March 4, 2019

How to Talk to Your Computer | Cover

I had a good time rewriting my latest book, HOW TO TALK TO YOUR COMPUTER (now part of HarperCollins’ Let’s Read and Find Out series). I have always been interested in the intersection of kids, education and computers, and I wrote the first version of this book in 1985, for Harper & Row. At that time we all thought that kids were going to learn the computer language BASIC (Beginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code), and that everyone would be writing programs for their own computers. The book was well-received, even getting some starred reviews. But librarians and consumers didn’t buy it, because it turned out that this wasn’t at all how kids were going to use computers back then.

Fast forward 35 years, and now coding is considered to be a new, core literacy for today’s young students. I was so pleased when HarperCollins asked me to revisit this book, with current coding practices in mind. This is "coding 101," for the very youngest readers. We introduce preliminary ways to think about "talking" to your computer, and introduce core concepts like conditions, loops and functions. I suspect this book will be useful for parents, too, who want to understand what their children are learning in the classroom. This book is designed to get everyone off on the right foot.

I think you’ll love the new illustrations by Mike Lowery. The look is fresh, modern, and fun! We’ve included visual aids like charts, sidebars, an infographic, and a computer-less coding activity. The glossary is important in a book like this, as well, so that we can provide clear, simple definitions of basic coding terms. For example, FUNCTION is defined as: A set of instructions in a program that can be called and executed by a specific name.

Illustration of  Don’t you love this illustration of the function "Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich"? Sometimes a picture truly is worth a thousand words, and with this kind of subject matter in particular, I think that visualizing the concepts will be very helpful for readers.

Please let me know your thoughts on this book as you use it at home or in the classroom. I hope we’ve hit on a format that works for this generation.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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March 1, 2019

Guts | Book CoverThe more things change, the more they stay the same. I was intrigued when HarperCollins asked me to update my NSTA award-winning book GUTS. It’s always been one of my favorite titles-short, strong, to the point, and just the right kind of "gross" for kids!

I try to begin a book in a way that will make the topic relevant to my readers. Here is how I did it in GUTS:

You probably eat three meals and several snacks a day. That adds up to hundreds of pounds of food in a year. The digestive systems turns the truckload of sandwiches, milk, salads, and pizzas that you eat each year into the energy and the nutrients that your body needs.

That certainly grounds the material in a kid’s point of view. But, our digestive system is still exactly the system of organs that it has always been. So why the update?

  Pill camera held between doctor's fingersScience and technology have advanced so much since I first wrote the book that it’s really the imaging that is powerful and new in this updated edition. For example, to get a look inside your stomach doctors can now have patients swallow a pill that is actually a tiny camera-called an "endoscope capsule." As it travels through your digestive tract it takes thousands of pictures for your doctor to see.


The way we talk about nutrition with children has also changed. The old "food pyramid" analogy has been replaced, and today’s kids are accustomed to "choosing my food plate," which consists of a large serving of vegetables, equal portions of fruits, grains and proteins, and a small serving of milk or other dairy products. We reflect those new USDA guidelines in this updated edition of the book.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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February 12, 2019

Exoplanets, my latest book, is about a topic near and dear to my heart. In this BookTalk, an interview conducted by science education professor Wendy Saul, we discuss why I’ve loved the idea of exploring beyond our solar system since I was a kid.

Click to Watch EXOPLANETS video 

 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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March 27, 2018

Today is March 27——the long-awaited publication day for Seymour Simon’s new book, EXOPLANETS. Enjoy this 3-minute video in which Seymour reads aloud some of his favorite sections of the book. 

CLICK HERE TO PLAY THE VIDEO

Seymour reads from Exoplanets 

 

 

Posted by: Liz Nealon

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March 13, 2018

When I was a little kid I was obsessed with space monsters. I suspected that when they found alien life on Mars, they would BE space monsters. Of course, this turned out not to be true, but throughout my early years I continued to read the multitude of science fiction magazines :that were published in those years: Astounding Science Fiction, Amazing Stories, Startling Stories, Thrilling Wonder Stories, and Fantastic Stories. The stories in these magazines were written by great writers, some of whom also wrote science non-fiction—- writers like Isaac Asimov,  E.E. Smith, Fritz Lieber, H.G. Wells, L. Ron Hubbard, Jules Verne, and Robert Heinlein. They were my heroes.

So, when I proposed this book to HarperCollins and they agreed to do it, I was thrilled. I’ve written many books about space, but this particular volume goes beyond what we know, to consider the still unknown. In a way, although it is a nonfiction book it has a "science fiction" quality, and I loved writing it. I hope I’ve done justice to those writers whose work I admired, and who influenced me so greatly.

