In my opinion, books are the best accessory.
I am so very honored to feature Claudia Mills on my blog today. This a two-post day where I feature Claudia Mills and also celebrate her book The Trouble with Ants in my other post.
I’ve personally been a huge fan of Claudia Mills’s books for years. I’ve enjoyed capturing readers with her books and her new series is going to be perfect for those who want to promote scientific learning and excitement over research.
After reading The Trouble with Ants, I had many questions. I wrote to find out some answers. Claudia answered my questions and created this guest post:
Thank you, Debbie, for hosting me on your wonderful blog. And thanks for all you do to bring books together with readers. I’m so pleased to have this chance to share a little bit about the launch title in my “Nora Notebooks” series—The Trouble with Ants—today.
I don’t think I’ve ever written a book about a character—at least a girl character—more different from me than Nora. She prioritizes reason over emotion: I’ve always been a blubbery emotional mess. She excels in science; I passed my college science requirement with “Physics for Poets.” And she loves ants, and, well, I don’t. Or at least, I didn’t. I guess I do love them now, for Nora’s sake (though preferably not crawling around on the floor in my pantry).
In order to write the book, I researched ants in three ways. I started with putting out a call for ant advice on, yes, Facebook. (When Facebook made user “word maps” at the end of the year, built around the most-used words from our posts, my single most-used word was “ants”!) A Facebook friend directed me to the dazzling book Journey to the Ants: A Story of Scientific Exploration by brilliant scientists Bert Hölldobler and Edward O. Wilson. From them I learned all of the remarkable ant facts that Nora collects in her notebook at the end of every chapter, facts like: “A worker ant is less than one-millionth the size of a human being. But all of the ants in the world taken together weigh as much as all the human beings in the world.”
Next, I talked by phone to an ant expert, Professor Whitney Cranshaw, at Colorado State University, who answered lots of questions about what kinds of ants Nora would keep in her ant farm and what kinds of experiments she might do with them as she pursues her goal of publishing an article in a peer-reviewed science journal. He couldn’t have been more helpful, but I’m almost afraid to send him his well-deserved copy of the book for fear that he’ll find all kinds of ant errors that crept in nonetheless.
Finally, and most dauntingly, I got an ant farm of my own: “an original Uncle Milton” plastic ant farm, complete with a tube of stinging western harvester ants. As with Nora’s first attempt, my ants died off after a few weeks, but not until I had the opportunity to watch them scurry about as the tiny tunnel-building engineers that they are. Confession time: I have to admit I was a bit relieved when they had their peaceful passage to the great ant farm in the sky.
Of course, what I really wished I could have done was just call up Nora herself and ask her all these things. She was so real to me by the time I finished the book that I almost felt as if I could.
A second book about Nora is coming out next year. In The Trouble with Babies, a-n-t lover Nora becomes a new a-u-n-t, with her newborn niece causing chaos in her peaceful world and prompting lots of Nora-like reflections on the scientific reasons why we become the kinds of people we are. For this book I was lucky enough to have my new grandbaby living right in my house: what better way to conduct research than that? There is no better baby expert than a doting grandmother!
P.S. You said your husband likes to know authors’ favorite pizza toppings: black olives and artichoke hearts for me, please!
Claudia Mills is the author of over fifty books for young readers. She does not personally keep an ant farm, but she does have a cat, Snickers, with whom she curls up on her couch at home in Boulder, Colorado, drinking hot chocolate and writing. To learn more, and to download free curriculum guides for her books, visit her website at claudiamillsauthor.com.
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