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 AAAS Book Talks 

Welcome to AAAS Book Talks

AAAS Book Talks is a podcast featuring the editors of SB&F talking with children's and young adult science book authors and illustrators about what makes a good science book for children, what inspires them to write about science, and what new projects they are working on. 

Sit back, relax, and listen to what some of the finest science book authors have to say about life as a science writer. 

Introducing AAAS Video Book Talks, videos of our SB&F Prize winning authors discussing and reading from their Prize winning books.


Episode 16

Joanna Cole & Bruce Degen, author and illustrator of the Magic School Bus Series.

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About the Author

Joanna Cole discovered in the fifth grade that she enjoyed explaining things and writing reports for school. She had a teacher who was a little like Ms. Frizzle. Her teacher loved her subject. Every week the teacher had a child do an experiment in front of the room, and Joanna always wanted to be that child. Grade school was very important to her — maybe that's why she ended up writing books for children as an adult.

After graduating from college, Joanna worked as an elementary-school teacher, a librarian, a children's book editor, and a writer. Her first book was Cockroaches. An article in the Wall Street Journal inspired her to do some research. She discovered that there had never been a children's book written about cockroaches before. So she thought, why not? Plus, she had ample time to study that creature in her low-budget New York apartment!

Since then Joanna has written both nonfiction and fiction books for children. In her science books, including The Magic School Bus books, she write about ideas, rather than just the facts. She tries to ask a question, such as how do scientists guess what dinosaurs were like? Then she tries to answer the question as she writes the book.

About the Illustrator

When Bruce Degen was a kid, he used to draw all the time. In sixth grade, he had a wonderful teacher who would let him stand in the back of the room and paint all the time. Once he didn't even have to take a spelling test!

Bruce went to a special high school for art, LaGuardia High School — you had to take a test to go there. He went to Cooper Union and got a bachelor's degree in art, and then he went to the Pratt Institute and got a Master of Fine Arts.

Bruce worked in a lot of art fields. He worked in advertising; he painted scenery for the opera; he was a painter and printmaker; he even taught art in high school and college. But he got to a point where he decided there was something missing — and what was missing was humor! When he was a kid, all the work that he did was funny. And he realized that the kind of art he always loved to draw was the kind you find in children's books. So he did something he had never gone to school for — he became an illustrator.

“The nice thing about books is that they go out into the world. When a kid, parent, or teacher tells you how much he or she likes your book, you realize that you've given something that has become part of someone else's life,” remarks Bruce.


Episode 17

Loree Griffin Burns and Ellen Harasimowicz, author and photographer of The Hive Detectives


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About the Author

Loree’s first career was as a research scientist (she holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry), and so it is not surprising that her writing celebrates the natural world and the people who study it. Her first book for young people, Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion, was published by Houghton Mifflin Company in 2007 and received several honors, including a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book award, an ALA Notable Book designation, and an International Reading Association Children’s Book Award. It was also a finalist for the 2008 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize.

To research her second book, The Hive Detectives: Chronicle of a Honey Bee Catatstrophe, Loree and photographer Ellen Harasimowicz immersed themselves in the world of bees and beekeeping, visiting bee schools, local apiaries, university laboratories, and large-scale commercial beekeeping operations.

Loree lives in central Massachusetts with her husband and their three children and regularly visits schools, libraries, and book festivals to share her research, her books, and her passion for discovery.

About the Photographer

Ellen Harasimowicz is a freelance photographer from Massachusetts. Her work has appeared in The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Scientific American, and Audubon Adventures among others. Ellen teamed up with children’s author Loree Griffin Burns to illustrate The Hive Detectives: Chronicle of a Honey Bee Catastrophe published in May 2010 by Houghton Mifflin. The pair has a second book, this one about citizen science, in production with publisher Henry Holt.

Before photography became her passion, Ellen spent 15 years as a graphic designer. She has self-published several books through after recent travels to Uganda, Rwanda, and Kenya. Her most recent self-published book is an eight-year photographic essay titled John Olson: Maine Lobsterman about an 88-year-old lobster fisherman in Cushing, Maine. He is also the nephew of Christina Olson, the subject of the renowned 1948 painting by Andrew Wyeth titled Christina’s World.
Ellen has a B.A. in psychology with a studio art minor from Mount Holyoke College.


Episode 18

Sean Connolly, author of The Book of Potentially Catastrophic Science


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About the Author

Sean Connolly grew up just outside of Boston, where three of his uncles worked as printers. The Connolly household was full of books brought home from one printer or another—reference books, children’s stories, first editions, textbooks for the Philippine school system, “duds” with upside-down covers—so it wasn’t surprising that Sean would be at home with the written word in later life.

With so many museums, colleges, and universities on the doorstep, Sean could pursue all sorts of interests in his free time. It wasn’t long before he found his way into the Educational Studies Program (ESP), which sees MIT students introducing middle- and high-school pupils to science and technology—all in a sense of fun and exploration.

Soon after graduating from Williams College, Sean had a chance meeting with a London publisher, leading to a career as an editor and then writer. The ESP motto, “Teach Anything, Learn Anything,” continues to inspire Sean, who has written more than fifty books, mainly for young readers, on subjects ranging from Botticelli to World War II.

Sean’s most recent books, The Book of Totally Irresponsible Science and The Book of Potentially Catastrophic Science, have enabled him to work with his three children, capturing each other’s curiosity as they uncover the rich world of science.


Previous episodes:

Episode 15
Robert Gardner, long time hands-on science book author and winner of the SB&F Prize Lifetime Achievement Award

Episode 14
Molly Bang, author of Living Sunlight: How Plants Bring the Earth to Life

Episode 13
Pamela S. Turner and Andy Comins, author and photographer of The Frog Scientist 

More episodes...