"In the tradition of Casey at the Bat and Edgar Allen Poe." --Daniel Pinkwater on NPR
The Secret Science Project That Almost Ate the School Illustrated by Stephen Gammell. Simon & Schuster, 2006.
The Story Behind the Book
After my picture book, There's a Zoo in Room 22, was published, I wanted to write about another favorite elementary school tradition (There's a Zoo in Room 22 is about wild and crazy classroom pets, one for every letter of the alphabet.) Right away I thought of science fairs. I tried to imagine a science fair "what if" that would be funny and exciting. What if a lazy student bought a science project on the Internet? What if that science project turned out to be very dangerous? I researched real science fair projects until I found one that might wreak havoc: the old yeast-eats-sugar-and-gets-really-really-big experiment. The most difficult part of The Secret Science Project that Almost Ate the School was writing it in perfect metered rhyme. It took four years and two editors to get it just right. The art of Stephen Gammell is beautiful and funny and frightening, all at the same time. No wonder he received the most important award for illustrating children's books, the Caldecott Medal.
A little-known fact about The Secret Science Project that Almost Ate the School:
I wrote the book in the first person, as if the main character was telling the story. Although I imagined that this character was a boy, I never used the word "he." When Stephen Gammell read the manuscript, he thought the character should be a girl. Oh well. Illustrators do interpret manuscripts in their own way, and once I saw his drawing of the girl, I thought she was perfect.
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