret. But they have an even bigger problem: Principal Lynx and the Society of Alien Chasers is back with a dog trained to sniff out an alien in a crowd. When Mom is stung by a bee, Kell must find a doctor who can keep a giant secret, too. Will Aliens, Inc. be able to pull off the Giant Party and keep everyone happy?

Kell and the Detectives (Book 4)

Fingerprints, Detectives, and a Baby Brother

Kell makes a startling discovery: he has zigzag fingerprints. Worse, Mrs. Lynx and the Society of Alien Chasers know about the fingerprints, and they are on the hunt. But the stakes are higher than ever because Kell’s mom has just laid a beautiful green egg. With Mrs. Lynx on the prowl, can Kell and Bree keep the egg safe?

The 4-book hardcover set is priced at 20% discount! Give a gift of reading!

The popular Moments in Science series will add a new title next year. This is an exciting cover reveal for EROSION: How Hugh Bennett Saved America’s Soil and Ended the Dust Bowl.

Erosion cover reveal |
Coming in 2020, EROSION.
The latest book in the MOMENTS IN SCIENCE collection.

The Moments in Science collection is about a moment in time when something changed in science. It’s about a big discovery, a big event, or some moment when the history of science was impacted. Often, the story is a small biographical slice of a scientist’s life and times. The EROSION cover, like all the books in this collection, are illustrated by Peter Willis of the UK.

Available books in the Moments in Science collection

CLICK ON THE LINKS BELOW – Take 25% off any Moments in Science Collection ebook. Use this code at checkout: MOMENTS25

The Eureka Nonfiction Children’s Book Award has recognized POLLEN: Darwin’s 130-Year Prediction with a Silver Honor. Given by the California Reading Association, this award recognizes the best of children’s nonfiction for the past year.

Pollen: Darwin's 130 Year Prediction received a 2019 Eureka Silver Award |
2019 Eureka Nonfiction Children’s Book Award – Silver

POLLEN is a 2019 Junior Library Guild selection and received a starred Kirkus review. Darwin predicted that a Madagascar orchid would be pollinated by a huge moth. 130 years later, German scientist Lutz Thilo Wasserthal traveled to Madagascar and finally photographed the moth pollinating the orchid.

X.morganii pollinating the Madagascar orchid | Photo by Lutz Thilo Wasserthal
X.morganii pollinating the Madagascar orchid | Photo by Lutz Thilo Wasserthal

This incredible photograph shows the moth before the Madagascar orchid pollinating it. The moth’s 11′ long proboscis is clearly visible. It’s inserted into the flower and will push down to the bottom of the nectary to suck up the nectar.

This book is part of the Moments in Science series, which includes Burn: Michael Faraday’s Candle, Clang: Ernst Chladni’s Sound Experiments, and Eclipse: How the 1919 Solar Eclipse Proved Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity.

Hope. As a novelist, I’ve written about two children looking for a forever home, and I’m aware that I’m in a time-honored tradition of giving kids hope.

Take for example, Katherine Paterson’s description of foster children as “Kleenex children.” You use them up and throw them away, she said. Her stories about these trouble children, including The Great Gilly Hopkins, which inspires me in several ways.

Give Kleenex Children a Voice

One thing Paterson did with her stories is illuminate a character who has charm, gumption, and the need to be seen and heard. When families are disrupted by any means, it’s the kids that suffer. Divorce, death, abandonment, drug use, alcoholism–these can put children into unpleasant or even dangerous situations. In those cases, finding themselves within the pages of a book can be therapeutic and escapism in a good way.

And yet, the novel shouldn’t look down on the kids and judge them. Paterson manages to present credible kids who are respected for their ability to force action from those around them.

When I created my own characters–Eliot Winston and Alli Flynn–I worked to give them personality, humor, and the willingness to work hard for their hopes of a family. The stories are poignant, but realistic.

End on a Note of Hope

Paterson has said that she doesn’t try to sugar-coat a situation. She faces it head-on. But literature should rise above the situation, which means she always ends with a note of hope. It’s not that the situations are easy to bear. But in the midst of difficulty, there appears to be a way forward.

I appreciated the example of realism in THE GREAT GILLY HOPKINS. But I also find it compelling to add in a note of hope. It’s not the fairy-tale, “and they lived happily ever after.” Problems aren’t ignored. But there’s HOPE, real hope that something will change. I reach for deep emotional moments where the reader connects with the characters and their hearts swell with hope that all will be well for Eliot and Alli.

Longing for Normal Cover | A Story of Hope.
eBook sale 10/17 – 10/21
ONLY $1.99
Read Today!


The ebook is on sale everywhere this weekend, with sales ending on 10/21/19.

Essays printables are available to make your life easy! Every school child and teacher must deal with the written word. Fortunately, we’ve got some books to help you teach writing to elementary students.

Read and Write Series – Essays Made Easy

Covers of the Read and Write series by Darcy Pattison |
Printable worksheets are available to turn these books into a lesson.

Narrative, opinion and informative essays are covered in these simple, fun books about cousins Dennis and Mellie.

