COVID-19 has book lovers reading more than ever. Is your COVID reading list different from your regular reading list? If yes, how has it changed?
I’ve been reading a lot of World War II novels, including children’s books like Then There Were Five and The Ark, older books like Code Name Verity. They are books about courage and adaptation. I’m also reading Susan Sontag (America) , John Steinbeck (Sweet Thursday), Angie Thomas (The Hate You Give) and other authors who have something to say about America past and present. I continue reading poetry (Mary Oliver, Walt Whitman), and science, especially works about climate and how to solve the problems inherent in climate change.
Where do you get your inspiration?
Often it’s through research, which I define to include reading the paper and trolling around on the internet. When I find a story that I want to tell someone else about, I know I’ve cracked on to something. It can be a challenge to decide if such stories will make good books or comics, but I carry on working until I figure out the answer to that.
Who made reading important to you?
My mother and my grandmothers, all big readers. I grew up in a library that had a separate, independent children’s library, and I was very much encouraged there. — so much so that I became a volunteer there, then an employee, through high school and college. It’s the setting of my new novel A Girl, a Raccoon, and the Midnight Moon — which is full of many of the books I’ve read and admired.
How would you describe your books?
I write novels for middle graders and young adults, including graphic novels.
Recent novels include Hundred Percent and Doodlebug: A Novel in Doodles.
I also write nonfiction for middle graders and young adults, including graphic nonfiction. My next book is Diving for Deep-Sea Dragons, a graphic nonfiction book about the deep sea.
I work with lots of scientists to create public outreach and educational materials around their work, and often go into the field with them. I’ve been to the Arctic and Antarctic, and to the bottom of the ocean in a three-man submersible. I write articles and create science comics and nonfiction books about these experiences.
What was your favorite subject in school? Why?
Art. It gave me tools and skills, but it was up to me to decide what to do with them. I’ll never stop thinking that’s the most exciting thing in the world.
A lot of people think it might be science or writing for me, but I thought writing classes were boring, and I had very little formal science. When I was a senior in high school I realized that a lot of my interests outside school had to do with science, so I begged the AP bio teacher to let me take his class. He did, requiring that I maintain a B average, and I did — despite a lack of prerequisite chemistry and other formal educational experiences. I’ve continued to learn my science “on my feet,” through experiences, conversations, and independent study, and it’s taken me pretty far.
What one thing would you like to learn to do?
Scuba dive. I’ve had some limited experiences with it, but never got certified. More about boats and navigation, too. It’s all about the water, for me.
Karen Romano Young has dived to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean in a tiny submarine, crunched through
Arctic ice in an icebreaker, and visited labs, museum workshops, and research institutions across the U.S. to
write and draw about science. She was a lead science communications fellow aboard Dr. Robert Ballard’s
research ship E/V Nautilus.
Karen has written and/or illustrated more than 30 books for children and is the creator of Humanimal
Doodles, a science comic.
Karen lives with her family in the woods of Bethel, Connecticut. Her next adventure is a stint at Palmer
Station, Antarctica, as the recipient of the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Artists and Writers
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