The STEM Storytellers – Writing Books That Inspire Curiosity
By Anjali Alappat
The phrase ‘STEM’ often invokes a sense of dread in writers and readers alike. Science and math are dismissed as dull or daunting. At Pratham Books, it’s one of our favourite genres! Many of you may have enjoyed our stories without realising that they’re exploring STEM themes.
Writing STEM books is not for the faint of heart. It’s a tall order to spin a fantastical story and ensure that it’s scientifically sound as well. That’s why we place such an emphasis on finding subject matter experts who can tell tales creatively. We’ve been fortunate enough to work with several STEM experts and enthusiasts from diverse fields. From wildlife writers and photographers to scientists, our storytellers are as interesting as their books.
Under The Sea
It’s been exciting for us to be able to work with some amazing marine biologists who possess a natural flair for storytelling. Shreya Yadav’s beautiful book The Night the Moon Went Missing is a perfect example of this. Shreya, who specialises in coral reef resilience, takes us on a quest on the stunning ocean floor, exploring the depths alongside her heroine, a girl called Maisha.
Marine biologist Divya Panicker introduces us to Razia who is scared of the water but quickly learns to swim by following the movements of various ocean inhabitants. From diving like dolphins to propelling herself forward like an octopus, Razia’s adventures in Razia Learns to Swim teaches us a lot about sea creatures.
Along the Coastline
Closer to the shore, Sejal Mehta, former editor-in-chief of Nature in Focus, has written a charming story called Whoop, Goes the Pufferfish about a baby pufferfish that’s trapped in a tidal pool. A member of Marine Life of Mumbai, Sejal is passionate about the coastline and flora and fauna surrounding it.
Radha Rangarajan, a wildlife photographer and the photo editor for Nature in Focus, translated her love for the outdoors into a lovely book, Keya’s Day at the Beach, about a young soldier crab who is exploring the beach for the first time and meeting other sand-dwellers.
Our stories span the wide open waters of the sea and follow rivers to their source. We asked engineer-turned-marine biologist Nisarg Prakash to write a book about otters for us. His love for these playful creatures is evident in How to be an Otter. In the book – a great beginner’s guide to otters – a wise old otter teaches young ones how to survive the often treacherous river banks.
From Rivers to Rainforests
Not all our stories are set in the water. We’ve found that landlocked tales are just as interesting! Lush forests are filled with potential characters and intriguing perspectives. Padmaparna Ghosh, a science podcaster and environmental journalist, dives into the fascinating world of rainforest canopies in her book, Up World, Down World.
Not all interesting creatures live in deep waters or thick forests. Some can be found closer to home. In her book, Off to see the Spiders, Vena Kapur gives us insights into the lives of arachnids – both in the wild and in our homes! Vena began her career studying spiders and their habits as well as rainforest conservation. So, she was uniquely qualified to write this book! Today, she works at the Nature Conservation Foundation.
Putting The ‘S’ In Stem
Over the last few years, we have also explored a range of STEM themes, keeping in mind the relevance and complexity of themes in relation to our reader. In How Heavy is Heavy? and How Far is Far? Sukanya Sinha explores simple scientific concepts like weight measurement, estimation, and distances. A physics professor who teaches at Indian Statistical Institute, Sukanya has a real gift for tackling complex topics and making them accessible.
Another topic that has been introduced imaginatively is seasonal eating. Eating locally and seasonally is an important aspect of combating climate change, which is why Bijal Vachharajani, who wrote What’s Neema Eating Today?, felt so strongly about the topic. Bijal studied climate change and is passionate about building her stories around the theme.
The people behind scientific breakthroughs, especially women in STEM fields, don’t get enough credit for the groundbreaking work that they do. Nandita Jayaraj, the co-founder of Life of Science, writes regularly about these underrepresented women. The project details the lives and work of female Indian scientists who are not only breaking the glass ceiling but demolishing them entirely. Nandita wrote about one such trailblazer in Anna’s Extraordinary Experiments with Weather, which chronicles the life of Anna Mani, one of India’s foremost meteorologists.
STEM is a rich and varied landscape with so many wonderful stories, facts, and figures to explore. Delving deeper has been an exciting journey, and we can’t wait to create more books along this vein!
You can read all these stories for free and in multiple languages on StoryWeaver.
Anjali Alappat works as an Assistant Editor at Pratham Books, Bangalore.