They made fans and reached bestseller lists in their eponymously titled STEM-themed picture books, and now engineer Rosie Revere, architect Iggy Peck, and scientist Ada Twist return in The Questioneers, a new chapter book series written by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts. Abrams’s Amulet imprint launches the line in October with Rosie Revere and the Raucous Riveters, which has an announced first printing of 250,000 copies.
Iggy, who starred in Beaty’s first book about the trio (2007’s Iggy Peck, Architect) was inspired by her son, who displayed a keen interest in building things as a child. “Even when we went to a restaurant, he’d always find a way to build something—like making structures out of little jelly packs,” she recalled. “I thought it would be fun to write a book about a kid who is similarly passionate about building things—and who might just become an architect.”
Young readers, teachers, librarians, and parents took a shining to the budding young architect and, Beaty reported, the Abrams sales team clamored for more stories about Iggy. But Beaty found herself pulled in another creative direction.
“I tried a few times to write another Iggy story, but I wasn’t happy with what I came up with, so instead I began looking at the other kids in Iggy’s class, thinking that they had to have stories, too,” she said. “I scrutinized David Roberts’s illustrations in Iggy Peck, which turned out to be a very fruitful exercise, since David gives so much personality to each child he draws. It’s almost as though we are co-parents—we both know things about the characters, but not necessarily the same things. As I looked at his pictures, I noticed a girl with blond hair who is always hiding behind bangs—almost trying to be invisible—and she became Rosie Revere.”
Beaty and Roberts followed up 2013’s Rosie Revere, Engineer with Ada Twist, Scientist, which Abrams published in 2016—and the books had auspiciously timed arrivals in the trade and educational marketplaces, given the growing enthusiasm for STEM-themed children’s books, especially those featuring girl protagonists. “I wasn’t aware at the time of the massive wave of interest in the topic and the global push behind STEM, so it was quite a coincidence,” Beaty observed. “I have a background in STEM subjects, so it was important to me to write about an engineer and a scientist—but there is never a focus on gender in my books. Every kid is curious, every kid is passionate about something, and every kid must learn about problem solving and persistence.”
New Adventures for Rosie and Company
In Beaty’s new caper, resourceful Rosie and her friends use “springs and strings and other things” to re-purpose a failed invention and save the day for Rosie’s great-great-Aunt Rose and her fellow, feisty Blue River Riveters, who built airplanes together during WWII and now spend their days laughing, singing, dancing, and helping one another.
The decision to publish Rosie Revere and the Raucous Riveters as the launch title in The Questioners series, reported Andrew Smith, v-p and publisher of Abrams Children’s Books, sprang from both the popularity of Rosie Revere, Engineer, which “has more than one million copies in print and is one of our biggest selling picture books,” and from readers’ requests. “So many kids have read and loved the picture book introduction to Rosie and have been asking—begging—for more books about Rosie,” he added. “And since many of those readers are now of chapter book age, they’re ready for longer adventures. It made perfect sense to launch a chapter book series so that Andrea could build upon the world she and David created in the picture books and expand the stories of each character.”
Beaty leaped at the chance to revisit her young protagonists’ lives and write longer stories aimed at readers ages six to nine. “David and I both felt that there is so much possibility in this world, which is also populated by adults who are quirky and have their own passions—they are kind of grown-up versions of Rosie, Iggy, and Ada,” she said. “It has been a challenge but a delight to spend more time with these kids in the new series, and to have a chance to amplify their voices and personalities, and to explore new aspects of their lives, including their dynamics with their siblings and with members of older generations—like the Raucous Riveters. And the format gives me more space to pursue the offshoot things that interest me, like scientific principles and history.”
One thing that remains a constant, despite the two series’ different formats, is the fluid collaboration between Beaty and Roberts. “Writing the chapter books, I always look back at the clues that David put in the picture book illustrations,” said the author. “We’ve developed a very cool collaboration where we’re each careful not to step on the other’s creative toes. He never tells me what the characters should do—unless I ask for his advice! As I write, I am always thinking about what’s going to intrigue David and what I can do to make it fun for him—and then he runs with it, and I know to get out of the way and let him do his magic. I think ours is a rare, very circular collaborative process—and a delightful one.”
Another Questioneer is in the spotlight in the series’ second installment, Ada Twist and the Perilous Pants, due out in spring 2019, which again juggles science facts and fun as Rosie’s Uncle Ned floats into the air while wearing his helium pants, and Ada must devise a plan for rescuing him. “I love the fact that the space these characters inhabit has room for learning factual things and experimenting, but at the same time it’s full of joy and has so much potential for silliness and suspension of disbelief,” said Beaty. “It’s been a great journey so far, and I’m super excited to discover what lies ahead.”
The Questioneers #1: Rosie Revere and the Raucous Riveters by Andrea Beaty, illus. by David Roberts. Amulet, $12.99 Oct. ISBN 978-1-4197-3360-4