Category: Writing

Charles Darwin for younger readers

Just half a year from now, Simon & Schuster will publish my young readers edition of the most important scientific book ever written, a book that became a key foundation piece of modern biology, as well as a landmark in our understanding of the world in which we live.

I was twenty-three, studying English in graduate school, when I first read  Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. In the years that followed, as my nonfiction writing career took me deeper into writing science books for kids, I reread On the Origin of Species several times, alongside many more recent works on natural history and evolutionary biology. So once I’d published YA adaptations of books by Howard Zinn, Jared Diamond, and others, it was perhaps inevitable that I’d think, “What about Darwin?” And here we are.

Bonus: The Young Readers Edition is not just for kids. It’s for anyone who’d like to read a shortened, streamlined, illustrated version of On the Origin of Species.

Fun books for young writers

Is grammar a dirty word to you? It shouldn’t be. It may sometimes seem hard to grasp, but it can be easier than you think. It can even be . . . fun.

I thoroughly enjoyed writing these two books. They are part of a series called Why Do We Say That?, and they are written for kids who want to step up their writing skills–or just find answers to some puzzling questions about the English language and how we use it.

Me, Myself, and I answers questions such as “How do I know when to say I instead of me?” and “Is it okay to start a sentence with ‘But’?”

How Is a Simile Similar to a Metaphor? zooms in on figures of speech, powerful ingredients that can spice up your writing–or go horribly wrong if you  lose control of them.

Both books, and the rest of the series, will be available in August from Capstone.



Choosing Space

Have you ever read a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book? One where you have to decide what your character will do in various situations, with many different possible endings to the story?

I haven’t written a book for the CYOA brand, but I DID write a book with lots of choices and endings built into it. It’s called Space Race, and it’s part of a history series called You Choose, in which readers have to guide their characters through events that really happened.

Space Race tells the stories of three characters I invented–an American engineer, an American woman pilot, and a Russian cosmonaut–at the dawn of space exploration, when two superpowers were racing to be the first in space, first in Earth orbit, and first on the Moon. Each of these characters dreams of exploring the new frontier of outer space, and each faces challenges and life-changing decisions.

The events of Space Race really happened. Only my characters are fictional. It was a blast to research the early years of space exploration and find ways to place my invented characters inside that thrilling world–and also to make the giant diagram I needed to keep the many decisions and endings sorted out! If you read Space Race, let me know what you think.

Studying Darwin and Darwin’s Study


Study at Down House


I’m working on a young people’s version of Charles Darwin’s book On the Origin of Species. I feel a great sense of responsibility. The Origin introduced the world to Darwin’s insights about how species of plants and animals evolve and change over time, giving rise to new species. Since Darwin’s time, scientists have learned much, much more about evolution, species, and biology in general. Still, the Origin is one of the most important and influential books ever written. I am striving to offer the best possible adaptation of it to readers both young and old.

I’m also thinking about treating myself to something special when the book is finished. I’d love to visit Down House, the home in England where Darwin lived with his family for forty years. Although Darwin had begun to develop his ideas about evolution before he moved to Down House, it was in this study that he wrote the Origin and his later works. I’d love to enter this room and try for a moment to see the world as he saw it.

My YA adaptation of 1493 is out

Mann_1493forYoungPeople_RGB_150dpi_largeIn recent years I’ve adapted some fascinating and important books into versions for young readers. I’ve had the privilege of working on two books by Charles C. Mann, whose articles and best-selling books on science and history have given us new ways to look at the events of hundreds of years ago. Seven Stories Press has just released my YA adaptation of his book 1493, which explores what happened to crops, climate, the environment, and people after the first worldwide network of trade and travel got started in the sixteenth century. From Chinese pirates to South American freedom fighters to the man who convinced the king and queen of France to wear potato flowers, Mann’s book is filled with the stories of individuals who shaped and were shaped by history

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