If Kids Were In Charge

Patty Mechael Author Interview

The Antidotes: Pollution Solution follows a group of 5th-grade friends who discover pollution in the local water is making fish and kids sick and set out to fix the issue. What was the inspiration for your story?

At the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrator’s (SCBWI) Conference in New York in 2020, I learned there was a need for smart middle-grade fiction. I figured I had a ready-made audience at home with my then 7-year-old son. This was at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. As a public health professional, I was horrified by the lack of understanding and appreciation for how public health works among the adult population and especially those in leadership. I started joking with my son that things would have not gotten so bad that we would need to shut down if kids were in charge. That idea really captured his imagination, and I found a writing collaborator who had great ideas and very strong opinions about what would work or not for kids his age. As the rest of the pandemic unfurled it reinforced my sense that as a society, we as grownups have lost our sense of collective action around our own individual health and our collective consciousness and responsibility to public health. But young people haven’t. I wanted The Antidotes: Pollution Solution to be an inspirational story that encouraged young people to take action when they encounter societal problems.

What were some educational aspects that were important for you to include in this children’s book?

When I first set out with writing The Antidotes: Pollution Solution, I wanted to weave in basic concepts in science (hypothesis creation and testing), public health (disease mapping, water quality testing, and health promotion), and climate action (plastic decomposition timing and changing human and animal health ecosystems) in a way that could be easily understood and applied to real life by young people. I also wanted to highlight that many of the current public health challenges are linked to changes in the environment and pollution. Public health and climate are important parts of science education, but they don’t get much airplay in the current science curricula in a way that is directly applicable to everyday life. The Antidotes: Pollution Solution strives to demystify science and public health as a way of interacting with the world to identify problems, study them, and then come up with realistic kid-friendly solutions. It includes targeted science experiments and activities that lend themselves well to collaboration between science and reading programs for students in grades 4-8. As a complement to the book, worked with a colleague and science teachers on a curriculum guide for school science and reading programs. Growing up I really enjoyed learning through fiction and stories. We have more of this in historical fiction, but I am keen to create and advocate for more of this through science-inspired fiction. The Antidotes: Pollution Solution Activity and Discussion Guide is available for free download at www.patriciamechael.com/antidotes 

What were some goals you set for yourself as a writer in this book?

I wanted The Antidotes: Pollution Solution to be fun and funny, but also scientifically accurate. I wanted Gir and Izi and the rest of the characters to drive the action in the story, and I wanted middle-grade young people to see themselves as part of The Antidotes by self-identifying with one or more of them. There are also not very many good examples of women and girls in STEM in the media and many women in science, including myself, don’t easily self-identify as scientists. This is starting to change in very positive ways with characters like Shuri, Letitia Wright’s character in Black Panther and Wakanda Forever, but we have a long way to go. Science is also a team sport and without supportive men who can help champion meaningful engagement and representation of women on the team, it is hard to break through. Over the past 20 years, there has been a significant increase in women enrolling in science degrees, but still a significant gap in female role models in senior academic roles. Innovation in general, but especially in science and technology, is also enhanced through greater female engagement, but it’s not happening fast enough. For many boys and men, their success is a zero-sum game. If you succeed, I fail. Whereas in science, if you succeed, we all benefit. In The Antidotes, this dynamic is illustrated through Gir and Izi having to learn to work together as a team as well as through the positive collaboration between Gir’s scientist and divorced co-parents.

Will this novel be the start of a series or are you working on a different story? 

This is the first book in a series, where The Antidotes will tackle various public health challenges. The second book in the series shifts to dual narration by Leo and Suzie and focuses on technology and the ways in which mobile phones and social media are positively and negatively impacting the group as they transition to middle school. They have to come together to become critical thinkers to better understand the problems that technology is creating in their lives and come up with youth-friendly solutions to harness the benefits of technology while reducing the risks. 

Author Links: GoodReads | Website

Just when a group of fifth-grade friends is returning to normal life and to school after a global pandemic, the waters of the Chesapeake Bay have become polluted by a plastic-eating bacteria experiment gone wrong—and both fish and kids are getting sick!

Izi, Gir, and their friends go to science club and discover a fishy cover-up. The school has to close down again! These climate warriors who call themselves the Antidotes join forces with public health activists to find clean water solutions. The friends use STEM strategies to help save the earth from a potential disaster—they also have secret meetings, do a little spy work, and make some useful discoveries.

The Antidotes race against the clock to get out the word to kids around the world about how to stay safe. But—will the Antidotes be able to get enough kids to achieve zero plastic use before it makes any more fish or children sick? Join the Antidotes in their first science adventure, and stay tuned for more stories to come!

About Literary Titan

The Literary Titan is an organization of professional editors, writers, and professors that have a passion for the written word. We review fiction and non-fiction books in many different genres, as well as conduct author interviews, and recognize talented authors with our Literary Book Award. We are privileged to work with so many creative authors around the globe.

Posted on May 21, 2023, in Interviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.


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