KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Dr. Adam Mathews, an accomplished geography professor and researcher at Western Michigan University, is now also a children’s book author.
Mathews went back to basics with the release of his debut book, "ABCs of Geography," as part of Chris Ferrie's Baby University Series of board books, which aims to introduce young children to the basic concepts of a STEM topic for each letter of the alphabet.
"Over the years, I kept buying all of these Baby University books, which is ironic because they're designed for babies, but the subjects are really complicated," Mathews says.
Mathews’ personal favorite in the series is “Optical Physics for Babies” because of his expertise in remote sensing, that is, imaging of Earth’s surface from satellites and aircraft.
“I make a point to share that book with students in my classes so they can better understand how light interacts with different land cover types,” says Mathews.
As the series grew and expanded into more topics, Mathews began to consider what a geography-focused contribution might look like.
“I started with the five themes of geography—location, place, movement, human-environment interaction and region” says Mathews. “I did my best to strike a balance between the physical and social science elements of geography. I want a physical geographer interested in landforms like fjords to enjoy it as much as a human geographer interested in diffusion.”
Of course, the book wasn’t written for geographers, but Mathews wanted to create a book that was representative of such a diverse discipline.
After fleshing out the concept, Mathews sent Ferrie an email proposing his idea for the next book in the series. Ferrie and the publisher were both enthusiastic about Mathews' concept, but the COVID-19 pandemic put many projects on hold.
As the situation improved, the publisher resumed with the creation of new books, and Mathews was able to collaborate with Ferrie to finalize “ABCs of Geography.”
"Once we got the green light, the book creation process wasn't all that long. Chris (Ferrie) usually creates the illustrations and text for this series, unless the topic is outside his area of expertise. I had given him a draft of the text, so it was essentially the illustrations that remained," says Mathews.
Mathews hopes that the book will help to bring geography as a discipline to the attention of more kids and families.
“My ‘pie in the sky’ hope for this book is that kids and parents know better what geography is and that it’s a discipline that can be pursued in school and in college,” says Mathews, noting that each state decides if and how geography classes are offered to students K-12. “That’s the dream for me—for geography to get more name recognition as a discipline.”
“ABCs of Geography” was released on Nov. 1, 2022, and quickly rose to the #1 new release in children’s alphabet books on Amazon. The book can be purchased through any large book retailer as well as local bookstores. Signed copies will soon be available locally at Bookbug in Kalamazoo.
About Chris Ferrie and the Baby University ABCs Series
Chris Ferrie, an academic researcher and professor by day, is passionate about communicating science which has led him from the most esoteric topics of mathematical physics to more recently writing children’s books.
The Baby University ABCs offers educational board books for toddlers written by an expert. Each book offers three levels of learning to encourage little scientists to explore and dive deeper into each scientific concept. Its approach to early learning is beloved by kids and grownups.
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