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
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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

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