I loved writing HeroRat: Magawa, A Lifesaving Rodent. As soon as I read about Magawa I knew I wanted to tell his story. Heck, I’ve never been a fan of rats in general (living in NYC for 5 years, you might get used to them, but you never learn to love them) so I surprised myself by being so enamored with his story.
I mean, look how cute!
I am completely honored that HeroRat made it to the shortlist of the AAAS/Subaru Prize for Excellence in Science Books, along with three other amazing picture books. To see it reviewed on the pages of Science Magazine was an incredible thrill.
Super chuffed (excited) to announce that HeroRat (one of the Animalographies books) has made it onto the American Association for the Advancement of Science / Subaru Prize for Excellence in Science Books.
Copies of the winning book will be sent to participating schools across America. What a great way to promote nonfiction for kids!
Magawa the Herorat would be very proud.
The winner will be announced in 2023.
And very best wishes to the AMAZING other books on the list.
(I’ve already read Tu Yo-yo’s Discovery–it’s wonderful, and I’m excited to check out the others. I MUST go find a copy of ROBO-MOTION. How cool does that look? And The (short) Life of Krill is right up my alley. Plus books on Foxes and Honeybees? YES PLEASE!)
Yes, those type of bugs, not the virus or software malice, but cute, adorable insects.
Of course, there are plenty of people out there who disagree that bugs are adorable. And I used to be one of those people. That is, until I met a few bugs that were illustrated by the incredible artist and illustrator, Bryony Clarkson.
I’d like to introduce you to a few of my new friends:
Say hello to FLICKER!
She’s definitely the cutest bug I’ve ever seen.
She’s the star of my newest series, THE GRAND BUG HOTEL, coming out in April.
What’s a bug hotel you might ask? Well, perhaps you’ve seen something like this in your local garden or park:
Here’s one at a railway station near me:
Bug hotels provide a safe and secure place for all kinds of insects to live. Every type of insect, from bees to butterflies, live together at a bug hotel.
FLICKER lives at a bug hotel run by her family. It looks something like this:
How cool is that?
FLICKER lives with her parents, grandparents, her twin brother and sister, and ever her FRIENDS!
Wanna meet them?
This is ROLY POLY!
He loves to bounce!
This is WICKET!
He loves to make music.
And then there’s DAZZLE!
She loves to fly and is an amazing inventor.
Again, all images are created by the amazing Bryony Clarkson. I can’t wait for you to meet Flicker and all her friends. The first two books about Flicker will be arriving on the shelves in April 2022, but you can pre-order now at the big online bookstores. Check them out here and here!
Very Exciting News here! I have two new books coming out this October that will blow your socks off! (or at least make you take them off gently and roll them into a neat ball before shooting a three-pointer into the laundry basket…)
They are for a new series I created called …
Animal-ographies. Like biographies and autobiographies, but of animals. Get it?
This will be a series of informational fiction books about animals that have amazing stories to tell, and THE ANIMALS will be doing the telling.
Here’s a hint for the first two animals that feature in the books:
And there are more to come. Two more book are scheduled for next spring (and they may or may not be about an inspirational rat and a pair of heroic dogs. But you didn’t hear that from me.)
My final stop on the Listening to the Stars blog tour took me to Boston, to re-live some of the (glory?) days of my youth. I spoke with Marianne Knowles, former Mainer, teacher, current Museum of Science employee, and administrator at Writers’ Rumpus—a collective of New England #kidlit writers, illustrators, and book reviewers. You can read the actual interview here, but I have also reproduced it below.
What a joy these questions were to answer.
Marianne Knowles: Thanks for visiting Writers’ Rumpus, Jodie!
Jodie Parachini: Thanks for inviting me, Marianne! Can I mention how super-intimidated I am by being interviewed by someone who works at one of the greatest science museums in the world?! Gah! Please be gentle, I’m just a humanities major!
MK: But I’m interviewing someone who’s gotten TWO STARRED REVIEWS with a picture book biography of one of my HEROES! That’s pretty intimidating, too.
You’ve published several fun fiction picture books featuring talking animals. What inspired you to write a biography of a real-life human for your latest book?
