This year I’m banding with a cool group of authors at SteamTeam Books to talk about and share our STEAM titles for kids releasing this year. As an animal lover who’s also worried about what we can do about climate change, I was super excited to discover Dr. Alison Pearce Stevens’ book ANIMAL CLIMATE HEROES (Godwin Books, March 2024, illustrated by Jason Ford). I caught up with Alison to learn more:
Me: I love how your book tackles environmental awareness by highlighting the role animals play in their own ecosystems. It’s a fresh and fun take on an important subject, which also includes helpful tips for kids. What inspired you to write this book?
Alison: During the COVID shutdown I attended a lot of webinars, and during one, the speaker, an editor at Scholastic, was talking about finding ideas. She mentioned that she loves National Geographic Kids magazine and that she’d found her favorite fact there: Sea otters help fight climate change. That was all it took to make me decide to write a book about animals fighting climate change.
Me: How did you do your research? Were there any big surprises?
Alison: My research always involves lots of reading. I write about science, so I read a lot of scientific papers before deciding which ones fit best into the project I’m working on. Then I reach out to the authors and do interviews. I get out in the field for research when I can, but I wasn’t able to do that for this book, since everyone was stuck at home. The good news: everyone was stuck at home, including scientists who would normally be out in the field doing research, so it was easy to talk with them.
Me: Okay, “Poo-nados”. What an image! But is it the accurate scientific term? Where did you get it?
Alison: Haha! No. I think the official term is “whale excreta,” which doesn’t have the same ring. I’ve also seen “fecal plumes” which is a bit more interesting but still doesn’t have the superhero punch I needed for the book. I didn’t come up with poo-nado, though. It’s one of a couple of terms invented by the media to describe these huge clouds of whale poop. It may have come from this BBC video recounting a sperm whale fanning its waste around a photographer in what appeared to be an evasive maneuver similar to a squid squirting ink.
Me: How did you get into writing for kids?
Alison: Once upon a time, I was a biologist and college professor. When my husband got a job as a research scientist in Germany, we moved with our young son to Berlin, and that was the end of my academic career (which was fine, I didn’t love the job I left).
We had a second child in Berlin and I read to my kids a lot. After a while I realized that I not only knew a lot of interesting things about animals, I knew a lot of fascinating people who studied equally fascinating animals. I started writing for magazines, setting my sights on Highlights. I submitted maybe six nonfiction articles before they acquired my first one. That was back in 2011. I still write the occasional story for them; “Polar Opposites?” came out in the January 2024 issue.
My career expanded from there. I started writing for Science News Explores in 2012 (and still do), along with other children’s magazines. I also do web content for Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and write text for museum exhibits. One of my editors at Science News Explores was editing a book for National Geographic Kids Books and needed a writer. She asked if I’d be interested in working on it. I said yes, of course! That led to four books with NGK and the start of my career as an author of children’s books.
Me: Can you share what you’re working on next?
Alison: I can tell you about the books I have coming out over the next two years. Two are part of Holiday House’s Books for a Better Earth collection. Detective Dogs are on the Case (out in September) showcases conservation dogs working to protect our ecosystems from invasive species. The Wild Mile (2025) features efforts to bring nature back to the heart of Chicago by installing floating islands along the river’s steel-reinforced banks. The islands provide habitat for animals and places for people to access the water. And in 2026, When Beavers Move In, illustrated by Métis illustrator Natasha Donovan, will introduce readers to the extraordinary work being done by the Tulalip Tribes as they reintroduce beavers to the Cascade Mountains to heal their ancestral lands.
Thanks so much for having me!
Me: Thank you! Wishing your book much success! To learn more, visit Alison Pearce Stevens – Adventures in nature and science