Natasha Bowen Author Post

Skin of the Sea

Dear Educator,

I first read “The Little Mermaid” by Hans Christian Andersen when I was six. I fell in love with the world under the sea and its magic. As I grew older, I still loved mermaids but began to wonder: Where were the mermaids who looked like me?

I read a lot. Growing up, I didn’t experience many stories where I saw myself. One piece of advice I’ve heard for writers over the years is to write the book you want to read. Skin of the Sea is that story for me. I wanted to read about Black mermaids and legendary creatures. I wanted to read about the excellence of the West African kingdoms. I wanted a tale that explored the magic, myths, and spiritual beliefs that have spread across the diaspora.

I was first motivated to write this book after coming across Yemoja, a Yoruba deity of the Ifá spiritual belief system. She was said to have left her home in the rivers and streams to follow the first Africans who were stolen. There are stories of her comforting enslaved people, while others tell of her wrecking the slave ships. Some say that Yemoja blessed the souls of those who died in the sea and returned them back home. This was the belief that inspired me. What if she created seven Mami Wata (mermaids) in her image to help her do this? And what if one of them saved a boy instead? The seeds for Skin of the Sea were sown and the tale grew from there.

My father is Yoruba, and being able to delve into that part of my heritage has made writing this story even more important to me. Skin of the Sea is a tale of magic and courage, but it also highlights a rich culture and a spirituality often overlooked. This story speaks of ingenuity and fellowship. It is a celebration of the ancestors and their strength.

It is incredible to be reading more stories that open up our worlds to other people’s experiences, cultures, and beliefs. I’m proud of Skin of the Sea and how it explores Black mermaids with African origins. Some readers will see themselves in this story in a way they haven’t before, while other readers will be able to expand their experience of magical beings, fantastical creatures, and history. I hope that all readers will be enthralled by Simidele’s world and will get lost in the glories of fifteenth-century West Africa.

All my best,
Natasha Bowen

Natasha Bowen

Natasha Bowen is a writer, a teacher, and a mother of three children. She is of Nigerian and Welsh descent and lives in Cambridge, England, where she grew up. Natasha studied English and creative writing at Bath Spa University before moving to East London, where she taught for nearly ten years. Her debut book was inspired by her passion for mermaids and African history. She is obsessed with Japanese and German stationery and spends stupid amounts on notebooks, which she then features on her secret Instagram. When she's not writing, she's reading, watched over carefully by Milk and Honey, her cat and dog. Follow her on Twitter at @skinofthesea.

Hope Jahren Author Post

The Story of More (Adapted for Young Adults)

Dear Educator,

First of all, thank you for reading books! In a world full of distractions, you are giving your time and energy to written ideas, thoughts and feelings … and teaching others to do the same.  What would the world be without you?  While we’re on the topic, I’d love for you to take a look at my new book for young people, “The Story of More” perhaps there is something inside that would interest you – and the students that you teach!

Like many of the people that I meet each day, I have plenty of questions about Climate Change: mostly along the lines of What should I believe? and Should I be afraid? Because a teacher’s job is to answer questions, I did my research and wrote a book entitled “The Story of More.”  It is the book full of the answers that I found for the questions above.  I’ve now re-written the adult version to a version that will be more accessible — and more interesting — to young people.  It’s full of simple explanations, personal stories, our shared history of Global Change and what we can do to bring forward a brighter future – what it doesn’t contain is preaching and propaganda.  It is the science that I needed to write, and maybe — just maybe — it contains answers and solutions that your students want to consider.  It is a book on Climate Change that is truly for everyone, regardless of their “politics.”

I’ll close this note with my very best to you, from one book lover to another!

Hope Jahren

Hope Jahren

Hope Jahren is an award-winning scientist who has been pursuing independent research in paleobiology since 1996, when she completed her PhD at University of California Berkeley and began teaching and researching first at the Georgia Institute of Technology and then at Johns Hopkins University. She is the recipient of three Fulbright Awards and is one of four scientists, and the only woman, to have been awarded both of the Young Investigator Medals given within the Earth Sciences. She was a tenured professor at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu from 2008 to 2016, where she built the Isotope Geobiology Laboratories, with support from the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health. She currently holds the J. Tuzo Wilson professorship at the University of Oslo, Norway.

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