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Eww or Cool?

Sometimes when people hear I write nonfiction for children, they think of school textbooks. Maybe you remember textbooks as full of information, but rather dry and boring. Me, too since that's what they were like when I was a student--and often back when I taught.

Like many nonfiction children's writers of today, my aim is to educate and engage children. My writing can't read like an encyclopedia if children are going to get excited about the topic.

During my research, I look for things that have a "Wow" factor. Facts that make someone say, "Eww" "Cool," or "How sad." Those fun facts engage the reader--or listener during a presentation--and make it a bit more interesting. 

You might think researching or reading about soil would be boring. Not so! When I was reading about how soil scientists compare soil colors, I learned soil can be one of over 400 different colors! And to think we thought soil was brown! 

When I researched Insects as Producers, I was surprised at just how much of our food is colored with carmine. Carmine comes from the carminic acid inside the cochineal scale insect. Carmine (also known as cochineal scale extract) has a cool history, AND it's still relevant today. Now that I look for it, I've found carmine in candy, yogurt, pasta, and even lipstick. When I wrote about it, I let the reader judge for themselves if it was "Eww!" or "Cool!"

I do the same thing during school visits. At a combination insect/nonfiction presentation for first graders, I shared some interesting facts in the Insects Make What?! program. What some children found gross, others just found fascinating!
Finding interesting information about a topic is just the beginning of what brings a book to life for the reader, but it's vital. 


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