Science Book a Day Interviews Elizabeth Rusch


Special thanks to Elizabeth Rusch for answering 5 questions about her recently featured book – Eruption!: Volcanoes and the Science of Saving Lives

Elizabeth Rusch is an award-winning children’s book author and magazine writer. She writes both fiction and nonfiction in the areas of science, art, sports, waves, jokes, crayons, and mud — anything that catches her fancy. – From Elizabeth’s Homepage

Elizabeth’s Homepage:
Elizabeth’s Twitter:

#1 – What was the impetus for Eruption!?

When I was working on my first volcano book, Will It Blow?, everyone kept recommending that I interview a geologist named John Pallister. But he was really hard to reach. When I finally met for the interview, he apologized saying something like: I’m out of the country a lot because I run this program called the Volcano Disaster Assistance Program. What’s that? I asked. He told me about how he and small group of volcanologists work at volcanoes around the world trying to help predict eruptions so that people can be evacuated. I thought that would make a great book. When I started doing research on the group, I learned that this small team of scientists has saved tens of thousands of peoples live – yet they are not really in the news so not many people know about them.

#2 – In your book you follows members of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Volcano Disaster Assistance Program. What was following them like? How did you manage to get to follow them around?

Well, because I had worked with John Pallister on my first book, he already knew me and liked my work. I think that helped get permission from the group to tag along as they trained volcanologists from around the world at Mount St. Helens and then to fly tin Indonesia to Mount Merapi with a team after that volcano erupted in 2010. Both experiences were amazing. I loved seeing inside the volcanologist’s labs, where they design monitoring equipment that will survive in harsh conditions, and following them as they showed volcanologists from other countries what they have learned about predicting eruptions from their work on Mount St. Helens. The most amazing experience was flying into Yogyakarta to meet the VDAP and a team of Indonesian volcanologist to study the aftermath of the 2010 eruption, when more than 300,000 people were evacuated. We drove from place to place in a van and I got to see that volcano through the eyes of scientists who know it best.  The Indonesians were so friendly and knowledgeable and the scientists clearly all respected and liked each other, which make the whole trip such a joy.

#3 – How did you incorporate Tom’s photos and your writing together? Did the text come first? Or the photos? (Note: Tom Uhlman was photographer on Eruption!)

They both happened at the same time. I interviewed people at Mount St. Helens and in Indonesia as Tom shot photos. (Sometimes I might request a certain photo be taken. For instance, when people who had been evacuated from villages on Mount Merapi told me that a big challenge was leaving their animals, I asked Tom to see if he could get some photos of people with their farm animals.) After I wrote the manuscript, Tom sent me his favorite photos and I placed them in the story. We still needed a bunch of photos of Nevado del Ruiz in Colombia and Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines, so we both did some research and then I went through what we found and picked and placed the photos.

#4 – Have you received feedback from children about your book?

Yes, during school visits kids have told me that they found it scary and exciting. A number have told me they want to be volcanologists, which I think is great.

#5 – Are you working on any new projects/books you can tell us about?

My newest Scientists in the Field book just came out. It’s called The Next Wave: The Quest to Harness the Power of the Oceans. It tells the story of a number of inventors who are working to develop a really promising new renewable energy source – wave energy.

I have two nonfiction books scheduled for publication in 2016. Mario and the Hole in the Sky, to be published by Charlesbridge, tells the story of Mario Molina, the Mexican-American chemist who helped save our planet from an environmental disaster. Most kids know about global warming, but they don’t know that human activities have endangered our planet before, when chemical compounds called CFC were destroying our protective ozone layer. Dr. Molina discovered the problem and an international agreement with almost every country in the world corrected it. It’s a real story of hope for our world.

The second is called The Music of Life: Bartolomeo Cristofori and the Invention of the Piano. To be published by Atheneum, the book reconstructs from primary sources the story of this instrument maker in Renaissance, Italy, creating a keyboard instrument that can be played both loudly and softly.

I have also started work on a book on asteroids…

[Image Credit: Author’s Twitter Account ]


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