Kids + Science: Seth Fishman Makes It Fun

Seira Wilson on March 28, 2019
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PowerUp_200.jpgSeth Fishman has a knack for writing children's books that are both entertaining and filled with scientific knowledge.  His first picture book, A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars, is an award winner that got kids excited about the stars, numbers, and good old planet Earth. His latest, Power Up, is a fun and fascinating look at energy and the body. Once again, Fishman uses his signature style to show kids just how cool science can be.

As a parent, I love the way both books connect the dots between the things kids do everyday--whether it's smiling, running, or reading a book--and the science behind it. And Fishman makes it truly interesting for the young reader (and for me as well, which is an added bonus). Isabel Greenberg does the illustrations in both A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars and Power Up, and she really did a fantastic job of creating bold, playful, images that add plenty of visual exploration to the reading experience.

I asked Fishman if he would share the secret behind his style--how does he make picture books about science so enjoyable?  Here's what he has to say on the topic of kids, science, and awesomeness:


I love to ask kids, when I visit their school, what they like to do for fun.  Soccer, drawing and... Fortnite are the big three, at the moment. This gives me something to work with when I sign their books, a way to personalize and connect.  But, at the heart of it all, I ask what kids like to do for fun so I can take their answers and show how everything they love to do is connected to science.

Science is far from boring, but kids often don't understand that. They know that dinosaurs rule, snakes bite, volcanoes erupt, and red, when mixed with blue, makes purple. But they don't know that science is how you FIND OUT ABOUT EVERYTHING AWESOME IN THE WORLD.

When I wrote POWER UP and A HUNDRED BILLION TRILLION STARS the goal was to explain amazing things in a way that is both understandable and relatable.  I wanted to write books that empower a kid to feel important in a universe of marvelous things. But it's tricky. Numbers and concepts that are too big will send kids straight to books with flying dragons and dancing unicorns (not that those are bad things). When trying to strike the correct balance of INCREDIBLE and BORING SCIENCE, I find it helpful to imagine that I'm teaching both kids and their parents/teachers/librarians, because the reader of any book needs to be able to portray the information in an informed way, thus connecting the kid to the amazingness.  It's the same reason why parents read books with funny voices, except almost no one can grasp what 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 really means, much less make a quick guess on how to say the number (A Hundred Billion Trillion).  Very few adults can properly explain E=mc^2 or gravity.  But, if you bring these big concepts close to home, kids can walk away from science with a big wow factor.

In both of my books, we have a loose narrative arc, moving across concepts instead of a plot. But in both, I try to reach out of the book into the normal daily routine of any kid and make them look at it in a new way.  Your pinkie? It (technically) has the power to light up a major American city. That shark you're so fascinated by at the aquarium, it has (about) 300 teeth, and you (usually) have 20, and your parents (most probably) have 32! That brain in your head? It's your true superpower.

Awesome is an overused word, but when it comes to the world around you, and understanding where you fit in that world, there's a lot to find awesome.  I wanted to write a book that leaves kids minds boggled but excited. The world's full of possibilities, of numbers and energies and the very stuff that makes things tick, and as you grow up, you get a chance to experience it all.  That, in my mind, is truly awesome.

--Seth Fishman

*Power Up is an editors' pick for the Best Nonfiction Children's Books of March


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