April News & Books

Yes, I know by the time you see this, it will be May! I am hard at work on a whole stack of new projects. I am so excited about these books and looking forward to being able to share more about them in a few months.


  • A Map into the World, by Kao Kalia Yang won the Minnesota Book Award. The publisher, Carolrhoda Books, is an imprint of Lerner Publishing, the publisher of several of my titles. I am so excited for everyone involved in creating this beautiful book. You can watch a video of the author reading her book here. I hope you will enjoy it and share it with your family and friends.
  • One of the scientists I worked with on Into the Deep had a paper release this month. It describes newly-observed feeding behavior of blue whales. Click here and scroll to the end for a fantastic video of this behavior (read the article too!).


Despite libraries across the country being closed, we managed to explore some fun titles this month. You may have seen some of these reviews on my social media, but just in case you missed any, I’ve reposted them below.

Adult Nonfiction Read-Along

  • Nature Obscura, by Kelly Brenner (Mountaineers Books, 2020)

The simplest review I can give—this book is a gift. In the midst of a world crisis that at its worst is stripping folks of life, health, livelihood, and home, and at best is challenging our ability to maintain our most basic self-care routines, this book reminds us that wonder is to be found everywhere. It reminds us that even confined to our smallest range, we are part of nature, not separate from it. And it provides a lens to see the magic of the everyday nature that surrounds us.

On a personal level, Nature Obscura has brought me back to my roots. My career as a nonfiction writer began with a backyard wildlife blog around 11 years ago. As I got busier, I had less time to enjoy the life forms closest to me. Reading Kelly’s beautiful, eminently readable text has inspired me to drag out my microscope, create tiny, indoor moss gardens, and place my binoculars conveniently close to the back door.

Nature Obscura is what we all need right now—a chance to find joy in a frightening time—a chance to reclaim our rightful place as a denizen of our wild communities, rather than an outside observer—a chance to belong.

Tuesday Book Breaks (Kids’ Nonfiction)

  • Into the Deep: An Exploration of Our Oceans, by Annika Siems and Wolfgang Dreyer (Prestel Verlag, 2019). I smiled when I picked up this book from the new book shelf at my local library a few weeks back. As an author, you’d like to believe that every aspect of your work is one-of-a-kind, but I don’t mind sharing titles with the book. There is no other word to describe it other than “stunning.” Siems artwork is breathtaking. The text, although complex for younger kids, can be understood in context. I would argue that this is as much a picture book for adults as for children—it really is amazing. It would be great to curl up with this book as a family; there is something in here for everyone.
  • Growing Wild, by Constance Perenyi (Beyond Words Publishing, Inc. 1991), is a lovely picture book introduction to gardening for wildlife. It’s gentle text and cut-paper illustrations celebrate how backyard habitats make a positive difference. It may just inspire you and your family to welcome a few dandelions into your space and to plant a few extra flowers for the birds and bees.
  • The One Small Square series from Donald M. Silver and Patricia J. Wynne looks at habitats close-up. This particular title, One Small Square: Backyard, is a timely look at the nature closest to us. The text discusses adaptations and life cycles of common backyard creatures. There are activities and experiments that mostly use everyday household supplies. It’s a mini ecology course packed in to one slim volume. Published in 1993, it appears to still be available new, but you can also snag a copy from your favorite used book dealer.

Follow me on social media (links on top left) for book recommendations and science news throughout the month. I wish you all peace and safety as we embark on May’s adventures.

March News & Books

I often get to the end of a month and say “whew, this month seemed like it took forever,” but I’ve never felt that as much as I do now. Earth Day and the Environmental Movement: Standing Up for Earth launched March 3, AKA one thousand years ago. I will be giving away a copy on the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, April 22. Look for more details here or join me on Instagram or Twitter (see links on page—above, right).


Of course, my science news feed has been filled with news of the Microbe That Shall Not Be Named. But this obscured the BEST NEWS. Turduckens are real!

The March 20 issue of Science reported that paleontologists have found a brand new bird. It lived just shy of 67 million years ago and shares characteristics with modern ducks and with chickens and turkeys. Apparently the bones at the back of its head look more like a duck, but the face and beak look like a chicken. Scientists think it was about the size of a seagull. According to Science, the bird has been named Asteriornis maastrichtensis after Asteria, “the Greek goddess of falling stars who turns herself into a quail. (I am officially naming a chicken after her in honor of this find—as soon as I get chickens!) You can read more about this super-cool find on the Smithsonian website.


Below you’ll find details of books I highlighted on social media this month. If you’re interested, please consider purchasing them through your local, independent bookseller.

Adult Nonfiction Read-Along

  • Eating the Sun: Small Musings on a Vast Universe, by Ella Frances Sanders–A lovely book of essays on every topic under the sun. A little slight on details at times, but really beautiful writing and just the right length for a family read-aloud.

Tuesday Book Breaks

  • Dreams from Many Rivers: A Hispanic History of the United States Told in Poems, by Margarita Engle, art by Beatriz Gutierrez Hernandez–This beautiful and thought-provoking book brings home the often overlooked fact that Hispanic history IS American history. Its mix of Spanish, Indigenous, and African cultures have helped shape this country since before it was a country. Engle’s poems capture the lovely and the unlovely bits and remind us of many things we should have known, but didn’t. Gutierrez Hernandez’s illustrations are part folk art, part dream world. It would be a fantastic classroom read-aloud as part of a history curriculum. Highly recommended.
  • Red Rover, by Richard Ho, Illustrated by Katherine Roy–Red Rover follows Curiosity as it explores Mars. The perfectly balanced text is an example of how a picture book can pack in plenty of emotion and information in few words. And of course, I’m in love with Katherine Roy’s stunning illustrations. Recommended for all ages, but especially for Mars lovers. Also recommended as a mentor text for aspiring picture book writers.
  • You Can Count on Monsters, by Richard Evan Schwartz and Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words, by Randall Munroe–Many of you find yourselves temporarily homeschooling. As a veteran homeschooler, I have some idea of how daunting it feels. Books are a great way to have a little fun together and see concepts in new ways. These two titles are perfect for that.
  • You Can Count on Monsters breaks down multiplication, factors, primes, etc. visually. There are a few pages of explanation in the front—the rest of the book is filled with colorful monsters. Super cool math fun that’s helpful for all ages.
  • Thing Explainer, by Randall Munroe, explains concepts from all scientific disciplines using only the first thousand most commonly-used words in the English language. This super-simplified approach is both hilarious and brilliant. You will learn something, and so will your kids.

Here’s looking at you, April. The current situation isn’t going to magically solve itself in the next few weeks, but through our diligence as we follow safety protocols and care for our community, we will get through this. My next book launches April 7, so more about that soon. Until then, I wish you peace and safety.