Special thanks to Melissa Stewart for answering 5 questions about her recently featured book – Animal Grossapedia
Melissa Stewart has written more than 100 science books for young readers. While gathering information for her books, Melissa has hiked in tropical rain forests, gone on safari in Africa, and swum with sea lions in the Galapagos Islands. She can’t imagine any better job! – From Amazon.com
#1 – What was the impetus for Animal Grossapedia? What was the inspiration for the name!?
While doing research for other books, I started to notice a trend. A surprising number of animals use spit, vomit, poop, pee, blood, or slime (mucus) as part of their survival strategies—to defend themselves from predators, to communicate with one another, to catch prey, etc. I knew kids would be interested in the idea that what we consider gross plays a critical role in other creatures’ lives, so I contacted an editor at Scholastic and proposed a series of six 32-page books—one on each bodily byproduct. The folks at Scholastic thought it would be better to roll all the material into a single 112-page book, and they came up with the final title.
#2 – You focus on the gross in your book. Why do you think this appeals to children so much?
I think kids are curious about everything. And if they discover that the adults around them consider something naughty or nasty, they become even more curious.
#3 – You use this grossness to unpack their scientific underpinnings. Was this difficult? Is there much research into all this gross stuff?
In many ways, this book was reverse engineered. I had been collecting the information for years, delectable tidbit by delectable tidbit, as part of the research for other books. Eventually, I reached a tipping point where I realized there was enough information for a book, and that I could use the gross stuff to reinforce the idea that animals must succeed at key tasks to survive in the world. I think I would have had a very hard time finding the information I needed if I had set out with that as a specific goal.
#4 – When writing for a young audience, what do you have to be mindful of when it comes to science?
Children can often understand more than adults give them credit for. I find that even young children can handle fairly sophisticated scientific concepts if they are properly framed. You have to relate the scientific ideas to a child’s own experiences in the world.
#5 – Are you working on any new projects/books you can tell us about?
Right now I’m working on a book about meteors—shooting stars in the night sky. It is schedule for publication at the end of 2015. My most recently published title is called Feathers: Not Just for Flying. It compares some of the surprising ways birds use their feathers to common objects in our lives. Here are a few examples: “Feathers can warm like a blanket… or cushion like a pillow.” “Feathers can shade out sun like an umbrella… or protect skin like sunscreen.” So far, the book has been getting great reviews and selling well. I am so grateful to illustrator Sarah S. Brannen for the beautiful artwork in the book.
[Image Credit: http://www.amazon.com/Melissa-Stewart/e/B001H6PMRW ]