Best books about Fairies

As the author of The Fairy Ring, or Elsie and Francis Fool the World, I was asked to recommend some books about (you guessed it) fairies. You can find them at this link:

And while you’re there, you can browse through a ton of other book recommendations, on all sorts of topics!

Isaac meets…a wiki!

I got an email the other day:

“Greetings from Los Angeles. We’re writing to let you know that you have been included in our recently published wiki: Excellent Nonfiction Books For Kids.”

I’m honored that Isaac the Alchemist is in such fine company! You can see the published wiki here.

The Alchemist On the Road

This fall, I went to Grantham, England, which every two years holds a joyful celebration of the life of crusty old Isaac Newton. The town is near Newton’s birthplace, the amazing Woolthorpe Manor: a perfectly preserved farmhouse where you can see the VERY ROOM where Newton did his experiments with light and prisms.

Grantham is also where, as a twelve-year-old boy, Newton lived in an attic above an apothecary’s workshop, where he could see Magical Looking Things happening.

Which is where I came in.

In my Magick and Alchemy show, I mix together mysterious ingredients, just as real apothecaries (and alchemists!) did.

It would be nice if in my show, I could  (like the alchemists) stand over a cauldron of molten metal and toss in mysterious substances that produced all sorts of magical looking special effects. Explosions! Stinks and bangs! Clouds of colored smoke!

I can’t, of course.  But even much safer mixtures can produce what looked—to the alchemists—very much like magic. Why did what the alchemists called “salts” sometimes cause a liquid to change color, and other times to bubble over? Why do some salts mysteriously change their shape when stirred into water?

What I like about alchemy is trying to imagine the world before science as we know it existed. So many things were utter mysteries. Then, very gradually, we began to figure out, say, what happens when a candle burns.  The modern-day science of chemistry emerged from the mists.

I notice, now, that I’m a lot more interested in chemistry than I used to be. Trying to think like an alchemist helps me wonder about things much more than I used to.

Which, of course, is what science is all about.




Isaac in the World (Best-of Lists!)

A year ago, I was waiting nervously for Isaac the Alchemist: Secrets of Isaac Newton, Reveal’d, to launch itself into the world.  I had spent years on it, and in that time I felt I had come to know Isaac in a new way: as an angry, lonely boy and later a magician.

Now I’m happy to see that (besides getting great reviews) Isaac the Alchemist has been selected for a TON of best-of lists, which (drum roll) I will just put down here* (plus a footnote, latest news, see bottom of list!):

School Library Journal Best Books of 2017

Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2017: Best of Children’s Middle Grade List

Outstanding Science Trade Books, 2017,  National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and Children’s Book Council

2018 Orbis Pictus Recommended Titles, National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)

2017 Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Books

Chicago Public Library Mock Newbery Pick

Parents’ Choice Awards, Nonfiction, Spring 2017

101 Great Books for Kids list for 2017 (Evanston Public Library Edition)

Nerdy Book Club Award for Long Form Nonfiction

Texas Library Association’s 2018 Topaz list   

2017 Cybils Finalists

My thanks to everyone, the  book-lovers of all kinds who work so hard on award committees.

These honors mean, I hope, that more teachers and librarians and booksellers and parents and YES actual children (!) will find out about  Isaac the Alchemist, and for that I’m deeply grateful.

***** And this just in!  Isaac the Alchemist is a finalist for the Minnesota Book Awards, children’s literature for middle grade readers!   So happy to see this.  Thanks so much  #mnbookwards !

The Wild Boy Goes to Poland!


Wild Boy: The Real Life of the Savage of Aveyron is coming out in Poland!  The publisher asked me to write a few words of introduction for the Polish edition, which I did.  Then they sent me back this translation.

Bardzo się cieszę, że wędrówki dzikiego chłopca zaprowadziły go do Polski!
Chciałam o nim napisać, bo jego zdolność przetrwania, zupełnie samemu, w dzikiej głuszy, budziła mój podziw.
Zastanawiałam się co się działo  w jego niezwykłym, dzikim umyśle.

