Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine our Friday Spotlight on Ruth Spiro, the author of Baby Loves Science series of board books—which we are also spotlighting as part of our Holiday Gift-Giving blogs.
The Baby Loves Science series are a great way to start developing children’s interests in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) at a level they can understand, but with accuracy that satisfies the experts. With beautiful illustrations, the books break down complex ideas into the tiniest building blocks for our youngest learners.
Thank you so much for joining us Ruth! Can you please tell us briefly a little about yourself and your writing? How would you like us to introduce you?
I’m the author of the Baby Loves Science series of board books, and until recently I was also working as a freelance magazine writer.
I live in suburban Chicago with my husband and our cockapoo, Lily. Our two daughters are both in college now, so we’re getting used to this “empty nest” thing.
Like many others who write for children, my interest began when my girls were young and I found myself reading piles of picture books with them. One day I happened to be flipping through a catalog from a local community college and noticed a class in writing for children, so on a whim I decided to try it out. The rest, as they say, is history.
What was the inspiration for Baby Loves Science? What were the steps you took to bring it from initial inspiration to the finished books?
Back in 2010, The New York Times ran the article “Picture Books No Longer a Staple for Children” (www.nytimes.com/2010/10/08/us/08picture.html). It attributed a drop in overall picture book sales to the misguided choice some parents were making to bypass picture books for their very young children in favor of more “sophisticated” reading material. I was discussing the article with friends and wondered aloud, “What do these parents want, quantum physics for babies?” The more I thought about it, I realized this was an idea with potential.
But while it seemed like a good idea, I knew that my books would need to be accurate and age-appropriate if they were going to have value. I decided that the best way to make the concepts less abstract would be to relate each topic to a familiar real-world experience or observation. I spent several months researching the science, in search of the best “story” for each book. Then, once I had a thick folder full of research and notes I began researching child development to learn more about my intended audience. I’d previously written picture books, but I envisioned these as board books for babies and toddlers. So, I read scholarly articles about the acquisition of language and early literacy, as well as many, many of board books.
My goal with these books isn’t to “teach” babies about complex concepts. We know that through simple activities such as watching a bird fly or dropping crackers just to watch them fall, babies are gathering information about the way the world works. By creating a connection between these familiar experiences and the science behind them, I hope to help parents and caregivers turn everyday moments into fun learning opportunities for their little ones.
What piece of advice would you want to share with other writers?
If you’re new to writing, I highly recommend signing up for an introductory class, as I did. It’s essential that aspiring authors learn about the basics of how the business works, in addition to reading hundreds of books in their chosen genre. Yes, hundreds!
If a class isn’t possible, pick up a copy of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Books for Children,” edited by Harold Underdown. I always hesitate recommending this book because I don’t want to imply that anyone is a “Complete Idiot,” but that’s the title of the series and the book contains just about everything one needs to know about the writing and publishing process.
Join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and find a local network. Meeting others in the field is a great way to exchange ideas and advice.
Finally, take advantage of every opportunity to attend talks by visiting authors at bookstores or libraries. Not only children’s book authors, but novelists, poets, and even journalists all have something to offer. I’ve taken away valuable advice from listening to screenwriters, travel writers and memoirists – because writing is writing is writing. Listen to how others approach their craft, take notes, and think about how you can apply their advice to your own work.
What has been your favorite adventure during your writing career?
Because I’ve always been a fan of Jane Yolen’s work, it still feels surreal to recall that I spent a long weekend at her home while attending her inaugural Picture Book Boot Camp. It was three days of pure magic, as she shared insights about the writing and publication process and gave me personal feedback on some of my work. One of the highlights of my weekend was a late night excursion into the woods in search of owls with Jane’s daughter Heidi Stemple. Heidi is also an author, as well as the small child in the red coat pictured in Owl Moon!
What else can we expect from you in the near future?
I’m happy to report that thanks to their popularity, the Baby Loves Science family is growing! Readers can expect to see four new titles in 2018, two in the spring and two in the fall. We’ll be sharing those upcoming titles very soon.
I also have another picture book series, Made by Maxine, coming out with Dial in 2018. Inspired by her trusty companion and muse, a pet goldfish, Maxine is determined to make the world a better place, one crazy contraption at a time.
Where can people find your work? (Besides ABSW ;)–though they should totally check here first!)
The Baby Loves Science books are available anywhere books are sold, but whenever possible my personal preference is to support independent booksellers and shop local!
How can we follow your work, share your awesomeness, or otherwise stalk you in a totally non-creepy way?
Thank you so much for being our Spotlight this week, Ruth! And for our customers, if you’ve got friends and families with babies or babies on the way, check out the Baby Loves Science series at our store!