Sunday, August 8, 2010

Happy Birthday Seymour Simon - August 9

Happy Birthday Seymour Simon - Born August 9, 1931

Seymour Simon, "The Dean of Science Books for Children", has written over 250 science books for children.  Kirkus Reviews feels "Seymour Simon may have done more than any other living author to help us to understand and to appreciate our planet and our universe."  His books have inspired struggling readers with large bright photographs and have brought understanding to children (...and adults) about complicated topics such as global warming and our universe.  The praise is abundant for Simon's work.

Seymour Simon's love of science started in the vacant lots of Bronx, New York exploring and observing small animals when he was a child and continued as president of the Junior Astronomy Club in High School.  He took his love of science and passed it on to his students during a teaching career that lasted 23 years.  His writing career began in 1963 with an article for Scholastic where he predicted what men would find on the moon.  Scholastic was impressed with his first article and commissioned him to write many more.  Seymour Simon felt it was teaching that made him a better writer because as a teacher his ultimate goal is to understand and pass it on to his students.  Simon eventually left the classroom to teach a larger audience by becoming a full time writer.

Seymour Simon's first published book, Animals in the Field and Laboratory: Science Projects in Animal Behavior, came as a result of successful writing for Scholastic.  The theme of animal behavior appears in many of his books including Snakes, Wolves, and Gorillas which are all books from his Smithsonian Collins Series.  The series also includes many books about Space including Our Solar System, Stars, and The Universe.  My daughter picked out the books Venus and Destination: Jupiter for me to read to her on a family car trip this week.  She intently listened for 30 minutes, learning many new facts along the way.  She learned that days are longer than years on Venus and that Jupiter has many moons including many that have ice!  We read these books from cover to cover.  Seymour Simon encourages his readers to read his science books in this fashion because he has written them as stories.  We marveled at the carefully selected full color photographs that will excite all types of readers.

I was excited to find the Let's Try it Out series of books.  These picture books explore the topics of towers and bridges, water, and air.  The books are illustrated by Doug Cushman and written by Seymour Simon with Nicole Fauteux.  My daughter and I worked through the book Towers and Bridges while mom and boys were out on a play date.  We headed outside to the driveway and garage to examine the properties that make towers and bridges able to withstand weather.  The book presents many ideas followed by a question and the "Let's Try it Out" motto to encourage investigation.  We built and put to the test a pyramid made out of milk cartons, a tower made out of straws and Playdoh, bridges to hold toy people, and culminated everything with the building of a castle for the king and queen.  The book was well designed and all the activities connected together.  I was excited to see that  additional Let's Try It Out books are in the works too! Here are a few pictures from our experience:






The books by Seymour Simon that I have discussed thus far were based upon experiences with my oldest daughter.  However, Seymour Simon has a series of leveled books called SeeMore Readers that really interested my son.  We checked out Giant Snakes, Giant Machines, Cool Cars, and Skyscrapers.  These leveled readers have similar photographs to the ones we found in the Smithsonian Collins series, but the text is written for younger readers.

There are a few Seymour Simon's books that I was unable to find at our local libraries that I wish I could have acquired to write about in more detail.  The first is Seymour Simon's favorite book, The Paper Airplane Book originally published in 1976 and it is still in print.  The other book is Pets in a Jar: Collecting and Caring for Small Wild Animals.  I can remember observing ants build their tunnels in a jar when I was a kid.  I learned about this book from a blog on wired.com. Simon also has a fiction book series called Einstein Anderson: Science Detective.

I was able to get in contact with Seymour Simon to ask him about his favorite birthday memory. Here is his response:

Growing up in the an urban area like New York City doesn't include many birthday memories of large animals.  But one of my memories involves a large animal, or at least a semi-large animal - a pony.  I was thrilled to be able to ride a pony for the first time, but I must say a little apprehensive.  The pony was a lot bigger than the animals I knew from the streets - dogs, cats, and squirrels were about the biggest animals I saw.  Nevertheless, the pony made such an impression on me, that I was delighted to write a book about horses when I grew up.  I wish I could remember the name of the pony because I think I would have mentioned it in my book!


Seymour Simon and his producer, Liz Nealon have generously offered an autographed copy of Seymour Simon's soon to be released book, Tropical Rainforests.  It is scheduled to be released on August 24, 2010.  It can be pre-ordered on Amazon.com. One lucky reader of Happy Birthday Author will win an autographed copy of the book.

Congratulations to Amanda from Mansfield, OH! She was selected as the winner of autographed Seymour Simon book! Thanks to all who entered!



Links:

1. Seymour Simon's Website - Check out Science Dictionary, Teachers can create an account to access great teacher's guides!
2. Seymour Simon's Science Blog
3. Reading Rockets Video
4. Seymour Simon Group on Facebook
5. Seymour Simon on Twitter
5. Seymour Simon Video on Global Warming
6. Seymour Suggests - www.zerofootprintkids.com
7. Review of Seymour Simon's Global Warming by Eco-libris

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