Archive for 2019

Dr. Renee Horton: Scientist-Author Extraordinaire

Dr. Renee Horton’s visit celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon walk.

Author, scientist, role-model: Dr. Renee Horton is whip-smart, hardworking, good-natured, and caring. She visited Des Moines in August. In a trip hosted by the Des Moines Public Library, she stopped by Drake University for a reception in her honor. She shared her book, her experiences with NASA, and her message on STEM and kids.

Horton’s life is the inspiration behind her book series Dr. H Explores. Currently, there are two books out, From Mercury to Mars and From Jupiter to Uranus, with two more forthcoming. Readers can also get Dr. H dogtags and a Dr. H stuffed toy.

What makes this author special is that she lives what she writes. Horton specializes in Materials Science and holds degrees in engineering, math, and physics. She works full-time at NASA as the Space Launch System (SLS) Lead Metallic/Weld Engineer and has won numerous awards for her professional work and community advocacy. And while you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to write books, it sure makes book talks interesting!

After her Des Moines visit, she took to a moment to talk with us about her incredible adventure into STEM literacy.

Visit Dr. Renee Horton’s website to learn more or purchase her books and merchandise.

Q. What inspired you to write for children?

A. I believe that every child is born curious with an active imagination, and we should allow them to explore to find themselves. The books are my way to impact their lives early, to help them stay curious, and create a desire to explore in a creative way.  It’s my way of letting the kid in me have fun. 

Q. What message do you hope to share with kids through your books?

A. First, I hope to provide a positive representation of inclusion of all in STEM while helping kids learn that everyone is different. The second thing I want them to walk away with is that STEM is fun. 

Q. What writing projects are you or will you be working on next?

A. The next writing project for Dr H Explores is Trip to the Moon coming out at the beginning August. Next, Dr H finally gets to meet Pluto in the book scheduled to release in October.  For a personal writing project, I am currently working with Kay Fenton Smith on writing my memoir that will detail my pain, my growth, and my happiness in life. 

For more information or to contact Dr. Renee Horton, please visit her website: https://www.reneehortonphd.com/about.html. We love her opening quote: “When you find your intersection between your talent and your passion, you find your true happiness.” It’s clear that Horton has found that intersection, and her enthusiasm helps pave the way for others on a similar path.

Thanks to the Des Moines Public library for sharing Dr. Horton’s visit with Drake University.

Author Grace Grundmeyer Writes Geode Adventure

Meet Grace Grundmeyer, author.
(Photo courtesy of G&R Rock Keepers.)

Authors, even very young ones, are inspired by things that happen in their lives. That is especially true for our talented 10-year-old friend, Grace Grundmeyer. She stopped by the blog to share her debut picture book: The Adventures of Eli and Lincoln: The Hidden Treasure.

Overview:
Grace chose the names Eli and Lincoln, who are friends in the story, to pay tribute to her cousins who passed away. In the book, the boys stumble upon a geode while playing. They find it’s ugly on the outside and hollow on the inside.  Soon, they learn it’s a geode, find out it’s beautiful, and start a rock collection. To make it more visually challenging, there’s a hidden pick ax on every page.

Writing Process
Grace’s story started like most do. She wrote it out by hand on lined paper. But the process didn’t end there. “Once I got the story just how I wanted it,” said Grace, “my parents helped me locate an illustrator and publishing company.  I met with the illustrator a couple times to get each page just right.” After a final proof, she waited for the hard-cover copies to arrive.   “It was fun to see them all printed,” she added. Besides writing and editing the book, she spent a lot of time researching information.

Governor Kim Reynolds, Co-Chair of the Iowa STEM Initiative, stopped by Grace’s booth at the Iowa State Fair. Iowa’s official state rock is the geode.

STEM/Literacy Connections
The book is a perfect supplement to an elementary rock unit, classroom read-aloud, or bedtime story. On the last page, Grace included topics for teachers or parents to talk to kids about, titled Discussion Points. 

Grace shared a few highlights: “Some of the important lessons include how the beauty is on the inside (just like a geode) which can be used to discuss many important topics like bullying, self-esteem, or rock hunting.”

The book also promotes getting outside and going on an adventure. “Although a new adventure may make you nervous,” said Grace, “there are also exciting things that might happen or you may learn by experiencing something new.”

Advice
We asked Grace what advice she has for other people who want to write a book. She passed this along, “If you want to write a book, anyone can actually do it.  It takes time and you have to focus on just how you want it to be when it is all done.  I learned writing a book is harder than I thought, but it can be a fun process.”

More Info
Grace welcomes the opportunity to talk to others about her book and geodes in general. Visit her website for contact information on speaking engagements. To learn more about geodes, to buy a copy of the book, or get some geode jewelry and bling, visit Grace’s website: www.gandrrocks.com. You can also find her book online at Mascot Books‘ website or Amazon.

Nature rocks! Grace’s whole family enjoys going on an outdoor adventures.

Book Review: The Radium Girls

Find this best-selling book, The Radium Girls by Kate Moore, at the library or in bookstores.

