by Sue Heavenrich
They did what curious scientists everywhere do, Heather told me in a recent phone conversation. They swallowed the little yellow heads and searched for evidence over the following days. They collected data, crunched numbers, and came up with the answer: the average FART (Found and Retrieval Time) is 1.7 days.
Heather is a naturalist, and when leading nature hikes she occasionally came across animal feces on the trail. She encouraged kids to ask questions beyond “who left this?” Questions like “why does it look like this?” and “how come this spot?” She noticed that while there are picture books about poop, there weren’t books for older kids. So she decided to write one; Who Gives a Poop (Bloomsbury) is aimed at readers 10 - 14 years old, though adults will enjoy it too. It comes out next month.
“Once you get going on a topic, the questions drive you,” Heather said. Truth is, she likes digging into things many folks would stay away from. “What happens when, instead of looking away from disgusting stuff, we on-purpose turn towards it?” It helps that she’s willing to get her hands dirty when diving into a topic – though with scat, turds, and dung, patties she is always careful to wear gloves and a mask.
Originally, Heather focused on animal poop. She had stories about scientists studying elephant dung, cheetah poo, turning waste to energy – and maybe even plastic to fashion tools on Mars. Then a story about a “poop train” went viral and Heather knew she’d have to chase it down. She ended up in a small town with 10 million pounds of poop sitting in its rail yard. Neighbors complained about the big stinky problem, wondering why New York City had to send their waste so far away. But a year later she saw evidence that those tons of biosolids were doing their job, reclaiming a strip mine and producing juicy red tomatoes.
“What’s the trick of writing about science for kids?” I asked.
“Don’t be afraid to write about tough subjects,” she added. For Heather, that means writing about gross things like road kill and, in this book, poop. “The important thing is to use your curiosity to show kids how to discover that part of the natural world.”
And finally, “Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty.” She encourages writers to dive into their topics all the way up to their elbows.
Heather is a member of #STEAMTeambooks. You can find out more about her at her website.