Julia Finley Mosca is a mom to a young daughter. She was frustrated with the lack of books showing girls and women in heroic roles. “It’s discouraging to think that with all the strides we’ve made in society, female protagonists (both fictional and non-fictional) are still severely underrepresented, especially non-white female characters.” Women are still the minority in STEM fields, which is one of the main reasons The Innovation Press and Julia wanted to do the Amazing Scientists series.
Tell us about Amazing Scientists.
I’m so excited about these books! The Amazing Scientists series is a fun and educational collection of biographies for kids. Each book details the life of an inspiring (still living) female pioneer in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). What makes our series unique is that we specifically chose innovators who overcame significant obstacles in their journey to bring groundbreaking contributions to the world.
Our first scientist, DR. TEMPLE GRANDIN, was diagnosed with autism at a young age. Doctors told her mother that Temple would never speak, and even tried to convince her to institutionalize the child. But Temple persevered. With dedication and a great support network, she used her unique mind to invent devices and systems that revolutionized the slaughterhouse industry, making it more compassionate for animals. Today, despite those early predictions, she travels the globe as a renowned speaker and advocate for people with autism.
The second book in the series is about DR. PATRICIA BATH, who founded and currently serves as president of the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness. As a young woman growing up during the Civil Rights era, she battled racism and sexism in her quest to become a doctor (at the time, most were white men). However, Bath was determined and ultimately invented the first successful laser cataract removal device, helping people who had been blind for decades to finally see.
Much like Dr. Bath’s story, our third book (coming 2018) also celebrates an ambitious woman who overcame sexism and racism to succeed. RAYE MONTAGUE, now known as the U.S. Navy’s “Hidden Figure,” is one of many black women in history whose contributions went unrecognized for decades by the general public. Although white men were given much of the credit at the time, Montague is finally being lauded for her amazing feat as the very first person to design a ship using a computer system she developed.
We also have a fourth book in the works, but that one’s a secret for now!
Who’s your illustrator and why was he perfect for capturing the spirit of your book?
Daniel Rieley, a freelance illustrator based in Europe, is the perfect artist for this series. Since science can be abstract, it’s often difficult for little kids to conceptualize certain concepts (I’ll even admit that science was my worst subject in school!). Good illustrations are key. There are times in these stories that I’m not able to explain things in detail with words, so I rely on Daniel’s talent to convey those things through art. For example, in the Temple Grandin story, he did a wonderful job illustrating many of the ways she made farms more compassionate for animals. I also love his use of color and youthful, exaggerated images. My three-year-old isn’t quite old enough to grasp the concept of these books, but she absolutely loves the pictures.
Who is the ideal reader and how do you see the book being used?
These books are about badass women of all backgrounds—breaking down barriers and accomplishing amazing things—so of course, they’re great for little girls. But I’ve been quick to correct a lot of parents that think this series is ONLY for girls.
It’s just as important (or even more important) for boys to see and celebrate accomplished women. We wouldn’t think twice about buying our girls books about Albert Einstein or Benjamin Franklin, so why should the mindset be any different when it comes to books about female pioneers?
At the end of the day, the ideal reader is anyone, regardless of gender or age, who likes to learn about new things and inspiring people. Although these books are for kids, they also include a full biography and excerpts from my interviews with the scientists. I’ve had lots of adults tell me they learned just as much as their kids about heroes they were unfamiliar with before.
What’s the message you want your readers to take away after reading your books?
When people tell you that something is impossible, DON’T LISTEN! That’s the common theme running through all of these stories. Each of the scientists we feature was told that something about them—the way they were born or something they had no control over—would prevent them from achieving their dreams. But none of them listened, and luckily, our world is a better place because of it!
Do you have a proud moment, inspirational story, or moving fan feedback you’d like to share?
As a mom, it’s pretty cool to have my kid pick my book off the shelf and say, “Read me the Bath book, Mommy. It’s my favorite!” She loves the story of Dr. Patricia Bath, and at only three-years-old, has already proclaimed she wants to be an eye doctor. My husband and I like to joke that maybe that will be the biggest payoff of my writing career—if my book actually inspires her to pursue medicine!
But my favorite part of writing these books has been getting feedback from the scientists themselves. It’s also the most nerve-wracking part. I spend quite a bit of time talking to them, and really listening to their stories. So, when we finally send them the first draft, I definitely hold my breath. I can’t fathom what it must be like to be so accomplished that you find yourself the star of a children’s book (or even a movie, in some of these women’s cases), but I imagine you want to be portrayed in a way that truly reflects your personality. I take a lot of pride in the fact that (so far) all of the scientists have claimed to be thrilled with the final product. At the end of the day, it’s their approval that means the most to me.
Get the first two Amazing Scientists books on Amazon:
- The Girl Who Thought in Pictures (Dr. Temple Grandin)
- The Doctor with an Eye for Eyes (Dr. Patricia Bath)
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