Perfect Picture Book Friday – Listening To The Stars: Jocelyn Bell Burnell Discovers Pulsars PLUS Author Q&A, Special Activities, AND A Giveaway!

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, Everyone!

Today I have a special treat for you!

I’m going to share the book first, so you can see what we’re talking about, and then I have a little Q&A with the author that I think writers, teachers, parents, and all readers will find very interesting as well as some activities that she prepared especially for us to do with our children and students! So please see below in the “Links to Resources” section for all that bonus material! (It includes a recipe for Disappearing Crunch Cookies and I know you won’t want to miss that! 😊)

As if all that weren’t enough, the publisher, Albert Whitman, is offering a copy! So if you leave a comment on this post between now and Thursday April 8, you will be eligible for the random drawing that could make you a winner!

Title: Listening To The Stars: Jocelyn Bell Burnell Discovers Pulsars

Written By: Jodie Parachini

Illustrated By: Alexandra Badiu

Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company, April 1, 2021, Nonfiction

Suitable For Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: biography, astrophysics, astronomy, girl power

text copyright Jodie Parachini 2021, illustration copyright Alexandra Badiu 2021, Albert Whitman

Opening: “Does the galaxy have a sound?

Is it loud and full of thunderous booms?
Soft murmurings, whooshing whispers?
Blips and bloops, like laughter and hiccups?


When Jocelyn Bell was young,
she never dreamed that she would spend
her life listening to the stars.

But sometimes, if you open your mind,
you can hear the universe.”

text copyright Jodie Parachini 2021, illustration copyright Alexandra Badiu 2021, Albert Whitman

Brief Synopsis: A biography of astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell, who helped build a radio telescope that contributed to her discovery of pulsars, which some scientists consider to be the greatest astronomical discovery of the twentieth century.

Links To Resources: the back of the book includes a glossary and an author’s note; and I have a special treat for you – some activities from author Jodie Parachini!

Welcome, Jodie! Thank you for joining us!

What drew you to this subject?

The first question people ask when I tell them I wrote a book about Jocelyn Bell Burnell, is

“who’s that?”

When I explain that she’s an astrophysicist who discovered an astronomical marvel called pulsars, they ask,

“Why haven’t I heard of her?”

Exactly. Then when I mention that she wasn’t awarded a Nobel Prize for it (it went to her male colleagues), they stare in wonder and say,

“Haven’t I heard this story before?”

Yes, sadly. Women such as Rosalind Franklin (who worked on the structure of DNA with Watson and Crick), Chien-Shiung Wu (who worked on the Manhattan Project), and Lise Meitner (who helped discover nuclear fission), were rarely acknowledged for the incredible contributions they made to science. But one of the reasons I love writing picture books is to get these stories out there. Jocelyn Bell Burnell’s story, like those of so many women who work in the STEM fields, should be read, discussed, treasured, and celebrated.

Which do you prefer writing, fiction or nonfiction?

Great question! But I can’t answer it—it’s like choosing which child is my favorite.

I’m drawn to telling stories and I tend to pounce on whatever idea strikes me at the moment. Which means I usually have a few picture book ideas in progress at once. Sometimes I can’t get a rhyme out of my head and other times I hear a story on the news and think I MUST research it further. I let my haphazard brain lead the way!

The nonfiction appeals to my inquisitive and curious nature, the fiction to my creative side. I’m sure there’s a right brain/left brain comment that could be made about this! Hmmm, Righty wants to go to the Library while Lefty wants to pick daisies… I sense a new picture book idea percolating!

I have four more nonfiction and three fiction books coming out in the next two years, so luckily I don’t have to choose between Righty and Lefty!

Do you have any advice for other writers on getting published?

I do not have a traditional publishing story. Like many writers, I spent years getting rejections (I still do). I’ve never had an agent (ahem, see what I mean about rejections?) but I’ve been persistent about following up every opportunity possible when it comes to my manuscripts. Sometimes that means:

1. Pursuing every lead with editors or publishers you meet (for example, I met an art director at a conference. He didn’t think the first story I pitched was right for his publishing house, but I followed up with another in an email, and that one will be published in 2022. I could have just licked my wounds and retreated after the first rejection but sometimes perseverance is key.)

2. Believe in your work, but be flexible enough to alter it. Editors often know the market better than writers. Sometimes it takes (what feels like) hundreds of rewrites to get to the final product. Why start out with a fixed, single-minded vision when collaboration (with awesome editors and amazing illustrators!) is so much fun!?

3. Most writers jump into querying agents/publishers too quickly. The dream of being published is powerful, but I have found that taking classes or joining writing groups and listening to the advice of teachers and peers when it comes to how to improve my work is invaluable. Learn to tell the difference between a first draft and a polished draft by getting the manuscript in front of readers. Their opinions or critiques can open up a whole world of ideas, and, eventually, make you a better writer.

Thanks for listening, kidlit folks, and I wish all of you success of your own writing journeys!

And now for the activities!!!

I have two artsy-fartsy (my mom’s term) crafts for today—the first is a spinning star…perfect to represent the pulsars that Jocelyn Bell Burnell discovered (pulsars are neutron stars that spin and send off radiation, but luckily these ones are just made out of paper). I have to admit, origami and I have never gotten along. I’m more of a modernist, throw-paint-at-the-canvas type of artist so I find folding paper in a structured, precise way quite difficult. That’s why I added the second paper star video, which is much easier and although it’s supposedly a Christmas star, I see no reason why it can’t be made for Easter too! Just grab some pastel paper, scissors, and glue!

Origami Spinning Star

Here’s the easier “Easter” Star

Double plus, I have to leave you with an amazing recipe for Disappearing Crunch Bars. (So named because as soon as you make them, they disappear completely. Trust me.)

Only 4 Ingredients:

Saltines (a column or two)
Butter (2 sticks)
Light Brown Sugar (1 cup)
Chocolate chips (12 oz semi-sweet, milk/dark/white, whatever you like)


Preheat the over to 400 degrees F.

Line a baking pan with foil. Place 1 layer of saltines on the foil. Boil the butter and sugar for 3 minutes, stirring constantly, then pour the caramelly mixture directly over the saltines and use a baking brush to cover the saltines in the caramel. Place in oven for 7 minutes, then remove and immediately pour the chocolate chips over the pan. Spread the chocolate with a brush as it melts, to coat. Cool in the fridge or preferably freezer. Peel from the foil and break into bite size (or larger J ) bits and keep in the freezer. YUM.


text copyright Jodie Parachini 2021, illustration copyright Alexandra Badiu 2021, Albert Whitman

Why I Like This Book: I love learning about interesting people I previously knew nothing about! Jocelyn Bell Burnell has been a groundbreaker in astrophysics as well as a voice for gender equality in science. When I read about how what should have been her Nobel Prize (at least partly if not completely!) went to two male colleagues I was incensed on her behalf! Jocelyn’s dedication to her research is amazing. She worked her way through 3 miles of paper printout from the radio telescope to discover patterns that would lead her to neutron stars and pulsars. At age 77 she is still contributing to the field of astrophysics and leading the way for girls and women to achieve their scientific goals. She has truly been a pioneer. An inspirational read for all young readers!

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 😊

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

PPBF folks, please add your titles and post-specific blog links (and any other info you feel like filling out 😊) to the form below so we can all come see what fabulous picture books you’ve chosen to share this week!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone! Go out and look at the stars! 😊