Cover of Seymour Simon's EXOPLANETS

While I was writing EXOPLANETS I was simultaneously reorganizing my library for a move to our new house. I’ve accumulated thousands of collectible books over the years, so it was quite a project. I own a beautiful set of leather-bound books which are the collected stories of H.G. Wells. When I opened up a volume titled "Stories of Space and Time," I discovered a neatly folded, hand-written letter from HG Wells, written to a friend in 1927. What a find! We’re having it framed and look forward to deciphering his very tiny handwriting to learn what it says. 


Seymour Simon’s EXOPLANETS is being published by HarperCollins on March 27, 2018 and is available for pre-order now.

 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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January 9, 2018

Cover of SciFi magazine with man and rocket

I just sent in my latest manuscript for a book about space exploration, beginning with humans entering The Space Age. When I was a child, my main interests were science fiction stories and space. Of course, I was a voracious reader and consumed books about everything, from astronomy to zoology. But I sure did love science fiction (look at this cover of one of my vintage Astounding Science Fiction magazines!) and anything about space.

Almost as interesting as space to me were dinosaurs (like all of the kids I knew). So, I’m happy to report that the next book I will be writing is a book featuring new discoveries about dinosaurs. 

From Space to Dinosaurs! I started the research today. I’m in heaven. 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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December 20, 2017

One of the nicest things that happened to me as a writer in the last few years was being given the opportunity to write younger age books with my wife and companion Liz Nealon. Liz has been very connected to youngsters for many years. She was the Creative Director of Sesame Street as well as an award-winning producer of children’s TV shows such as Ghostwriter and The Famous Jett Jackson. She was also very involved with research into reaching children via words and images.

One of the first books we wrote together was COLORS IN NATURE. Instead of just showing colors and teaching children what’s red and what’s orange, the book tries to pick out colors in natural surroundings and uses images for each of the colors mentioned.

So for example, reds would include strawberries and tomatoes; green would include grasses and pine trees.

There were also pages for Rainbow Colors and Black and White. The book is joyful and poetic and is perfect for reading aloud with children. It encourages young readers to actively play along as they look for and call out the wonderful colors that are all around them in nature.

So far, the book is only available in a digital edition. Would you be interested in seeing a printed edition? Jot a note to me on my here or on Twitter or Facebook

 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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December 13, 2017

I grew up in New York City and never really had much to do with horses. (Though I do have a photo of me when I was a kid alongside a cute pony.  I don’t really remember much about the photo though I do know that the pony was not a regular part of my life.)

My author’s copies of my book HORSES came yesterday. This book is a revision of the original book with new photos and new text, but I was reminded of what happened when I wrote the original book a dozen years ago. For the original book, I was photographing horses in farms in Columbia County in New York State where there were many horse farms. I was just motoring around casually, looking at horses and photographing them when I could get close enough to them from country roads. What often happened though, is that I spent a lot of time just looking and enjoying watching them. And I thought of the cowboy movies and chariot races I had read about and seen in movies. In my mind and in my book, seeing horses galloping about a field is like watching a bit of history playing out in front of you.

Here’s what I wrote in my book:

horse galloping from Seymour Simon's book

I would enjoy reading about your own thoughts about horses in your life. 


The updated edition of Seymour Simon’s book HORSES, cited by the Common Core Standards as an Exemplar Text, will be published on December 26, 2017, and is now available for pre-order. 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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December 12, 2017

The outbreak of fires in California remind me of the photography and research I did before I wrote my book WILDFIRES. I spoke at a conference in Fresno and decided to photograph nature in  nearby Sequoia National Forest and Kings Canyon National Park. While photographing I followed a crew of forest rangers and firefighters clearing brush to retard the growth and speed of any future fires. Sometimes that works, other times there is no stopping the explosive growth of wildfires, which is what’s happing now.

 

As I wrote in my book, “A raging wildfire is a frightening thing. Living trees burn as fast as cardboard boxes in a bonfire. Flames race through the treetops, sometimes faster than a person can run, burning at temperatures hot enough to melt steel.”

But then I wrote, “But not all fires are bad. Fires in nature can help as well as harm. A burned forest allows young plants to begin growing. And fire is necessary for some trees, such as sequoias, to release their seeds. Instead of being an ending, fire is often a new chapter in the continuing story of the natural world.”

I think that it is a good thing to teach children that in nature, things are often neither good nor evil, but part of the natural rhythms of the world.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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December 11, 2017

yellow leaf with raindrops

This is one of the excellent photos in my new book WATER. But this photo is something special. It’s a photo taken by Liz Nealon, my wife and partner in research. Liz is an award-winning producer of children’s TV programs such as The Famous Jett Jackson and Ghostwriter. She was also Creative Director of Sesame Street. Now she is a literary agent specializing in digital children’s books as well as my photo research partner in finding the best photos for my new books as well as revisions of my older books. But this photo was chosen just because she loved the design and then used for my book because it fit the text perfectly. 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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