Jednak dowiedziawszy się więcej o jego podróży do świata ludzi, zaczęłam go podziwiać też za inne rzeczy: za jego odwagę, jego wytrwałość i ciężką pracę. Choć może się to wydać dziwne, mam nadzieję, że będzie on inspiracją dla innych dzieci (dzikich lub nie) w odkrywaniu własnych ścieżek życia.

Looking at this utterly unfamiliar language, searching for meaning and finding almost none–it makes me think about what it must have been like for the wild boy when he left his life in wilderness behind and first set foot in a schoolroom.  It would have been WAY harder for him, yet he tried his best. He never gave up.

And now (if for some reason you haven’t quite figured out what the above worlds mean) here’s the original copy I sent to Poland.

I’m very happy to see that the wild boy’s wanderings have taken him to Poland!

I wanted to write about him because I admired how he could survive, all by himself, in the wilderness. I wondered what was inside his strange wild mind.

But as I learned more about his journey into the human world, I admired him for other things as well: his courage, his resilience, and his hard work.  Odd as it may seem, I hope he will serve as an inspiration to other children (wild, or not) as they find their own paths through life.



Alchemist in a bookstore

Recently I did magick-and-alchemy shows in two wonderful local independent bookstores, Red Balloon and Wild Rumpus.

Real alchemy, in case you wondered, was just stirring things together and watching what happened. It was making what we would now call “chemical reactions.” But 400 years ago, before science as we know it was invented, what happened often looked like…magick.

Explosions!  Showers of sparks! Clouds of toxic fumes!  And other Harry Pottereque special effects!  Those particular effects were not, alas, something I could do in a bookstore. But alchemy also had its moments of quieter magick.

The  audience saw glasses of purple cabbage water ***transformed!!*** into various other colors by the addition of  myseriously lableled alchemical ingredients.


Other bits of quiet magic included the crystals that grow in a glass jar when you mix  ordinary washing soda (available in grocery stores) with warm water.

I talked, too, about what happens when you set a prism in a sunny windowsill.  How colors appear here and there, and move across the room as the sun moves.  (Isaac Newton called them “the ghosts of light.”)

It was great to sign this boy’s copy of  Isaac the Alchemist, Secrets of Isaac Newton, Reveal’d and realize that he did actually want to read a book of nonfiction. And not for school…


I was also thrilled when an almost-six-year-old girl (not old enough to read Isaac the Alchemist, but old enough to look at the pictures) really wanted the prism she won as a prize. She took home  a jar of washing soda, too.


[My thanks to the wonderful Don Losure and Laurie Stern for the photos!]


 ISAAC THE ALCHEMIST: SECRETS OF ISAAC NEWTON, REVEAL’D, the story of the “distinctive, prickly, and devouringly curious” Isaac Newton will be coming on SATURDAY, FEB  25 at 1:00 PM  to the quirky and wonderful WILD RUMPUS BOOKS in Minneapolis.  Magick and Alchemy Show! Reading! Prizes! And magical musicall guest stars the Ephemeral Wizards String Band, transmuted by a secret alchemical process into an entirely different set of musicians than have previously appeared at other events!

I  love Wild Rumpus, with its tiny kid-sized door, its penchant for cats, roving chickens, and assorted other creatures. It’s a totally magick atmosphere!  So happy to be giving a reading there!

Coming to Red Balloon Bookshop, Saturday Feb 18, 2:00 PM!

So pleased to announce that I’ll be doing a MAGICK AND ALCHEMY show at Red Balloon Bookshop Saturday, Feb 18 at 2:00 PM!! Launch party for Isaac the Alchemist: Secrets of Isaac Newton, Reveal’d.  Reading! Music! Merriment! Prizes!  Hope to see you there!