Kirsti Call: Ruth Spiro‘s BABY LOVES FIVE SENSES series combines simple text with expressive illustrations to explain complex science in a simple and engaging way.
Thank you for visiting Writers’ Rumpus, Ruth! What inspired you to write the series?
Ruth Spiro: Ever since the first two BABY LOVES SCIENCE books came out in 2016, I’ve kept an ongoing list of possible topics for future books. Parents, educators and booksellers send me requests and I add those to the list, as well. I begin each story with a familiar childhood observation or experience and then explore the related science concepts, so not all ideas end up being a good fit.
My original inspiration here was to write a book about music, because most children really enjoy it. Also, I’ve always wondered what sound is. We can hear it, but why can’t we see it? As I dug deeper into the science of music and sound waves, it became apparent the book also had to include a connection to the physiology of our ears and how they perceive sound. Naturally, this led to other questions (mine!) about how our other senses work.
KC: How do you decide what details to include in the books?
RS: This is usually a difficult decision because I learn so much through my research and want to include all the fascinating facts I uncover. However, the challenge is to distill everything down to the most essential concepts because I only have ten spreads to work with! Once my text is approved, illustrator Irene Chan creates rough sketches for each spread. This is an important step in the process as it helps us visualize the flow of the book, which details are essential and which can be trimmed.
I’m committed to creating books that are informative and accurate, but also developmentally appropriate. I do this by communicating the science in the form of a story, relating it to a common childhood experience and then scaffolding the new information. While my goal isn’t to “teach” science to little ones, I like to introduce vocabulary children may not hear in other board books and open the door to the idea that science is all around us.
KC: What have you learned as you’ve researched for this series?
RS: In this particular grouping of books about the five senses, I mostly learned that the human body is truly a miracle!
I also became aware of how much I take for granted about my senses. I wanted to acknowledge that not everyone experiences or perceives sensory stimuli in the same way. I felt it was especially important that all children were reflected in these books so I consulted sensitivity readers on the best way to accomplish this. The first two books, HEARING and SIGHT, include children with a hearing aid, cochlear implant, and glasses, as well as a child reading Braille. I’ve heard from many parents, educators, and therapists who appreciate this.
KC: What other projects are you excited about?
RS: In addition to these new books about our senses, we’re also branching out into new territory with a group of BABY LOVES books on political science, illustrated by Greg Paprocki. DEMOCRACY came out in April, it’s a nonpartisan look at elections, voting, and how everyone’s voice is important. JUSTICE comes out in September, and then CONGRESS and THE PRESIDENCY will release in January, 2021.
I’m also excited to share news about a follow-up to MADE BY MAXINE! Maxine’s next adventure, again illustrated by Holly Hatam, will be out next spring.
KC: Wow! So many wonderful books coming out! What is your advice for aspiring authors?
RS: I often hear from aspiring authors seeking advice and to be honest, I tend to share more with those who have first done their homework. Some writers ask me questions that can easily be answered through a Google search, and others clearly haven’t read a current children’s book in years. I think most writers who’ve become published authors have a few things in common: We’ve taken the time to learn about the field, become familiar with the current publishing landscape, and found ways to interact with others in the community, either in person or online.
I highly recommend subscribing to newsletters like PW Children’s Bookshelf, joining SCBWI, participating in writing workshops and finding a writer’s group to share manuscripts. Anyone reading Writers’ Rumpus has already demonstrated a desire to learn more about the field and connect with fellow writers. (Congratulations!)
KC: Thank you, Ruth!
Ruth Spiro is the author of the Baby Loves Science board book series, published by Charlesbridge. There are fifteen current and forthcoming titles including Baby Loves Aerospace Engineering, Baby Loves Coding, and Baby Loves Gravity. This spring she continued her signature style of introducing complex subjects to little listeners with Baby Loves Political Science: Democracy!, a new series perfect for this election year and beyond.
Ruth’s STEM-themed picture book series, Made by Maxine (Dial), is about an inspiring young Maker who knows that with enough effort, imagination and recyclables, it’s possible to invent anything. Made by Maxine sold at auction as a three-book series, the second book will be published in Spring 2021.
A frequent speaker at schools and conferences, Ruth’s previous presentations include the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, Colorado Book & Arts Festival, Maker Faire Milwaukee, National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the World Science Festival. Ruth hopes her books inspire kids to observe the world, ask questions, and when it comes to their futures, DREAM BIG!
Wonderful! I love the simple text and information that is shared (and shown). Thank you! Best wishes!
Ruth, so happy for all your #kidlit successes!
Thank you so much for sharing your approach with us. I can’t wait to read these books! Do you think that the titles, all with the word “baby,” have limited your audience?
Love Ruth Spiro. I was lucky enough to hear her speak at an SCBWI conference and also via video. She has so much great information to share on writing and the craft. Great interview.