February 9: Publication Date for BURN: MICHAEL FARADAY’S CANDLE
I don’t remember the first time I heard about Michael Faraday’s “Chemical History of a Candle” lecture. But I do remember being impressed with one thing. Since it was first published in 1860, Faraday’s lecture has never gone out of print. Wow!
In the world of enduring authors, there’s Shakespeare. And the Bible. And Faraday? A scientist? Are you kidding me?
I was hooked. Faraday’s original lecture is public domain and easily available on the internet. Here are some links: Wikipedia, Project Gutenberg, entire text read on YouTube, and How to Photograph Heat Waves.
It was the text that held my interest, though. Written in a complex, slightly archaic English, I was amazed that this lecture was directly at kids. The original Royal Institution lectures were named the “Juvenile Christmas lectures.” So, I went looking for an updated version that would appeal to today’s child.
The most famous science lecture ever given was intended for an audience of children, and yet, it’s never been done as a children’s picture book. I was surprised. Maybe. . .
Researching and Writing BURN
The original lecture was a series of 5 lectures, given over a short period of time in 1848. Each lecture runs about 6000 words or more. Faraday never talked down to kids, but did provide lots of visuals and demos in his lectures. Could I take just the first one and make it work for a picture book format? I decided to try.
Of course, that meant I needed to learn lots about candles, combustion, flames, and so on. Faraday’s lectures are complex, but he communicates with clarity. As I condensed the narrative, keeping the major points, it followed a surprisingly simple outline. Once I had the main points down, I worked to describe each point in simple language that would be understood by the 21st century student. Faraday’s original language was — charming. Whenever possible, I used snippets to give it a flavor of the 19th century.
Outside the lecture, I also had to provide enough context for the story. I researched the Royal Institution, Faraday’s life and times, and London at the time of Faraday’s lecture. I found a reproduction of the newspaper advertisement about the lecture, other writings by Faraday and maps of London at the time.
Finally, I had condensed the text into about 650 words. Back matter for the book discusses how candles are made and provides a brief biography of Faraday.
We felt the illustrator should be British and were thrilled when Peter Willis agreed to illustrate the book. A long-time graphic designer, this is his debut book. His comic style added humor to a rather dry topic, which adds extra kid appeal.
The result is Burn: Michael Faraday’s Candle.
With the publication date of February 9 rapidly approaching, our excitement is growing. We have a “burning” desire to see this book blast out of the gates.
Would you preorder now? If you think you’re going to want the book, preorders are helpful to publishers because they build excitement and momentum.
Pre-Order NOW Available February 9, 2016 in the US Stores: Great for STEM Education
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Pre-Order NOW Available 9 February 2016 in the UK Stores: Great for STEM Education
Video of 10 Burn Experiments
For fun, here are ten fire experiments.
If you can’t see this video, click here.