Posts tagged: Writing

Revealed: Animal Behavior Revealed Book Covers!

I love the covers for my latest series of nonfiction books for kids: Animal Behavior Revealed.

These four books were both fascinating and tons of fun to write. I hope readers will share both the fascination and the fun. It’s amazing how much scientists are learning every day about how and why animals do the things they do.

Animal Behavior Revealed is due to be published in Fall 2012. Look for it online, in bookstores, and at your school or public library.


Good Science, Bad Science

How do we know whether an idea, belief, or statement is scientific? In Good Science, Bad Science, a series I’m writing now, I explore the basics of the scientific method–a powerful tool for exploring and understanding the world, from atoms to galaxies.

The history of science is one of new ideas constantly replacing old ones, as investigators learn ever more about the workings of the world around them. People used to believe that Earth was the center of the universe, with the Sun and all the stars revolving around it. Now we know that Earth is just one of many planets and asteroids that revolve around the Sun, and that the Sun is just one of trillions upon trillions of stars. A key part of good science is being flexible. A scientific thinker is able to change his or her ideas when new evidence comes along.

The four books of Good Science, Bad Science will examine:

*  old ideas about the shape of the earth, and how science changed them

*  Earth’s place in the universe, and how scientists discovered it

*  the relationship between the mysteries of alchemy and modern chemistry, and

*  the differences between astrology and astronomy.

The series is still in the early stages. Writing the books is a fascinating  journey. I can’t wait to see the finished product.

America’s Multicultural History

I’ve been working on a project near and dear to my heart: turning a magnificent history of American immigration into a book for young readers.

The book is called A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America. It was written by Ronald Takaki, who was a leading scholar of immigration history and a professor of  ethnic studies at the University of California at Berkeley. The young people’s adaptation, which I have based very closely on Professor Takaki’s original text, will be called A Different Mirror for Young People.

This writing project has been special for me for two reasons.

First, most textbooks in U.S. history classes spend little time on the great waves of immigration that shaped this country. Textbooks often ignore the relationships among immigrant and ethnic groups, or between immigrants and native-born Americans. Professor Takaki’s book focuses on how different ethnic and racial groups of immigrants cooperated, competed, and were pitted against each other by politicians and employers. It also looks at the experiences that different immigrant groups shared–the ways the groups were similar, and also the ways in which each group was unique.

Second, I not only admired and respected Professor Takaki as a scholar, I cared for him as a friend. I was lucky to get to know Ron and his wife and colleague, Carol, years ago, when I turned another one of his books into a multivolume series on Asian American history for kids. The Takakis’ warmth, generosity, and passion for learning and communicating were inspiring. We remained friends, and I was always delighted to see them when our paths crossed.

Ron died in 2009. His work touched the lives of many students, teachers, and readers. I know it would please him enormously to know that A Different Mirror will soon be available to young readers.

Captions for Stephen King

Today I’m working on captions for my book about Stephen King, the author of Carrie, The Shining, and lots of other terrifying tales.

You might think of King as a horror writer, but he has written other kinds of books and stories as well. He’s written about baseball, about growing up, and about his own life as a writer.

My book Stephen King tells the story of his amazing life and career. I also analyze two of King’s novels and two of his short stories in detail.

Making a book doesn’t happen overnight. I finished writing Stephen King several months ago. Since that time, the publisher has been getting the book ready to be printed. Writing captions is one of my last tasks as the book’s author. I have to look at all the pictures that will illustrate the book, then write a caption for each one, explaining what the picture represents. Beneath a picture of King as a little boy, for example, my caption will say how old he was when the picture was taken.

Choosing pictures for Stephen King was not easy. Thousands of great photographs document his career as a writer. Some of the most fun photos are posters and scenes from the many movies that have been based on his work. My book couldn’t include them all, but I’m happy with the final choices.

Next step: The book goes off to be printed. I can’t wait for this one to come off the printing press!

Howard Zinn, goodbye and thank you

This morning when I checked my email, two messages caught my eye at once. A friend had sent me an email headed “Howard Zinn died!” And Zinn’s agent had forwarded me a link to this article in the New York Times.

Howard Zinn was a historian who wrote about American history. He was also an activist who marched in demonstrations and spoke up for causes he believed in. I’m proud and honored to have worked with him on one of his projects.

A few years ago, Zinn wanted to create a version of his best-known book, A People’s History of the United States, for young people to read. He was busy with new writing projects, though, and he didn’t have experience writing for kids.

Zinn’s agent suggested that I might be able and willing to adapt the book for young adults. I admire Zinn’s book a lot, so I was happy to accept. With Zinn’s book as my starting-point, I cut out some material to make the text shorter–this was the hardest part of my job! Then I added some explanations and definitions to make things clearer to younger readers. Howard Zinn read all of my changes, answered my questions, and supported me every step of the way.

The result was A Young People’s History of the United States, published in one- and two-volume, hardcover and paperback formats by 7 Stories Press. Like Zinn’s original book, A Young People’s History tells the story of American history from the “other side”–not in the words and deeds of explorers and generals and presidents, but in the voices and experiences of Native Americans, women, indentured workers, laborers, and activists.

Zinn believed that only by accepting all of our history, the shameful parts as well as the successes, can we know who we are as a nation. He also believed in the boundless power of ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things, and to bring about change. Through working with him, I shared both his outrage at injustice and his hope that people will build a better world.

His death is a sad loss to the world, but I am full of admiration for his life.

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