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

My book is out of date. Yay!

Back in 2003 I wrote this book about Pluto as part of a series about the planets. In the last chapter I wrote that the a planned Pluto mission had been cancelled, but “space scientists and supporters of exploration in the outer Solar System” intended to keep trying.

Today, as I look at the amazing photos of Pluto and its moons coming to us from the New Horizons spacecraft after a voyage of more than nine years,Pluto I am beyond happy that they succeeded so beautifully. Bravo, New Horizons and all who helped!

Bringing a great book to young readers

I’m thrilled to report that I’ve signed with Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, to write an adaptation of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species for kids and young adults. I could not be happier about it. It is a dream project for me in many ways.

Years ago I wrote a book called Scientific Explorers. It was the third volume in my Extraordinary Explorers YA trilogy for Oxford University Press, and it contained a chapter on Darwin, one that I was happy to see drew special praise from several reviewers. I went on to write a YA bio, Charles Darwin and the Evolution Revolution, also for Oxford; it remains in print, twenty years later. Since then I’ve written a number of children’s and YA books on subjects related to Darwin’s work and to evolutionary biology, including a four-volume series for high-school-age readers on human evolution. I also recently adapted Jared Diamond’s book on human evolution, The Third Chimpanzee, into a version for young readers. It was published in North America by Seven Stories Press, and it has also been published in a dozen or so other countries.

This new project, adapting Darwin’s own words for kids–while keeping as many of them as possible just as he wrote them, and adding sidebars to bring the science up to date–feels like the next stage in my long history of being involved with Darwin and his world-changing achievement. It also feels like an enormous responsibility. Stay tuned for updates as I strive to meet the challenge.

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