Saturday, November 12, 2022


Here is Elliott Kurta's first foray into reviewing nonfiction. He wants more opportunities--so I'm on the lookout for books to recommend to him. If you have a favorite nonfiction middle-grade, please leave the title in the comments.


If you could have any superpower, what would it be? In Elaine Kachala’s debut book, Superpower?,  (Orca Books: 2022) kids learn about wearable technology, or wearables, that make it possible to have super strength, flight, telepathy, and more! Distilling a complicated topic into an enlightening and profound book, Superpower? explains not only what wearables are but how they’re affecting our society.

Overall, Superpower? is the quintessential nonfiction book. Not only does it cover a cool topic—real-life superpowers—it does so with easy-to-understand explanations and eye-catching illustrations. Each of the chapters is rife with intriguing examples of wearables in use today, and will capture the imaginations of readers. This book is ideal for 9-12 year-olds kids, although it could be read to much younger kids. However, as new and challenging words and terms are occasionally introduced without contextual definitions, parental help may be needed either way.

Illuminating the world of wearables, Superpower? addresses the technologies that are turning science fiction into reality. Covering VR, prosthetics, fitness trackers, smart clothing, and more, the book addresses some of the obvious—and not-so-obvious—examples of wearables already in use today. The book also addresses not only the history of wearables and early examples of technologies but also a glimpse of what we can hope to develop in the future. Additionally, the book features interviews with young scientists and inventors working towards a brighter future. Below, you can see an example found on pages 22 and 23, in which Christina Mann demonstrates her invention, a sonar collar that encourages social distancing.

 A bubble ball? A spiked collar? Finally, a 3-D printed prototype. Christina Mann constructed and tested different designs to spark discussion about COVID-19 and social issues and create practical technologies to keep people safe while protecting their privacy and sensory rights.
Photo credit: Steve Mann and Christina Mann

However, the wearables in development are only half of the story. Superpower? also delves into how wearables have affected our lives, our interactions, and most importantly, our privacy. Despite being a children’s book, Superpower? isn’t afraid to talk about the ethical concerns regarding these new technologies. In between describing what fitness trackers and brain-computer interfaces are, Kachala takes a moment to remind readers what might happen if corporations have unlimited access to our data or if an AI “goes rogue” and takes over. In order to spur further thought, at least once or twice per chapter the book also includes sidebars reminding the readers to “slow down and think human.”

Overall, Superpower? sets itself apart in how it addresses the dilemmas surrounding controversial new technology. While the material is adjusted to a younger audience, quality is not compromised. The photos and illustrations throughout the book expedite the process, renewing engagement throughout each of the chapters. All in all, Superpower? is a great way to introduce middle-schoolers to non-fiction, encouraging the use of critical thinking while remaining an enlightening, exploratory book.

Elliott is a prolific reader of various genres who is more than happy 
to share his opinions on books.
In his free time, he enjoys writing, reading, and running. 
       He is a 9th-grade student in Charlotte, NC.  


CAROLHow did your science background feed your interest in writing this book? 


ELAINE: I have a science and social sciences background. Back at the University of Toronto,, I took a Sociology of Health and Illness course, which hooked me and led me to a new career path. I'd worked as a medical technologist, made my way into hospital management, and considered doing a master's in health care administration. This sociology course started me thinking about the social, economic, and environmental issues that affect our health, well-being, and quality of life. 


CAROL: Did you write the book first or contact a publisher with a proposal?


Outside of picture books, writers usually develop a proposal for nonfiction. But crafting a nonfiction proposal is pretty intense! I had to do a lot of research to write the proposal. It included several elements:


  • An overview with a captivating hook and summary, noting the genre, key concepts, target age group, who would buy the book, and word count.
  • How the book compares to, and is different from, other books in the market.
  • Table of Contents, followed by a detailed outline of each chapter.
  • Three sample chapters (I had to do three because this was my first book so the publisher would see my writing style and voice).
  • Bibliography.
  • Marketing and promotion plan.
  • My bio.


Ted Staunton critiqued it. We made some tweaks, but overall, he thought it was great and recommended that I reach out to Kirstie Hudson at Orca Book Publishers. As luck would have it, Superpower? was a perfect fit for Orca Think, a new nonfiction series that looks at issues making headlines to give kids the tools to think critically. I am beyond grateful for Ted's support and Kirstie's interest in the book! Then, the research and revising continued!  

CAROL: Superpower? is remarkably up to date—including Covid in 2020. Was this a challenge?


Yes! It was my biggest challenge. As time went on while writing the book, I learned of new devices and made some replacements. Covid wearables are a perfect example. I did not have this in my nonfiction proposal, but since I wrote the book throughout Covid, I ran into fascinating information which demanded to be included.   


CAROL: Out of curiosity, did you meet the Manns?


ELAINE: No, not yet, but I'm looking forward to it. Because I wrote the book during Covid, this wasn't possible. But we corresponded regularly, and Dr. Mann graciously took an incredible amount of time to answer all my questions and send many fabulous photos. Also, he was one of the experts to fact-check the manuscript. I hope we'll meet up soon.   


