January 29, 2018

Dr. E's Super Steller Solar System Blog Tour: Guest Post + Giveaway

Welcome to Day #1 of Dr. E's Super Stellar Solar System Blog Tour!

To celebrate the release of Dr. E's Super Stellar Solar System by Dr. Bethany Ehlmann with Jennifer Swanson on January 30th, blogs across the web are featuring exclusive content from Bethany and National Geographic Kids Books Senior Editor Shelby Lees, plus 5 chances to win a copy of Dr. E's Super Stellar Solar System!

Take to the skies with planetary geologist Dr. E and her robot sidekick, Rover, to explore the solar system's wildest, most astronomical geology--with comic book flair!

This stellar book introduces kids to outer space through in-depth info and comic book adventure. Along the way, kids follow explorer Bethany Ehlmann, a member of the NASA Mars Rover Curiosity mission, and her lovable robo-dog, Rover, as they study and protect our amazing solar system. Dr. E's conversational and funny explanations of the solar system and planetary geology will pull kids in like gravity. The pairing of fun, graphic novel side stories with science facts makes big concepts accessible and interesting to boys and girls of all levels, from STEM science fans to reluctant readers alike.

Buy: Amazon

Three Ring('s of Saturn) Circus
by Shelby Lees, National Geographic Kids Books Senior Editor

“This spread is too dark.”
“Well, it is about the structure of the outer solar system, which, admittedly, is pretty black.”
“Pluto is in the Kuiper belt. Can we use this amazing photo of Pluto’s north pole?”
“But we don’t actually talk about Pluto here, and definitely not its poles.”
“But it’s a great photo. Can we move the Pluto content from the previous spread?”

I have these conversations often.

Here’s the thing: Every person involved in creating a book, from the author to the editor to the art director to the photo editor, has the same goal. We all want the book to be successful, welcoming, engaging, and informative. It’s just how we get there that differs.

For the author, especially one who’s a scientist, content is paramount. Accuracy down to the tiniest detail is the watchword.

For the photo editor, beautiful, surprising, breathtaking imagery is the mandate.

For the art director and designer, balanced, harmonious spreads are the goal: Visuals and text working in concert.

For the editor, that means walking the tightrope of competing interests, trying to balance each party’s concerns.

Sometimes there are easy solutions. Sure! We can rearrange these sections so that each page has something fascinatingly visual. Sure, we can add another example to help even out text columns. Sure, we can use this fantastic photo and write an extended caption to help readers make connections.

But sometimes it’s not so easy. What happens when the author has content she feels strongly about but that doesn’t have strong visuals to support it? What happens when Design needs you to cut half the text on a page, but that would remove a lot of valuable information from the book?

I’ve been in this spot many times with many books. It’s never an easy call, and I admit that sometimes I react before I listen. But then I try to take a step back. (Often after a little yoga—ok, who am I kidding, also ice-cream—therapy.)

I try to remember that each member of the team is looking at the book through a different lens. And, luckily, those lenses reflect the different ways the audience will approach the book, too: We know readers have many kinds of entry points to books. Some will first flip through the pages and look at all the photos. Some will review diagrams, some read headers, some read the table of contents. Some just drive right on into page 1.

So, when the designer asks you to cut a whole column of text from the spread, maybe there really is too much there. Will a reader feel overwhelmed with the amount of text? Will he or she just skip right over the spread because it looks like too much to tackle? Maybe. When the photo editor presents a jaw-dropping image the likes of which you’ve never seen (and, let’s face it, you’ve seen a million space photos), do you try to work it in at the expense of an image that, though more boring, would help explain the text? Sometimes. If that photo will draw in a reader, if it will bring the same sense of wonder and amazement it brought to us, shouldn’t we find it a spot?

Editing a visually driven nonfiction book is no easy task. It’s a constant push and pull, with no room for vagueness, inaccuracy, or banality. It can be a hard slog, frustrating at times, and definitely gray-hair-inducing. In the end, though, more often than not, you find yourself with a book that draws in all kinds of readers. A book that reminds you that there are marvels all around, that shows you unfamiliar views of familiar objects, and that reminds you that even when you think you know all there is to know, exploration is never done.

A book about the solar system unlike any other.

A book like Dr. E.

About Shelby Lees: 
As senior editor for Learning, Literacy, and STEM at National Geographic Kids Books, Lees edits and acquires author-driven titles such as Welcome to Mars, by Buzz Aldrin, Brain Games, by Jennifer Swanson, Dining With Dinosaurs by Hannah Bonner, and You Can Be a Paleontologist by Scott D. Sampson, as well as the managing highly successful series, such as National Geographic Kids Readers series, the National Geographic Kids Chapter Books series, and the newly launched National Geographic Kids How Things Work series. Formerly an educational editor, Lees' experience has ranged from developing fun, informative children’s books to creating innovative teaching guides, classroom materials, top-rated educational apps, and consulting for popular kids’ YouTube channels. Lees' focus is on bringing highly engaging content to all children to foster a lifelong love of learning.

Dr. Bethany Ehlmann is a 2013 National Geographic Emerging Explorer, a
participating scientist on the NASA Mars Rover Curiosity mission, a research scientist at JPL, and an assistant professor of planetary science at CalTech. She has studied compositional analysis of planetary surfaces, environmental change on Mars, chemical and physical weathering processes on planets, habitability, rock-microbe interactions, early Earth surface environments, and space policy. Ehlmann has a Ph.D. and M.S. in Geological Sciences from Brown University, an M.S. in both Geography and Environmental Change and Management from the University of Oxford (where she was a Rhodes Scholar), and a B.A. in both Earth and Planetary Sciences and Environmental Studies from Washington University in St. Louis. Before obtaining her current position at Caltech/JPL, she was a Marie Curie Fellow at the Institut d'Astrophysique Spatiale in Paris.

Follow Bethany: Website | Twitter

Jennifer Swanson is an award-winning author and science superfan. Her books for children and young adults have been selected for the National Science Teachers Association's Best STEM Books and recommended reviews from School Librarians Workshop, Library Media Connection, and School Library Journal, among others.

About National Geographic Children's Books:  

National Geographic Kids inspires young adventurers to explore the world through award-winning magazines, books, website, apps, games, toys, television series and events and is the only kids brand with a world-class scientific organization at its core. National Geographic Kids (10 issues per year) and Little Kids (6 issues per year) are photo-driven publications and are available on newsstands or by subscription in print and on tablets. The award-winning website kids.nationalgeographic.com excites kids about the planet through games, videos, contests, photos, quizzes, and blogs about cultures, animals and destinations. National Geographic Kids Books publishes as many as 100 nonfiction titles each year and teaches the youngest readers why the world is a weird, fascinating and fun place. National Geographic Kids Entertainment brings the renowned National Geographic brand to quality animated and live-action, entertainment-driven television, home video and online programming.

Follow NG Kids Books: Website | Facebook | Twitter
One (1) winner will receive a copy of Dr. E's Super Stellar Solar System - US only
 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Blog Tour Schedule:
January 29th – A Dream Within A Dream
January 30th — Word Spelunking
January 31st — Living Simply
February 1st  — Cracking the Cover
February 2nd — Crossroad Reviews

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