Educational & Youth Publishing

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The Next Big Thing!

May 1, 2013

Tags: robots, history of robots, Capstone Press, Next Big Thing, Raham, Krantz, science history, science fiction

My turn! Today, I host the Next Big Thing blog author tour. Launched in Australia—a beautiful place to launch from, I must say—this blog network has since gone international. It features authors and illustrators of books for kids, tweens, teens, and young adults discussing their recently published books and/or those slated for publication within the coming year.

How does it work? Each author answers the same ten questions (or variations thereof), then turns the spotlight on a pair of others who then pick up the torch. In other words, it’s a global game of “Tag, you’re it.” For my part, I’ll be highlighting my nonfiction book about robots before tagging the work of two honored Colorado authors Gary Raham and Hazel Krantz.

What is the title of your book?
The Fascinating, Fantastic Unusual History of Robots.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
Straight from the desk of the very smart, very cool Carrie Braulick Sheely, Managing Editor at Capstone Press. It’s part of their Velocity series that grabs young readers with high-interest topics woven into great graphics.

What genre does your book fall under?
Middle grade nonfiction.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
As nonfiction, it would have to be a documentary. And the best voice I can imagine narrating the history of robots would be Anthony Daniels, the actor behind C-3PO of Star Wars fame. I’m guessing R2-D2 would also lend his talents and maybe Wall•E could put in a cameo.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Robots have existed in the human imagination for centuries, but now they have become not only real but common—helping people complete boring and dangerous tasks, learn about the world, and even explore the universe.

Who is publishing your book?
Capstone Press published it in 2012, and I cannot say enough good things about the work they do. Their books are beautiful, kid-reader friendly, and way smart.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Including research, writing, and feats of procrastination, about one month.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
This belongs in the “survey book” genre of middle-grade nonfiction—taking a broader topic then cracking it into smaller pieces. In this book, that includes early concepts of robots, robots on the job, robot risk takers, etc. As part of a series, I’d liken it to Scholastic’s Discover More books , National Geographic Learning’s Theme Sets™, and Learning A–Z’s online library of downloadable nonfiction books.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I am a big science-fiction fan, and most anyone who loves science fiction is fascinated by the myths and ideas behind robots. They fascinate, inspire—and in the case of Terminators and Decepticons—also frighten us. What are the ethics behind their development and use? Is there a limit to what they can be programmed to do? Will they grow more capable of learning and perhaps even achieve a level of consciousness? Writing nonfiction is a delightful way to explore the past, present, and future of this dynamic meld of engineering and science.

What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
I think few people realize how quickly the robotic revolution is changing our day-to-day lives. From factory robots, to robots capable of milking cows and picking fruit, to robots that are already patrolling battlefields—a next generation of machines capable of perceiving, interpreting, and responding are already here, and they will only grow more capable, helpful, and powerful--for better or worse.

Thank you to The Next Big Thing. Next up, a week from today: Gary Raham will discuss A Singular Prophecy, his YA science fiction adventure that ties paleontology to ancient alien visitors to the fate of our planet.

In two weeks, Hazel Krantz steps in with her timely historical middle-grade fiction In the Garden of the Caliph. It tells a tale of friendship between two 12-year-old girls—one Jewish, the other Muslim. It is “set in Cordoba, Spain, in 100 AD, the Golden Age when Jews and Muslims together created a beautiful civilization.”

How's that for variety?!


  1. May 2, 2013 7:10 AM MDT
    Sean, Not only does this book sound perfect for some of my young library patrons, I'm fascinated by the topic myself as of late. I'm looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of it in the next week.
    - Lois Brady
  2. May 2, 2013 11:46 AM MDT
    Fascinating book. I wish I could read it. Do the libraries ever carry the Capstone reading series?
    - Anna-Maria Crum
  3. May 2, 2013 11:56 AM MDT
    Thanks, yo! Yes, A-M, Capstone puts out excellent series on topics ranging from racecars to shipwrecks to fiercest warriors in world history. The books are wonderfully visual and great for "reluctant readers."
    - Sean McCollum
  4. May 2, 2013 3:37 PM MDT
    Sounds like a fantastic idea. Middle school books also make great reading for some of us old folks. The more we can do to promote good reading is way beyond really good.
    - Don

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