Avid reader and soon-to-be-middle-schooler, Averie, sat down with the Hub to review The Radium Girls by Kate Moore. Besides being a big fan of Marie Curie, Averie enjoys swimming, being outside, and animals. She recommends this book for anyone who is a fan of science and social justice.

General Overview:
Q: What is the book about?
A: The Radium Girls is the story of early twentieth century girls that worked on painting luminous watch dials with radium paint. they got extremely sick and filed a lawsuit.

Before the world realized the radium was a dangerous element, it was used in small amounts to paint clocks and dials for instruments used during WWI. The Government prized it for its glow-in-the-dark quality. At the time, women didn’t have many job options, but with so many men in active duty, they were needed to help with the war effort. Young, single women could made a lot of money if they landed this position. Each day the women went to work, they were slowly ingesting small quantities of the highly toxic material, and all eventually grew very sick.

The clock is ticking: women paint luminous dials in 1932. Photo from https://www.spectator.co.uk/2016/06/the-radium-girls-still-glowing-in-their-coffins/

In the end, even though the women could barely get out of bed or walk around, they sued their employer and justice and won!

Inspiring Read
Q: What makes this book so good?
A: It is an inspiring story about justice and the power of perseverance.

One unique element that fascinated Averie was the photo of the girls before they became sick.

Q: Who else might enjoy this book?
A: Anyone who has an interest in history and justice.

Author Jill Esbaum Weaves Facts into Nonfiction Magic

Picture books engage curiosity and set the stage for adventure and exploration. They allow children to think like scientists, asking questions and searching for answers. The best books teach the love of reading, but they also challenge us to connect with the world. National Geographic knows a thing or two about that, and so does Jill Esbaum.

You’ve likely seen Jill’s books in libraries, schools, and stores. She’s an award-winning Iowa author who has published 13 fiction and 22 nonfiction books, including Tom’s Tweet, which was named the Iowa Goldfinch Award and I Am Cow, Hear Me Moo, which earned a Chrystal Kite Award. While being well-known for her gift of creating colorful characters, lively language, and perfect rhyme, Jill has turned her talents toward weaving facts into magical prose for National Geographic children’s books.

Jill recently stopped by the blog to talk about her work with National Geographic, including her book: Little Kids First Big Book of Why 2. She was kind enough to answer a few questions.

 

Q: What makes the Little Kids First Big Book of Why 2 unique?

A: The goal of National Geographic’s Little Kids Big Book series is to help kids aged 4-7 understand the world, which is why there are titles covering everything from ANIMALS to OCEANS, from BUGS to SPACE. The first WHY book (written by Amy Shields) was such a hit that NG wanted another to continue providing answers to some of kids’s most often-asked questions. WHY 2 has 4 chapters, including ME, MYSELF, & I; FUN AND GAMES; AWESOME ANIMALS; and NATURE ALL AROUND.

The toughest thing about writing one of these books is coming up with brand new questions! There are 56 of them here, with many more facts sprinkled across each page, as well as call-out questions intended to get kids thinking.

Q: What are some ways teachers and parents could use this book? 

A: Each title in the Little Kids Big Book series has a wealth of back matter, including a spread that suggests to parents ways they might extend the fun beyond the book. For example, WHY 2 has a spread titled “Why do I yawn?” At the back of the book is a fun activity that encourages kids to experiment with whether or not yawning is contagious.

Another spread in the book is “Why are dinosaur names so long?” and a corresponding activity encourages kids to pretend they’ve discovered a new dinosaur in their backyard and come up with a name for it. Within each chapter are also easy, small experiments called “Try This!” 

Q: How many hours go into the research and creation of a book like this?

A: Researching and writing one of these books takes hundreds and hundreds of hours. The research is especially important, of course, as National Geographic has a long-standing reputation for quality and accuracy. Fortunately, I love researching, tracking down the hows and whens and whys on any given subject.

One research tip I often share with kids at school visits:  When researching something, look beyond the facts people already know. Dig for juicy facts that make you say, “Wow, I didn’t know that!” 

Q: What’s your favorite part of this book?

A: I’m always happy when a book has a chapter about animals, because I learn so much! In this book, I enjoyed learning about things like the miraculous abilities of a dog’s nose. Did you know each nostril smells independently? That while human noses have 6 million “smelling cells” that send signals to our brains, a dog’s has 300 million of them? Sniffing another dog can tell them the age of the other dog, whether it’s male or female, what it has been eating, and even the dog’s mood. Amazing!

But this book has pages and pages filled with facts like this. That makes them so fun to write. I love becoming an expert on dozens of topics….Too bad I can’t retain every single thing I learn. But I am pretty good at trivia events. 😉

 

Besides writing (and trivia), Jill is an incredible writing teacher, hosting weekend retreats, workshops, and conference sessions. She hosts a blog called Picture Book Builders, featuring the best new books, introducing readers to authors and illustrators, and reflecting on the best of craft. Jill also welcomes author visit invitations, where she talks to kids about writing, research, revision, and more!

Want to learn more about Jill?

Purchase the book.

Visit her website.

Follow Jill on Twitter.

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