Want to know how Elaine got interested in wearables? On Monday, I'll 

post her answer to that question on the Talking Story Facebook 

group. Not a member? Let me know in the comments and I'll send you

an invitation. 


To enter this giveaway leave a comment by November 16. If you are new to my blog, please include your name and email address. For each time you share this post on social media I'll give you another chance; just let me know what you do. U.S. addresses only. If you prefer, you can email me with your contact information.

Congratulations to Hewi Mason who won MEOW! from last week's blog. 

For more great middle grade books, check out Greg Pattridge's blog on Monday. He features lots of fine books!


Theresa Milstein said...

What an interesting subject. I can see kids getting into the tie between technology and superpowers. I like that this book covers the ethical implications.

Esther M. Bandy said...

Carol, thank you for sharing this on your blog. It sounds like a fascinating book!
Elliott, thank you for your wonderful review. You did an excellent job.
Elaine, thank you for writing this book and doing the interview. It sounds like a wonderful book and I'm grateful that you offered a giveaway. This is a book I would love to read!

Carol Baldwin said...

Yes, I think it's a thought-provoking book, Theresa. You name starts the list.

Carol Baldwin said...

YOu're in, Esther. Yes, I think you would like this book!

Danielle H. said...

I love reading books like this one because I learn so much. I'm most excited to learn about the bubble ball. One of my dream technologies is to have an environmentally adaptable bubble to wear while out running--it would protect me from all weather conditions, so no more worry about freezing hands and feet or getting soaked during storms.

Carol Baldwin said...

I love your idea- Danielle. Maybe you can help invent a gigantic bubble ball!!

Marci said...

What a fascinating book! This topic looks incredible. Thanks for sharing, Carol. Congrats, Elaine!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Marci. You're in!

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great review, Elliott. This is such an intriguing nonfiction topic. I'm going to let someone else win because I'm buried in books right now.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks for commenting Natalie. I know the buried in books feeing!

Beth said...

Great review and interview. I avoid (usually)nonfiction MG books, but the ones I recommend are the young readers' editions of adult books. The best I've read are Hidden Figures and Three Cups of Tea (with intro by Jane Goodall.) Publishers started with choosing Boks for Hire authors, but now most are re- written by the original authors.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks for your comment, Beth. I enjoyed the movie Hidden Figures, but haven't read the book. I'd love to include you in this giveaway but I need your last name and email address.

Valinora Troy said...

I see Elliot excels at non-fiction reviews as well! I think this sounds a very interesting book (though the collar photo scares me a bit!! :) ) and very interesting interview too. Thanks for sharing!

Brenda said...

What a wonderful review and interview. I haven't read many nonfiction books, but I did enjoy Tod Olson's series of Lost in the (Antartica, Amazon, Pacific etc.). No need to enter me in the giveaway, like Natalie I have quite a few books on my plate atm. Happy MMGM and have a lovely week.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Brenda and Valinora. Elliott and I appreciate your support!

Greg Pattridge said...

Great interview and an insightful critique by Elliott. Technology continues to evolve and become a normal part of our lives. I will back away from the giveaway given the amount of books I'm faced reading by year's end.
A non-fiction suggestion for Elliott is Piece by Piece, a memoir of how a boy's love of Legos led him to make a prosthetic arm for himself. I received three copies of this book. I already gave two of them away but can send you the last one for Elliott if he is interested. Just email me an address.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Greg. I'll ask him. That sounds right up his alley!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Greg. I'll ask him. That sounds right up his alley!

Susan said...

Very interesting subject - things I had never thought of before! And yes, the kids' dads would definitely find it fascinating! Thanks!

Carol Baldwin said...

I hadn't thought of all this either, Susan. The best picture books are ones that parents like too!!

Annette Whipple said...

This sounds like it was fascinating to research and write!

Carol Baldwin said...

I think you and your family would love this book, Annette!

Sue Heavenrich said...

this is a great book - in fact, it's sitting right here on my desk waiting for me to stop being lazy and type up a review! I do think kids will enjoy it!

Carol Baldwin said...

I totally understand, SUe. I have 2 books in the same category!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks to everyone who recommended some NF titles to Elliott!

Faith said...

Fascinating! I'm always on the lookout for good non-fiction.

Rosi said...

I have been hearing about this book. Nice to get Elliott's take on it. Thanks for the interesting interview.

Patricia T. said...

What a very thorough review, Elliott! You hit everything I want to know. Just wish my grandson was old enough for this book. I know he'd love it.

Have you read "Bionic Beasts: Saving Animals Lives with Artificial with Artificial Flippers, Legs and Beaks?" by Jolene Gutierrez, or "All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys' Soccer Team?" By Christina Soontornvat?

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Patricia. I've read Jolene's book and have heard of the other one. I bet Elliott would like both.

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