This year fall, my favorite time of year, coincides with the start of what I know will be one of my all-time favorite writing projects.
I’ve loved space ever since I was a kid lying in our front yard at night, gazing up at the Milky Way. My parents patiently listened to me chatter about the solar system and bought my first telescope when I was about eleven. I went on to become a reader and, for a time, a teacher of science fiction. I never dreamed of becoming an astronaut, but I followed the flights of cosmonauts and astronauts with much interest–especially those of the first Russian and American women in space. That’s why I’m beyond thrilled to be adapting Loren Grush’s fine new book The Six, about the first half-dozen American woman astronauts, into a shorter version for middle-grade readers.
The Six covers the women’s early lives, how they became interested in and eventually joined the US space program, and what each of them contributed. It also makes painfully clear the obstacles that women had to overcome to take their place in space exploration. I look forward to spending autumn working with this absorbing book and sharing these women’s stories with young readers. The adaptation will be published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.
But wait, there’s more! I also had the privilege this year of adapting David Barrie’s 2019 book Supernavigators, a fascinating look at how we have learned what we know about animals’ remarkable feats of navigation. The illustrated adaptation for young readers will be issued by Tra Publishing. I’m especially happy to have included the amazing journeys of spiny lobsters, who trundle for great distances, head to tail in long lines, over unfailingly straight paths across the dark sea floor. The clever experiments of the researchers who investigated these and other animal navigators are as surprising and entertaining as the animals’ journeys themselves.
And by “we” I mean historian Howard Zinn, scholar and educator Ed Morales, and, to a much lesser extent, me.
The late Howard Zinn published the indispensable A People’s History of the United States in 1980 and updated it in 2003. A few years after that, with Howard’s encouragement and support, I had the great honor and pleasure of adapting the book for young readers. The Young People’s History of the United States was published in 2007 and has remained in print ever since. It’s deeply gratifying to know how many young people it has introduced to Howard’s important work.
Earlier this month, Seven Stories Press released a new edition of the Young People’s History. The text was updated to reflect the language we now use when talking about various groups within the American population. Ed Morales contributed two new sections that greatly expand coverage of the histories and roles of Latino immigrants and their descendants in the United States. Finally, I added new material on Asian American activism and on today’s young activists and their causes.
Helping to make Zinn’s work accessible to young readers has been an extraordinary privilege. I’m delighted to see this new edition of the Young People’s History already making a mark. I’m even more excited to report that a Spanish-language version of it will be published later this year.
If you check out the author list for Flame Tree Publishing’s handsome new anthology Lovecraft Mythos(and you really should) you’ll see my name right below that of William Browning Spencer. *swoon*
Sure, the alphabet is responsible for that placement, but I couldn’t be happier about it–or about the fact that my story “Entirely Surrounded by Water” is part of this assemblage of new and classic works of cosmic horror. The title comes from Chapter IX of Winnie-the-Pooh, although I imagine that my late maternal grandmother, who gave me my well-worn copies of Milne some years ago, would not approve of the use to which I have put it. If you get a chance to read the story, I hope you enjoy it. . . .
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!
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.