The Junior Library Guild has named Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species: Young Readers Edition as one of its selections. The book, soon to be published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, a Simon & Schuster imprint, will be shipped to some 1,400 school and public librarians who subscribe to JLG. This is a big boost for the book, as being chosen by the JLG generally results in improved visibility and sales. I couldn’t be happier–or more eager for the book to come out.
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.)
Portland is finally getting autumnal weather, not a moment too soon for me. Fall has always been my favorite season. It also feels like the real beginning of the year–a legacy, perhaps, of the long summers when I waited impatiently for school to start.
It’s a good time to assess what the year has brought so far, and to look at what’s ahead.
Solar Eclipse: A month ago my partner Zachary and I saw our first total solar eclipse. We viewed it in a gorgeous garden just 40 miles from home, with good friends and perfect viewing conditions. Totality (1 minute, 57 seconds) was magical and went by in a flash. I am extremely happy to have had that experience.
Domestic Affairs: Zachary retired last month. He’s thrilled about it. I’m happy for him, and glad we’ll be able to travel more. Still, it is an ongoing challenge for me to adapt to working–or just doing what I do on any given day–now that he’s home instead of at work. I’m grateful that we have a big house. We are out of each other’s way a lot of the time.
Writing: Not long ago I turned in the revised ms. and 115 images for my YA adaptation of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. The ms. is being copyedited, so I haven’t yet seen the last of it–but almost. Atheneum, a Simon & Schuster imprint, will publish it next October. [Note: Photo research and permissions is a big job. Just imagine how tedious it was before everything was digital.] Meanwhile, I’m working on another YA adaptation, this one of Jill Jonnes’s terrific book Eiffel’s Tower. And I’ve written a book for young people about the history of the environmental movement from the 1960s to the present.
Travel: Chile in November! We had such a great time in Argentina and Uruguay last year that we’re going back to South America for a couple of weeks, this time with our friends Fred and Ron. We’ll fly in and out of Puerto Montt, gateway to southern Chile’s volcano-fjord-and-lake country, and we’ll drive around visiting national parks and seeing penguins and other cool things. Also, I expect, sampling some of Chile’s excellent wines. I’ve been studying Spanish on Duolingo and will have a chance to put it to the test. (Fortunately, the Chileans are a kind and generous people.) I’ve also got trips scheduled to visit friends in South Dakota and Toronto, and I’m starting to look at prospects for next year.
And now, those leaves won’t rake themselves . . . .
It’s been a while since I’ve posted. I’ve been working on my YA adaptation of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, a big project with many aspects (such as photo research and aquisition) that will continue to keep me busy for some time. I am thrilled with the editorial support I’ve gotten from Simon & Schuster and am excited about the book that my ms. is becoming.
But woman does not live by work alone. In recent weeks I’ve enjoyed entertainments on page, stage, and screen. Here are a couple of highlights:
The Devil’s Detective, a novel by Simon Kurt Unsworth. I believe I was tipped to it by a post on the Lovecraft eZine Facebook page. It is dark (very), beautifully written, and deeply disturbing. I’m looking forward to the sequel, which I believe comes out this fall.
Peter and the Starcatcher, a hilarious, bawdy play that unfolds Peter Pan’s origin story. It’s based on a book by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, but I didn’t know that until I saw the play. Lots of laughs and well worth seeing, if you get a chance.
Green Room. Damn, what a movie. Unrelentingly violent, but compelling and very well acted. Patrick Stewart as the patriarch of a bunch of skinheads in the woods of southern Oregon will put Captain Picard waaaay out of mind. Imogen Poots inhabits her role with terrifying completeness. But Anton Yelchin, who died a few days ago in a tragic accident, gives the standout performance. The film stayed in my mind to such an extent that I had to watch the Goosebumps movie the next day to derail it. But I will see it again (Green Room, that is) one of these days.
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.