Category Archives: Writing

New nonfiction: Civil Rights and Climate Justice



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.

Oregon Book Awards Finalist!

I’m terrifically proud and excited that my Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species: Young Readers Version: Young Readers Edition is a finalist in the Children’s Literature category of the 2020 Oregon Book Awards.

Sponsored by Literary Arts–a hard-working and effective organization that promotes our state’s writers, develops writing programs in schools, and brings thought-provoking and important writers from all over to speak in Oregon–these awards are given annually in seven categories. The litany of finalists and winners is a glorious one. I am thrilled to be in their number.

The winners will be announced in a ceremony at the end of April. No matter what happens, it truly has been an honor to be nominated. My adaptation of the Origin is my favorite among all the books I’ve written, and it is a delight to see it recognized in such excellent company as my fellow finalists.

My Origin of Species adaptation is out!

I am a bit late with this post. The book launched two weeks ago.

Reviews so far have been great, I’m happy to say. Publishers Weekly said: “This attractive, oversize adaptation of Charles Darwin’s classic work of science has been shortened, updated, and streamlined for clarity and readability… Vocabulary words appear in bold throughout the text, while sidebars and supplemental sections delve into related topics… Bright photographs and illustrations of plants, animals, and habitats provide an expansive and inviting visual element. With valuable modifications and enhancements, Stefoff preserves the richness of Darwin’s content for contemporary young readers.” [my excited boldface]

Kirkus said: “The bible of evolution theory—condensed, glossed, furnished with updates, and enlivened with vivid photos and images… Big, bright nature photos or period engravings and paintings on nearly every large spread… Stefoff’s frequent glosses and boxed side essays unpack major concepts, add historical context, explain how later scientific discoveries modify or support Darwin’s broad picture, and even studiously point out where the author went wrong… handsomely presented and so close to the source… a glossy edition of one of science’s most fundamental works.”

The full title is Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species: Young Readers Edition, published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, a division of Simon & Schuster. Available now from amazon.com and the other usual sources. If you know a young person who is interested in nature or science, or if you’ve ever wished for a shorter, streamlined, illustrated version of the Origin to read for yourself–here you go!

How to make a writer happy

Today I got an email from a total stranger. She had contacted me through this website to share her appreciation of a book I wrote called Women of the World: Women Travelers and Explorers. It was published in 1994 as part of a trilogy on explorers for Oxford University Press. This book was a labor of love and is one of my favorites among my own books, so I was doubly touched that my correspondent had taken the time and trouble to write.

She’d come across a reference to my book while researching a project of her own–she is, as I learned from her website, a writer and editor–and had gotten hold of the book, and had liked it. You can be sure I’ll get hold of some of her writing now.

So that’s one thing that will make a writer very happy: someone popping up out of the blue to say, “Thanks, job well done.” If you haven’t done that lately, drop an author a note or a tweet or a post about something you’ve read recently and liked. They’ll be glad you did.

Lies for kids

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.