Book 1: I Want a Dog. Opinion essays are among the hardest writing assignments to teach. In this story, Dennis and Mellie discuss the best dog for each family. What’s important is the criteria each develops based on their individual family situations.

After deciding on criteria, it’s easy to sort through the dog breeds to find the right dog for them. The book refers to’s interactive Dog Breed Selector tool as a simple way to narrow down choices.

In the companion book, Book 2: I Want a Cat, the cousins discuss the best cat for each family. has a comparable Cat Breed Selector tool.

Together the I Want a Cat and I Want a Dog books satisfy the Common Core requirement of comparing similar texts.

Book 3: My Crazy Dog takes up the problem of narrative essays. Good essays include sensory details: what you see, hear, taste, touch (temperature & texture), and smell. In the mentor text essay, these details are color coded to help kids notice when they are used.

Book 4: My Dirty Dog provides two different informative essays as a mentor text. The first is a “how-to” give a dog a bath, to meet the early elementary requirement of writing a “how-to” essay. The second is a more traditional informative essay for the older elementary grades.

Essay Printables – Lesson Plans

Printables for Read and Write Series | Mims House
Printables for opinion, narrative, and informative essays.

To make it easy to use these books in the classroom, we provide essay printables. These are step-by-step lesson plans for kids to use as they write their own essays. The mentor texts are fun and engaging. The 22-page printables make it simple.

General relativity is Einstein’s famous theory about how gravity curves or bends light (with lots of other implications for physics and astrophysics!). He had presented ideas about special relativity (E = MC2) in 1905 , but wanted to extend that to include how gravity affected celestial bodies. In November 1915, he presented his general relativity to the Prussian Academy of Science.

The problem, of course, was World War I (1914-1918). The scientific community, though, worked around the war and Einstein’s papers eventually wound up in the hands of Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, head of the Cambridge Observatory in England. Eddington would be one of Einstein’s greatest supporters and explainers of his complex theory.

To tell the story of Einstein, Eddington and the 1919 solar eclipse, I wrote ECLIPSE: How the 1919 Solar Eclipse Proved Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity. It launches on October 8 and is now available for preorder.

historical photo of Albert Einstein and Stanley Eddington.
7EN-S1-C0010943 (929331) E: (1879-1955), at left, was famous for his theories of relativity. British astrophysicist Sir Arthur Eddington (1882-1944), at right, pioneer Einstein and Eddington. German-born physicist Albert Einstein (1879-1955), at left, was famous for his theories of relativity. British astrophysicist Sir Arthur Eddington (1882-194 4), at right, pioneered the study of internal stellar structure. In 1919 Eddington led an expedition to observe stars near the sun during a solar eclipse. The results were hailed a s confirmation of Einstein’s 1915 theory of General Relativity, which predicted that light passing close to a large mass (like the Sun) bends twice as far as predicted by Newton’s theory of gravity. Photographed at the University of Cambridge Observatory, UK, in 1930.

Push and Pull: Explaining General Relativity to Kids

How do you explain general relativity to kids? I studied the NextGen Science Standards for inspiration and was thrilled to discover that even kindergartners study PUSH and PULL.

K-PS2-1 Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions: Plan and conduct an investigation to compare the effects of different strengths or different directions of pushes and pulls on the motion of an object.

I realized that in Einstein’s theory PUSH would equal acceleration and PULL would equal gravity. By using the simple terms of PUSH and PULL, the theory became within reach for a children’s picture book.

Interior page of ECLIPSE by Darcy Pattison
British illustrator Peter Willis adds humor and appeal for kids.

The story follows Stanley Eddington to Africa into the path of totality for the 1919 solar eclipse. They carried a large telescope with them in hopes of photographing the eclipse. Before leaving England, they took NON-ECLIPSE photos of the Hyades star cluster. In Africa, they took DURING ECLIPSE photos to compare. If the Hyades star cluster appeared to move, it would be proof that the star light had bent around the sun.

It was a tricky and expensive expedition. The Principe Islands were known as the Chocolate Islands because they grew and exported cacao for major chocolate manufacturers such as Cadbury. Other than commercial exports, though, there was very little traffic to the island. Once there, the tropical climate made development of the film difficult. And there was the weather.

The eclipse would occur about 1:30 pm on May 29. The morning started with storms, so cloudy that no one could see the sky. About noon, it started to clear, but slowly. Finally, just as the eclipse started, the clouds parted.

Fortunately, a second team of astronomers had gone to Brazil, the other location that would experience a total eclipse. They, too, had problems. Their main telescope warped in the heat and moisture, making all images blurry. They used a back-up 4″ telescope to take the picture, the best pictures of either expedition.

Photos Proved General Relativity

Then, the hard work began. After the photographs were safely returned to the observatory in England, the measurements and calculations began. And it was complicated! The math had to account for Earth’s atmosphere, the gravity of Earth and the sun, temperature variations and more. But finally…

On November 6, 1919, Stanley and the other astronomers presented their results. The starlight had appeared to move. That meant the sun’s gravity had bent the starlight–which proved Einstein’s theory. The 1919 solar eclipse had changed the world forever.