JP: Even though I’ve been writing for more than 15 years, I still think I’m finding my way. One of the things I enjoy about being a nonfiction book editor for my day-job is that every book is different—today it could be about the life cycle of frogs and tomorrow a history of Italian art. I feel the same about writing. I follow where my interest leads me—today I may want to find a rhyme for hippopotamus and tomorrow I might have a desperate need to tell the world that kelp (the seaweed) is actually not a plant, or an animal, but something in between! How cool is that? But I digress.
Writing, for me, is about expression. And creativity can be expressed in many ways. So, when I heard about a young girl who made an incredible astronomical discovery only to be rebuffed by the scientific community, I knew I wanted to explore it further.
MK: How did you decide to write a picture book about Jocelyn Bell Burnell?
JP: Like many people, I hadn’t heard of Dame Jocelyn until relatively recently. I was reading an article about the similarities between science and poetry—how attempts to describe the indescribable, such as the vastness of the universe, link these two seemingly disparate fields—and Bell Burnell’s name was mentioned. It turns out, she’s interested in this connection too, and has edited an anthology called Dark Matter: Poems of Space .
But when I heard of her discovery of pulsars and being snubbed for the Nobel Prize I got upset that her name wasn’t more well known. So, being a writer, I started jotting ideas down….
MK: I didn’t know she’d written poetry! Science and poetry blend beautifully in the opening lines of LISTENING TO THE STARS:
Does the galaxy have a sound?
Is it loud and full of thunderous booms? Soft murmurings, whooshing whispers? Blips and bloops, like laughter and hiccups?
Poetic phrasing closes out the story too, while the storytelling in the middle takes a more narrative approach. How did you decide to structure the book this way?
JP: My first drafts weren’t written this way at all. Initially, I was totally focused on the indignation I felt for my subject when the other scientists laughed at her and suggested she had found Little Green Men (rather than proof of what Einstein had only ever theorized but never proven.) But the more I researched, the more I read about how Bell Burnell was so gracious and forgiving about not winning the Nobel, so that I changed tack.
The lyrical elements of the book are simply my way of coming full circle to what interested me in the first place, the fact that there is a vast cosmic expanse beyond our world that seems so unknowable and yet it draws scientists, philosophers, and poets together to examine it.
MK: The book has great details like Jocelyn deciding, as a teenager, to find a way to study the stars without having to stay up all night! Tell our readers a bit about your research process. How did you find these wonderful nuggets?
JP: I wish I had been able to interview Dame Jocelyn herself, but I did have the next-best thing, an interview she did at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and an oral history interview with the American Institute of Physics, among others.
At first, I got bogged down in trying to stay true to scientific fact (for instance, a neutron star isn’t actually a star, it’s the remnants of a star; and a light year isn’t a year, it’s the equivalent of 5.88×1012 miles). But I had to try to find the right balance between what was astronomically correct, and what a kid would understand and enjoy. The fact that I’m not a scientist actually made writing the book easier, because I just picked out the information that I found fascinating and then tried to use analogies or simpler language to describe it.
MK: The illustrations are wonderful, showing both the era and the mind of a scientist at work. How many notes did you share with the illustrator?
JP: Alexandra Badiu did a fantastic job of translating what could be a difficult subject into mesmerizing images, didn’t she?!
I love writing picture books because although I’m not an artist, I think visually. But rather than give tons of art notes at the start, for nonfiction books I usually give a page of suggested websites to the art team so that the illustrator will have the basic details (sites that show what Ms. Bell Burnell looks like in real life, or to answer the “what the heck is a radio telescope and what does it look like?” questions). Then I stand back and let the illustrator impart her own vision on the book.
MK: Who do you imagine is the kind of reader you’d most like to reach with Jocelyn’s biography?
JP: This is such a tricky question, because although this is a children’s picture book, it also has an element of serious subject matter. I’d like for it to appeal to readers on multiple levels. For some, it is about the history of an interesting person. For others, it can encourage discussions of feminism, sexism, perseverance, and resilience. For still others, it may spark an interest in astronomy or physics.
It’s such a thrill to think that for whatever reason it’s picked up off the library shelf (even if it’s just to look at the pretty pictures) the reader will come away with a new, potentially inspiring, experience. That’s the beauty of reading a wide and diverse variety of stories. And, essentially, my reason for writing them.
MK: I think you’ve succeeded in appealing to readers on multiple levels with LISTENING TO THE STARS. Thanks again for visiting Writers’ Rumpus, Jodie!
JP: You’re very welcome! And thank YOU for allowing me to introduce this book to your readers!