ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — This new book from Kevin Kurtz, a current Rochester resident of about ten years, combines the things he loves: writing, science, and education.
It’s Kurtz’s 23rd book, many of which are focused on the sciences, animals, and biology. So perhaps it’s not surprising that his process to become a children’s writer focused on science… Happened organically.
“I started reading all the time and sometime around like maybe nine or ten, some of the things I was reading were starting to get my imagination going,” Kurtz said.
He remembers his time growing up in Homer, New York. He was surrounded by books, and comics. Like so many inpsired by the written and illustrated word, he wanted to take the craft up himself.
“As I got older, I realized like I don’t actually have artistic drawing talent,” Kurtz said with a laugh.
That realization that life might be tougher than seems, extended to his growing fiction writing career. Struggles to to get his work published meant he had to rely on delivering pizzas to make end’s meet. Like others in that position, came the questioning: “I don’t know if this is the life I want.”
His travels took him to Charleston, where he started working as an educator in a marine biology lab, then after an aquarium opened up in the area, he took an education job there.
“I really liked, talking to people, to kids about science and nature and animals and things like that,” he said. “And that’s when I started thinking: ‘maybe that’s something I could do with my writing is write about science and nature for kids.'”
That fleeting though became prophecy.
But with almost two dozen books under his belt, a number of awards, an initiative called “Kids Vs. Climate Change,” and a regular rotation of school visits, this new book “The Fascinating Science Book for Kids” presents another challenge.
Kurtz’s books are all non-fiction, but this particular book presented another challenge; explaining very nuanced concepts to kids in an understandable way.
“I think of two things like what’s the hook, like what is the really cool thing about this that kids can either relate to, or they have no experience of whatsoever, but it’s so weird and cool,” he said. “One of the things I do is I’ll think of an analogy, something I can compare to that kids are familiar with.”
Kurtz spends hours researching these topics, cross referencing them with published papers, and even going a step further, by checking other news and content sources online. He tries to find ways around the “top ten lists” found on other sites.
He also says that his educational experience working in a “live” setting at the lab or the aquarium — along with his appearances and speaking gigs at schools – give him an immediate reaction from the kids on what works and what doesn’t. He also works with the visual artists for the book to make sure that the facts are portrayed in an engaging way.
As for this product, he’s glad to finally have it out in the universe. While astronomy might not be his first wheelhouse, his favorite science fact comes from that field.
“Basically everything inside of our body was made in stars. Stars are like nuclear furnaces, they’re doing fusion. They all start with hydrogen atoms, and the hydrogen atoms fuse into helium. And in that fusion process, they make the heat and the energy, but they just keep building bigger and bigger atoms.
“Once they hit iron, they don’t have enough energy to fuse iron. So that’s when they start dying. But some of them are so big that they still have enough energy in them, they might explode into a supernova, and that’s where everything else like gold and all the other larger elements. I just found was amazing. Like the idea that we’re made of star dust… Is like something songs from the sixties like have lyrics about, but it’s true. We are all made of start dust.”