This year I’m continuing my monthly kidlit book reviews. Each month I will spread a little love for some lovely books. Usually, they will come out on the first Thursday of the month, but between holiday craziness and being on deadline, I’m already a little behind. Such is the writing life.
It’s sleeting out here on the prairies today. And as much as I want to pout and stomp my feet because I do. not. like. cold, I think I have to admit defeat. So this month for my Kidlit Karma books reviews, I’m sharing winter picture books with STEM content. Because books make everything better.
Science: Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner and Christopher Silas Neal
I have recommended Over and Under the Snow before, but it’s worth reviewing again. Children love being let in on a secret and here the secret is hiding right under the snow beneath their boots. I love the way this book weaves together a sweet story of a child with STEM facts about animals in winter.
The simple, lyrical text makes this story a good choice for even the youngest preschool scientists, but the beefy backmatter make this a good choice for older child scientists, too. The beautiful photograph illustrations invite reads to observe nature in great detail (without leaving the warmth).
Since last fall I’ve been writing the Little Elephants’ Big Adventures series. The books are about the adventures of brother and sister elephants, Benjamin and Lucy. They’re humorous and fun. They’re also designed to teach math to preschoolers.
The series is the brain-child of a team of early childhood researchers out of Purdue University. They did research on math language in picture books. Preschool children who were read books that used math language improved their math skills. And not just on the skills taught in the books.
That’s astounding. Imagine being able to give kids a leg-up in school just by reading them a book. It’s already something preschool teachers and many parents do. No expensive equipment or fancy degrees required.
Just one problem. There weren’t many books for teaching the concepts. So they got grant funding to create books for preschoolers based on their research findings.
That’s where I come in.
I was asked early on if I would be interested in the project. Boy was I! My degree in Cognitive Psychology and my experience creating curriculum and writing children’s books made me a perfect fit for the project. I was thrilled. It’s a great combo of my professional training with things I’m passionate about: education and children’s literature.
The first three books have been written and are in the process of being illustrated. Every week I get a new peek at my words coming to life in pictures. As a writer that’s just about the most exciting thing imaginable.
The process was a whirlwind. Anyone who has written children’s books knows that the process is excruciatingly slow. Years to write manuscripts. Years to submit. Then, if you’re lucky, you find a publisher and get to wait a couple of more years for production.
Not this project. Starting early last fall I developed character and story concepts with the Purdue team. Then I wrote and delivered three books. Each went through multiple rounds of revision with the Purdue team. We made sure the stories correctly conveyed the math concepts without sacrificing good storytelling. The illustrations for the first book are almost done. The books are being translated to Spanish as we speak. And all of this has happened in less that 6 months.
The full series will be available sometimes in the next couple of years. I couldn’t be more excited or more proud.