The Trouble With Ants (The Nora Notebooks)
by Claudia Mills; Illustrated by Katie Kath
Knopf Books for Young Readers (September 22, 2015)
Audience: 2nd to 4th grade
Fiction * Friendship * Ants
Description from Goodreads:
Science-obsessed fourth grader Nora has ants all figured out—now she just has to try to understand her fellow humans!
The trouble with ants is . . .
. . . people think they’re boring.
. . . they are not cuddly.
. . . who would ever want them for a pet?
Nora Alpers is using her new notebook to record the behavior of ants. Why? Because they are fascinating! Unfortunately, no one agrees with her. Her mom is not happy about them being in the house, and when Nora brings her ant farm to school for show and tell, her classmates are not very impressed. They are more interested in cat videos, basketball practice, or trying to set a Guinness World Record (although Nora wouldn’t mind that).
Mostly they are distracted by the assignment their teacher Coach Joe has given them—to write a persuasive speech and change people’s minds about something. Will Nora convince her friends that ants are as interesting as she thinks they are? Or will everyone still think of ants as nothing but trouble?
With real science facts, a classroom backdrop, an emphasis on friendship, and appealing black-and-white interior illustrations from artist Katie Kath, The Nora Notebooks is perfect for newly independent readers—especially budding scientists like Nora!—and adults who want to encourage awareness of STEM subjects in young readers.
Thank you Claudia Mills for stopping by Kid Lit Frenzy to answer a few questions about your newest series THE NORA NOTEBOOKS: THE TROUBLE WITH ANTS.
In The TROUBLE WITH ANTS, Nora loves science and finds herself advocating for ants. This reminds me of my first year of teaching and having to do a unit on insects. And students coming up to me to show what bugs they found on the playground. Do you have a favorite insect and how would you advocate for it?
Great question! My favorite insect is one that, sadly, doesn’t live where I now do, in Boulder, Colorado: the firefly that brightened summer nights of my New Jersey childhood. I don’t think fireflies need much advocacy, because it’s so lovely to see trees and bushes at dusk festooned with their flickering light. But if they did, I’d probably write poems about fireflies to help others see their magic and beauty.
Are there any children's nonfiction books about ants that would pair well with TROUBLE WITH ANTS?
Alas, I don’t know of any. I used the terrific book for grownups, Journey to the Ants: A Story of Scientific Exploration by Bert Hölldobler and Edward O. Wilson, for my own research. But there are a lot of ant books out there targeted to young readers.
With an emphasis on STEM in schools today, did this influence your choice in making Nora a science enthusiast?
No. I tend not to focus on current educational trends and needs, though perhaps I should. It’s the character who comes first for me when I write. I had already introduced Nora as a secondary character in my Mason Dixon series, and I just felt it was time for her to have a series of her own. Then, as I wrote about her, I came to share her love for the marvels of the natural world.
Will there be more books in the Nora Notebook series? What projects are you currently working on that you can share with us?
Two more Nora books are in the works. In THE TROUBLE WITH BABIES, Nora gets a chance to study the science of human infants up close when she becomes a new aunt to baby Nellie. In THE TROUBLE WITH FRIENDS, Nora and her total-opposite classmate Emma finally forge a true friendship after a misunderstanding that shows Nora how the social world of school needs careful scientific observation, too.
Many of your books are for 2nd to 4th graders, what is it like to write for this age group? Any challenges or things that are particularly fun about writing early chapter books and early middle grade?
I adore writing for this age group; it’s the absolute best! My child characters and child readers in that age group are so bright and sophisticated, but still have their childhood sweetness. The shorter length of the books forces me, as an author, to keep my pacing peppy, moving the stories forward with lots of humor-filled scenes. And early chapter books and middle grade novels often have black-and-white illustrations throughout, and it’s such fun to see how illustrators add their own depth of detail to my characters. I’m totally smitten with the pictures of Nora drawn by the brilliant Katie Kath.
What was your favorite book or series from when you were in 4th grade?
The Betsy-Tacy books of Maud Hart Lovelace (Betsy-Tacy; Betsy-Tacy and Tib; Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill; Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown). They remain my favorite books in the world to this day. Readers of that series should be able to see echoes of Lovelace’s dryly comic voice in my own writing.
The New Year is just around the corner - if you make any resolutions, are there any that you care to share - even if you are just entertaining them at the moment.
I always make the same one: to fill my life with as much creative joy as possible. I try to do this in all kinds of ways: writing in different, cozy places; making writing dates with other author friends; reading new wonderful books as they are published; and connecting with readers through school visits to share the creative joy of writing with them as well.
About the author:
Claudia Mills is the author of over fifty books for young readers. She does not personally keep an ant farm, but she does have a cat, Snickers, with whom she curls up on her couch at home in Boulder, Colorado, drinking hot chocolate and writing. To learn more, and to download free curriculum guides for her books, visit her website at claudiamillsauthor.com