See: First televised solar eclipse:

book cover of Eclipse: How the 1919 Solar Eclipse Proved Einstein's Theory of General Relativity
PreOrder now! Available October 8, 2019.

Watch the Eclipse in the FlipMe Feature

If you can’t see this video, CLICK HERE.

Mostly found in western US, reports from confirm sightings across central and eastern states. As the territory expands for cougars, environmental experts evaluate what this means.

Where Are Cougars Sighted? maintains an interactive map showing the locations of confirmed sightings of cougars. Look up YOUR area to see how many cougars have been seen. Since its founding in 2002, there have been over 700 confirmed sightings from Florida to New England to Arkansas.

Cougars (Puma concolor), also known as puma, mountain lion or catamount, once spread across much of the North and South American continents. They covered a larger territory than any other land mammal on Earth. They are about 24-26 inches tall at the shoulder, are about 6-8 feet in length, and can weigh 200 pounds.

Corridor Science is Cutting Edge Environmental Science

To deal with cougars and other wild animals, scientists have concentrated on corridors. says, “The main goal of corridors is to facilitate movement of individuals, through both dispersal and migration, so that gene flow and diversity are maintained between local populations. By linking populations throughout the landscape, there is a lower chance for extinction and greater support for species richness.”

Many species run into problems when their habitat is partially destroyed leaving it fragmented. Populations may survive for a time in a smaller habitat, but inbreeding will soon kill it off. For species to survive, they need to move from one population safe zone to another. Like a hallway connecting rooms in a building, wildlife corridors connect pockets of populations. It’s crucial for genetic viability.

Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma talks about the importance of corridors as Brazil attempts to manage its cougar population. A cub was orphaned within sight of skyscrapers. That means the cougar family had been living alongside people for years. Nocturnal, the cougars had never been seen, even by long-time residents of the area. But when a mother cougar decided to raid a chicken coop to feed her cubs, she was caught and died, leaving the cub orphaned.

Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma is an example of corridor science |
2015 NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book.
This is also available as an audiobook.
Click the cover for more information.

Free Lesson Plans on Corridor Science

Old environmental lessons stress the importance of saving habitat–and that’s still important. But as humans have continued to destroy habitats at an alarming rate, corridor science has stepped in to talk about how species can survive even with smaller, fragmented habitats. has a new database of lesson plans that are searchable by grade level and keywords such as habitat fragmentation, island biogeography, migration, connectivity, and wildlife corridors. Learn about Bear 148! Then read about Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma!

Corridor Science for Kids | Pumas need to move across the landscape for genetic viability |

Yo, ho, ho! Girls, are you ready for TALK LIKE A PIRATE DAY on September 16 on Monday? Most children’s books feature a male pirate. But ROWDY: The Pirate Who Could Not Sleep is about Captain Whitney Black McKee, a brave FEMALE pirate captain who chases sea monsters all the way from Shanghai.

Rowdy: The Pirate Who Could Not Sleep | Mims House
The perfect book for girls on TALK LIKE A PIRATE DAY! CLICK to buy the book! Use this code for 50% discount: PIRATE.

This special day celebrating pirate talk was Created in 1995 by a couple guys from Albany Oregon, John Baur (Ol’ Chumbucket) and Mark Summers (Cap’n Slappy. They were playing a racquetball game when one spontaneously exclaimed, “Aaarrr!”

The moment struck home and TALK LIKE A PIRATE DAY was born. ), of Albany, Oregon, During a racquetball game between Summers and Baur, one of them reacted to the pain with an outburst of “Aaarrr!”, and the idea was born. They chose September 16 because it was Summer’s ex-wife’s birthday and easy for him to remember.

Talking Like a Pirate

Talk Like a Pirate Day with Miss Whitney Black McKee. From ROWDY: The Pirate Who Could Not Sleep. | Mims House
The pirate Captain Whitney Black McKee is feared upon the high seas. But when she comes to shore, she needs a lullaby to help her sleep. CLICK to buy the book! Use this code for 50% discount: PIRATE.

So, what do you DO on TALK LIKE A PIRATE DAY? Well, you TALK like a Pirate! In this story, the Captain is SO tired that she can’t sleep. She sends her crew out to steal a lullaby. But how do thieves thieve a lullaby?

The pirate crew searches for a lullaby for their captain on TALK LIKE A PIRATE DAY. From Rowdy: The Pirate Who Could Not Sleep | Mims
The pirate crew searches for a lullaby to help the Captain sleep. CLICK to buy the book! Use this code for 50% discount: PIRATE.
Only the Captain's father or Pappy can sing a song to help her sleep. From ROWDY: THE PIRATE WHO COULD NOT SLEEP |
There’s only ONE lullaby which can help her sleep – her Pappy’s song. CLICK to buy the book! Use this code for 50% discount: PIRATE.

Pirate Language

Have fun, me mateys! CLICK to buy the book! Use this code for 50% discount: PIRATE.

(We guarantee that you can read our ebooks on the device of your choice.)

Pin It