Hi Math is Everywhere readers,
Today we have an extra special treat: the amazing Teresa Robeson is here to talk about not one, but two, of her picture books: Queen of Physics How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom and Two Bicycles in Beijing!
We’re going to do something exciting, and do a compare and contrast of her books. Let’s dive in to this super exciting interview!
Kaitlyn: Hi, Teresa, thanks for joining us today!
Teresa: Hi Kaitlyn! Thank YOU for inviting me to be on your blog. I always enjoy hanging out with you.
Kaitlyn: Aw, the feeling is mutual, my friend! First off, can you compare and contrast how you were inspired to write these stories?
Teresa: With Queen of Physics, I was inspired by something I had read…possibly in an issue of Physics Today (it’s been so long, I don’t remember)…on C.S. Wu. I was immediately drawn to her story because she is a Chinese immigrant like I am and she loved physics like I do.
For Two Bicycles in Beijing, I was inspired by a family trip to China, my ancestral homeland, in 2013.
So while one was sparked by reading and the other by traveling, both books are steeped in my main interests: science and my cultural background.
Kaitlyn: That’s wonderful that they are both so important and dear to you, what’s more, they both tell amazing stories on top of teaching us these wonderful things about science and China. What was the same and different about your process of writing these two stories.
Teresa: QoP required a lot of research–a LOT–and was rewritten probably over 30 times in the 5 years I worked on it. On the other hand, TBiB didn’t need much research, and only underwent a couple of rewrites. The published version isn’t that different from my original draft. But I did do research for both books…one for a factual life story and scientific accuracy, and the other to make sure the street routes taken weren’t impossible.
Kaitlyn: Wow! It’s so amazing how different they were, and I love that they are so representative of you, always filled with great research and accuracy. How did working with your editor/publisher compare and contrast for these stories?
Teresa: You know what’s interesting? Editor Christina Pulles was the editor who bought both my stories! The first was over at Sterling and the second at Albert Whitman. She is an absolute joy to work with. Everyone who has had her for an editor says the same. She really, really gets me and my writing. She is very sensitive to, and respectful of, my visions for the stories. When I tell people she’s a genius, I am only partly joking!
Kaitlyn: She sounds amazing! I hope you get to work with her again someday! Can you share how your hopes for each book are the same and how they’re different?
Teresa: With QoP, I want to inspire girls, especially POC girls, to go into science, but my other goal for it is to show people how immigrants have made huge contributions to the U.S. and the world. Asians tend to be an invisible minority, called “model” and ignored until we become scapegoats for something. So, I was pleased when Booklist, NCTE, and the APALA/ALA highlighted the story and recognized Wu’s importance.
For TBiB, I hoped to share some of the sights of a world-famous city with kids. Not everyone gets to travel widely. Books are a great way to take kids to new places and experience cultures that they might not otherwise. Fostering an understanding of, and familiarity with, other nations and peoples is one of the steps towards teaching kids tolerance and acceptance of those different than they are.
But for both books, the end hope is really the same: I want them to reach a wide audience so that people who normally don’t care for science might see the human side of it, and people who know nothing about Chinese-Americans or Chinese culture can learn more about it.
Kaitlyn: Can you share what’s next for you?
Teresa: I have recently been tasked to take on the Co-Regional Advisor role in my SCBWI chapter. That has taken up much of my time and energy so far, and I foresee it continuing to do so as I work with my wonderful Co-RA, Diane Bradley-Kantor, to grow our region and provide good leadership and benefits for our members.
On the writing front, there’s nothing new to report. My agent has a couple of my manuscripts out on submission, but there have been many passes. Your readers might be interested to know that winning awards, even bigger ones such as ALA or NCTE, doesn’t really help your career. The only advice I can give myself, and to others on this journey, is one I borrowed and tweaked from C.S. Wu’s father: Ignore the obstacles. Just put your head down and keep writing!
Kaitlyn: Wow, thank you for sharing that! I sure hope you get some bites from editors soon, and can’t wait to see the brilliant stories you come up with as you brilliantly “keep your head downa dn keep writing!”
Kaitlyn: Thank you so much for this delightful interview!
