Author Laurie Wallmark shares about her passion and challenge in making math kid-inspiring in this #20questions post!
Throughout 2020, we conducted #20questions interviews with authors and illustrators of #DiverseKidlitNF books. We thought it would be fun and fascinating to hear the diverse answers from our diverse creators, about our books’ diverse topics, using the same #20questions for each author and illustrator.
By the end of 2020, our blog will host a fabulous resource for educators, librarians, and conference organizers about creating high-quality, diverse nonfiction picture books, and what makes our #DiverseKidlitNF books and creators special.
Now, enjoy learning more about NUMBERS IN MOTION and Laurie Wallmark!
1. Laurie, what inspired you to write this book?
I always thought I’d be a mathematician when I grew up. Although I chose a different career path (computer science), my love of math has never gone away. I wrote this book to highlight an unsung woman mathematician.
2. How did you approach the research for this book?
Most of my research has been through books, whether books about Sophie Kowalevski or ones she wrote.
3. What’s something that surprised you while researching this book?
I didn’t realize that at the time (1800s), a woman was not allowed to leave Russia except in the company of her father or her husband.
4. What was your favorite part about writing this book?
I liked figuring out how to explain the math in a way that’s accessible to children.
5. What was the hardest part about writing this book?
Explaining the math in a way that’s accessible to children.
6. Who is this book’s ideal reader, in your eyes?
My ideal reader is a curious child who wants to learn more about how the world works.
7. What do you want kids to know about this book?
Even if you think you don’t like math, you can still enjoy reading about the challenges for a woman mathematician in the 1800s. And who knows, maybe you’ll also find the math interesting.
8. What do you want educators and librarians to know about this book?
I think educators might be especially interested in my back matter discussion of how Sophie’s name was transliterated from the Cyrillic alphabet, since many of their students come from countries that don’t use the Roman alphabet.
9. Who is the publisher for this book?
10. When is the official release date for this book?
March 3, 2020—just in time for Women’s History Month.
11. What do you like most about writing children’s nonfiction books?
I love doing the research.
12. What’s the biggest challenge in writing children’s nonfiction books?
After doing so much research, it’s hard to decide what information should be part of the final book and what needs to be in the back matter or not used at all.
13. How did you get into writing children’s nonfiction books?
I was interested in writing a math-themed picture book, and an editor suggested that I consider writing a biography of a mathematician. My first published book, Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine, is about a women mathematician who was the world’s first computer programmer.
14. Which other children’s nonfiction books inspire you?
Oh, there are too many to mention. I’m especially drawn to biographies and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math)-related books
15. Do you have other jobs besides writing children’s books? (If so, what?)
Until recently, I was a professor of computer science. I taught students both on campus and in prison.
16. What’s something that surprised you about being a children’s book author?
I didn’t realize how many ideas and even finished manuscripts had to be put aside and would never make it into a published book.
17. What’s something about you that would surprise kids to know?
I was a math/science kid who liked to read and never thought about writing a book until I was in my 40s. My first book was published when I was 61.
18. What do you think makes a great nonfiction writer?
To be a great nonfiction writer you need to be curious and willing to put in the work involved in doing the research.
19. Do you have any advice for kids who want to write children’s books?
A writer writes, and a writer reads. You need to do a lot of both if you want to write children’s books.
20. Where can people find you online?