Andrea Beaty’s picture books are right up my alley! They are not only fun and clever, but they celebrate passion and perseverance in children. With two books on the New York Times Best Sellers List, it's no secret that people think her books are out of this world. And in fact one literally is--ROSIE REVERE, ENGINEER is currently orbiting Earth aboard the International Space Station as part of the Story Time From Space program, storytimefromspace.com. How cool is that?!
And now Andrea and illustrator David Roberts have launched another winner. ADA TWIST, SCIENTIST shows the power of curiosity as our young protagonist Ada sets out to use science to understand her world by asking important questions like, "Why are their pointy things stuck to a rose?" and "Why are there hairs up inside of your nose?" And boy does little Ada create a lot of fun and chaos in her wake!
Andrea's books reflect her own beliefs about determination and overcoming obstacles. She believes kids must follow their passions, and "[t]he only true failure can come if you quit." I was curious to learn how her own experiences informed these beliefs. Thank you, Andrea, for indulging my curiosity!
Tell me about a time in your childhood when you challenged yourself to step outside your comfort zone? How did you overcome your fear or discomfort?
The example of overcoming discomfort/fear that sticks in my mind is actually a time when I did NOT overcome it. When I was in high school, I studied French and Spanish and was very active in the foreign language club. We got to go to a regional conference and meet other kids studying languages. As part of the event, clubs put on skits for the other attendees. We came up with a skit and practiced, but when we got to the conference, we chickened out and didn’t perform it. I regret that. I think it would have been a great chance to have fun, build some confidence in performing in front of people, and challenge ourselves.
If I could go back and give my young self one piece of advice, I would tell myself to be bold. For most things, the downside of challenging yourself is so small compared to the upside. Now, I try to ask myself what will happen if I don’t succeed at something. Will I die? Highly unlikely. Will I be disappointed? So what? I’ll get over it! AND, I’ll learn from it and grow from the experience. I can certainly live with that!
I often write “Be Bold!” in books that I sign for kids. I hope they will follow that advice.
Did anything from your own experiences inspire you to write ROSIE, IGGY, and ADA? Who do you most relate to and why?
I wrote IGGY because my son loved to build when he was a kid. I wrote ROSIE because I loved the girl who hid behind her bangs. I wrote ADA because she stands to the side, tapping her chin while the other kids are helping with IGGY’s bridge. She’s full of questions. I think I mostly relate to Ada for that reason. While I have very few answers, I’m full of questions.
How do you approach goal-setting?
I am more opportunity driven than goal oriented. I like to explore new things and get excited when something comes along that I haven’t tried before. It leads to great adventures, but sometimes is a little chaotic.
How do you manage obstacles and failure? Do you ever shy away from things that are hard?
I always shy away from things that are hard. That’s part of being a life form. But, I manage to barrel through. It’s something I’ve gotten better about as I have gotten older. The best art really comes from those prickly, uncomfortable places you reach when you step out of your comfort zone.
Do you have any favorite STEM-related children’s books that you recommend for young readers?
This is really a golden time for picture books in general, but especially in the literary non-fiction (especially biography) and STEM-ish books. These books are just great stories for all kids and are marvelously illustrated. Many great titles deal directly with STEM, but there are lots which inspire kids to embrace their creativity and their passions. That’s really the most important thing.
Here are some of my favorite titles which do that:
- Everything by Peter Reynolds. And by “everything,” I mean everything that he writes. He truly understands how crucial creativity is for life and that comes through in all his work.
- THE MOST MAGNIFICENT THING by Ashley Spires
- WHAT DO YOU DO WITH AN IDEA? by Kobi Yamada, Illustrated by Mae Besom
- BEAUTIFUL OOPS! by Barney Saltzberg
- ADA’S IDEAS: The Story of Ada Lovelace, the World's First Computer Programmer by Fiona Robinson
- THE BOY WHO LOVED MATH: the Improbable Life of Paul Erdos by Deborah Heiligman, Illustrated by LeUyen Pham
- ON A BEAM OF LIGHT: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne, Illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky
- INFINITY AND ME by Kate Hosford, Illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska
What you are working on now and what’s next?
I am currently working on a set of fantastic project books to go along with these picture books.
ROSIE REVERE’S BIG PROJECT BOOK FOR BOLD ENGINEERS comes out in April 2017! It’s full of engineering-based activities from brainstorming solutions to big, real-world problems to hands-on projects. To some straight-up silliness. It’s funny and awesome! It gives kids who have been inspired by ROSIE a chance to take action. IGGY PECK’s project book will be out in Fall 2017.
Check out Andrea's other books, including Fluffy Bunnies 2: The Schnoz of Doom and Cicada Summer on Indiebound.org