My YA adaptation of Bruce Watson’s riveting book Freedom Summer came out this month, published by Seven Stories Press. It was a tremendous honor to be chosen to adapt this powerful story for young readers. I’m especially happy that the book includes the voices of many of the young people who went to Mississippi for that murderous, momentous summer and of the Black activists who taught, fought, died, and inspired.
In February 2021 Simon & Schuster will publish How to Change Everything, in which I adapted the climate and social justice writings of Naomi Klein into a volume for young people. Drawing on her experiences in settings as diverse as the Great Barrier Reef and the pipeline protest at Standing Rock, as well as on her years of reporting on topics such as disaster capitalism and climate change, How to Change Everything highlights the important work of young activists around the world and offers inspiration and tools for others–young or old–who want to change the world for the better.
Lies My Teacher Told Me is a terrific book–informative, engaging and sometimes enraging, and frequently entertaining. In it, sociologist James W. Loewen takes a clear-eyed look at American history and a critical look at the way most textbooks teach it. I’m very happy to say that my next book will be a YA adaptation of Lies, to be published next year by The New Press. It was just the project I needed at this time of polarized viewpoints, truthiness, and “fake news”: a level-headed history of our country that gives young people tools that will help them become informed citizens. I can’t wait until the YA version of Lies My Teacher Told Me hits the streets.
Just half a year from now, Simon & Schuster will publish my young readers edition of the most important scientific book ever written.
I was twenty-three, an earnest grad student in English, when I first read Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. In the years that followed, as my nonfiction writing career took me deeper into writing science books for kids, I reread the Origin several times, alongside many more recent works on natural history and evolutionary biology. So once I’d published YA adaptations of books by Howard Zinn, Jared Diamond, and others, it was perhaps inevitable that I’d think, “What about Darwin?” And here we are.
A reviewer once called me “the redoubtable Stefoff.” I hope it was redoubtable, not rash, of me to interpret Darwin’s thoughts and words for today’s young readers. (Bonus: Not just for kids. It’s for anyone who’d like to read a shortened, streamlined, illustrated version of the Origin.)
I’m thrilled to report that I’ve signed with Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, to write an adaptation of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species for kids and young adults. I could not be happier about it. It is a dream project for me in many ways.
Years ago I wrote a book called Scientific Explorers. It was the third volume in my Extraordinary Explorers YA trilogy for Oxford University Press, and it contained a chapter on Darwin, one that I was happy to see drew special praise from several reviewers. I went on to write a YA bio, Charles Darwin and the Evolution Revolution, also for Oxford; it remains in print, twenty years later. Since then I’ve written a number of children’s and YA books on subjects related to Darwin’s work and to evolutionary biology, including a four-volume series for high-school-age readers on human evolution. I also recently adapted Jared Diamond’s book on human evolution, The Third Chimpanzee, into a version for young readers. It was published in North America by Seven Stories Press and has been picked up by a dozen or so foreign publishers as well.
This new project, adapting Darwin’s own words for kids–while keeping as many of them as possible just as he wrote them, and adding sidebars to bring the science up to date–feels like the culmination of a long history of engaging with Darwin and his world-changing achievement. It also feels like an enormous responsibility. Stay tuned for updates as I strive to meet the challenge.
You may have heard me grumble from time to time about “the tyranny of facts.” That’s because most of the books I’ve published have been nonfiction, often stuffed to the Plimsoll line with facts. (The Plimsoll line is the reference mark on a ship’s side that indicates the waterline at maximum allowable load. Thank Samuel Plimsoll, who pushed a law mandating such marks through Parliament in 1876. Fact.) Novelists, too, use facts to buttress their fictional constructions. Whether traditionally or independently published, every writer is sometimes responsible for researching and checking facts.
I’ll share what I’ve learned from several decades of fact-wrangling in a presentation on “Being Your Own Fact-Checker: Tips and Methodologies for Research” at 9:45 on Saturday morning, February 1, as part of the first ever annual symposium organized by the Northwest Independent Writers Association. The symposium is a two-day event filled with sessions on writing, publishing, and marketing, as well as chances to network with other writers, both traditionally and independently published. I’m excited to be taking part in it, and I hope to see you there.