How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom
Meet Wu Chien Shiung, famous physicist who overcame prejudice to prove that she could be anything she wanted.”Wu Chien Shiung’s story is remarkable–and so is the way this book does it justice.” —Booklist (Starred review)When Wu Chien Shiung was born in China 100 years ago, most girls did not attend school; no one considered them as smart as boys. But her parents felt differently. Giving her a name meaning “Courageous Hero,” they encouraged her love of learning and science. This engaging biography follows Wu Chien Shiung as she battles sexism and racism to become what Newsweek magazine called the “Queen of Physics” for her work on beta decay. Along the way, she earned the admiration of famous scientists like Enrico Fermi and Robert Oppenheimer and became the first woman hired as an instructor by Princeton University, the first woman elected President of the American Physical Society, the first scientist to have an asteroid named after her when she was still alive, and many other honors.Winner – 2020 Asian/Pacific American Awards for Literature Picture Book
An NCTE Orbis Pictus Recommended book
Kaitlyn’s Review of Queen and Two Bicycles
Teresa Robeson‘s debut picture book Queen of Physics How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom is amazing right from the start: Rebecca Huang‘s cover features a blissful picture of Wu Chien Shiung wearing a lab coat and pearls. Then, it dives right into family support, girl power, and courageousness of this incredibly intelligent and motivated woman. Time after time after time, men came to Wu Chien Shiung to get help proving their theories and every single time, she did it! BUT the scientific community continued to give Nobel Prizes to these men she helped instead of her. Thank goodness for Smithsonian magazine and Newsweek for seeing her for who she was and naming her “The First Lady of Physics Research” and “Queen of Physics” respectively. I am so glad that today women get more credit for what they do, but also so happy that Wu Chien Shiung got to pursue what she loved with the support of her family no matter what others tried to tell her she couldn’t do. If you want an inspirational and beautiful book to inspire the children in your life, you’ll definitely want to get a copy of Queen of Physics How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom. Thank you, Teresa, for sharing this woman’s amazing story!
Two Bicycles in Beijing is a sweet story of friendship as well as an exploration of Beijing through a very cool lens of a mystery. When a red bike’s best friend is purchased from the bike store, it thinks it will never see its friend again until it gets bought by a messenger. As the messenger bikes around Beijing, the red bike looks for its friend–a yellow bike. It continues to get its hopes up at each wonderful yellow thing in the city it encounters. Finally the red bike gives up and doesn’t think the next yellow thing will be its friend, but it is! And more than that, the bikes’ new owners make friends too. I love that this book has a happy ending and teaches about Beijing in such an adventurous way! Kids will have a blast looking for yellow and explaining what the yellow color really is in each picture.
Bio Teresa Robeson
Teresa Robeson draws upon her Chinese heritage, Canadian-American sensibilities, as well as her background in science and love of nature when she writes. She has been published in children and adult magazines. QUEEN OF PHYSICS (Sterling Publishing), a picture book biography, was her debut. Her second book, TWO BICYCLES IN BEJING (Albert Whitman), released in April, 2020. Teresa recently accepted the role of Co-Regional Advisor for the Indiana chapter of Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Writing and doing volunteer duties for SCBWI leaves her little time for much else, but she enjoys creating art, making soap, knitting, baking, helping out around the homestead, and wowing the chickens with her bilingualism (they are, shockingly, not impressed).
Social media links:
To win a copy of a Queen of Physics notebook (Continental US only please)
You have five ways to enter (each one will get you one entry into the drawing, so feel free to do all three!):
- Comment on this post
- Share in the comments below that you did a purchase request for either book (both will give you an extra entry) at your library
- Share in the comments below that you added both books to your “Want to Read” on Goodreads list and/or your Amazon Wishlist
- Share in the comments that you ordered a copy of either book
- Retweet my tweet about this blog post on Twitter (gold star if you tag Teresa @TeresaRobeson)
Thanks so much, readers, for reading, sharing, and supporting authors in any way you can. Buy books, read, review, and share, share, share!
Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez
PS If you haven’t checked out #KidlitZombieWeek, hop on over to my critique group’s Twitter: @6and_MANuscript for info on the event to help you revise your dead manuscripts (and win awesome prizes!) from June 22-26, though we may have a few surprises in store before then so make sure to follow and watch for the #KidlitZombieWeek hashtag!