Each month, we ask one distinguished author or illustrator to write an original post that reveals insights about their process and craft. Enjoy!
“Writing Scientific Fiction”
by Seymour Simon
Photo © Corpus Christi Caller-Times Photographer: Michael Zamora
When I was a kid I was an explorer and a researcher. At the public library I discovered books that opened doors to hidden worlds and strange mysteries. One book led to another, and another, and on it went.
Well, I’m still an explorer and a researcher, and I’m still reading too many books to count. But now, I do what most of us modern kids do; I read print books and ebooks, and my research is multifaceted. In addition to reading, I observe the world around me. I try out stuff (including experiments), and I investigate online.
My newly revised and updated “Einstein Anderson: Science Geek” series (StarWalk Kids Media) is a good example of the kind of work that I’m engaged in. The books are fiction-meets-nonfiction hybrids; Einstein Anderson and his best friend, Paloma Fuentes, use a variety of resources to help them unravel the mysteries they confront. In every story there’s a real-life science experiment or project that readers can do at home or in school so that they, too, can become adept at science. Combining fiction and nonfiction is a great way to hook kids who think the discipline is difficult, as well as the “science geeks” who can’t get enough of it.
Each story in the “Einstein” series presents a science concept or fact in one context—usually something one of the characters sees, or says, or hears—and reintroduces it later, often in a different way, to help solve the mystery. My goal is to help children understand difficult concepts and encourage them to use reasoning to understand how they apply in a real-world setting.
For example, in “The Impossible Shrinking Machine,” one of 10 mysteries in The Howling Dog and Other Cases (StarWalk Kids Media, 2013), the solution hinges on the fact that the sun rises in the East and sets in the West. Here’s what Einstein says in the story:
And the mystery is solved!
Object lesson? Science is both interesting and useful. Even information that may seem as abstract as the Earth’s rotation can help us understand what’s going on in our lives. In the above example, after Einstein solves the mystery, he demonstrates how to make a working sundial — and how to use an analog watch and the sun to locate North.
The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are all about higher-order thinking skills. One of the reasons that students in the United States scored poorly in comparison to children from other countries on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) was not that they lacked science knowledge, but that they were less experienced at applying that knowledge.
I guess I’m still writing for the same children that were my friends when I was young—kids who are curious and like to experiment. And I’m still exploring and researching, and learning along with my readers.
- An original article by Seymour Simon
This material may not be used without the express written consent of Seymour Simon. All images courtesy of Seymour Simon.
More online resources about Seymour Simon:
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