Back to School: Take a walk on the wild side |

Back to School: Take a walk on the wild side

Katy Castronovo illustrates the Budding Biologist series, created by Dr. Kristine Duehl to provide young readers with accurate information.
Courtesy photo |

TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. — “I was shocked when I started reading to my new baby,” said Kristine Duehl. “As a scientist with a Ph.D. in biology, I couldn’t believe the inaccuracies in children’s science-based books and knew I had to make a difference.”

One of the first people Duehl reached out to was Katy Castronovo, an illustrator she met during childbirth classes. Happy to collaborate with Duehl, Budding Biologist took off and the rest, as they say, is history.

The second book in the Budding Biologist series, “Where Do I Live?,” explores the five major biomes and is aimed at pre-schoolers and early readers. Unique for books in this genre, “Where Do I Live?” uses an inquiry style format and vocabulary appropriate for young children to encourage their natural curiosity and foster analytical thinking.

Dr. Duehl, with a Ph.D. in biology from the University of Florida, is as meticulous in her research as she is in her writing. She researched age-appropriate descriptions and vocabulary for her books and Castronovo drew realistic pictures that are colorful and accurate without creating misconceptions about the animals or places they live. Finally, all Budding Biologist books are mom-approved and peer-reviewed by scientists and educators.

“Where Do I Live?” takes children on a journey through the biomes as it challenges their mind and imagination:

Each book includes an outline on adapting the book to be read to the appropriate age from preschool through second grade and includes scientific vocabulary and definitions

Introduces children to climate change, endangered species, adaptation and environmental protection

Taps into a child’s innate curiosity about nature and breaks down complex scientific concepts into ideas they can comprehend

Using accurate illustrations, instead of comic-style images, so children understand what animals truly look like

Engages children in an inquiry-based style of learning which has been shown to be one of the most effective ways of engaging readers and teaching them scientific thinking

“Children want to learn about nature and our environment,” explains Duehl, “and we want to ensure the books they read are fun, visually appealing and full of factual data.”

Kristine Duehl has spent months and years at a time conducting research in other countries focusing on plant-animal interactions and science education. She also has an extensive background teaching science and biology classes in middle school and at the college level. She currently lives with her husband and toddler outside of Sacramento, Calif.

Katy Castronovo has a B.F.A in painting and drawing from Ohio State University. She has worked as an administrative assistant for the Canzani Gallery for the Columbus College of Art & Design.

“Where Do I Live?” and “Am I an Insect?” are available on,, and Net Galley.

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