It’s not often that we get to interview a subject expert about a series of books on that expert’s area of knowledge. We’re pleased to talk with the author of the Bel the Weather Girl books, six of them, each presenting a weather topic that kids will feel better about if they understand it: clouds, thunderstorms, hail, tornadoes, hurricanes, and blizzards.
Many classrooms are required to teach weather. It’s our belief that these books can be a springboard for discussing, exploring, and understanding each topic. Give a warm Bookology welcome to Belinda Jensen, meteorologist.
You’re a meteorologist. What inspired you to create this series of books?
Second graders is the easy answer. I have been talking to them for 30 years. These books ended up being stories that I told over and over again because I could see the “light bulbs” come on over their heads. These are the stories that stuck because they were good enough to teach them about these weather scenarios.
Why do you feel it’s important for children to better understand the science behind the weather?
Weather is a tangible way to teach science. It is a science that effects all of us. Kids are so curious to it works so well.
Were Bel the Weather Girl and her cousin Dylan, who is often afraid of the weather, a part of the books from the very beginning? Or did you begin with a different concept?
Yes I started with the two of them and Stormy their dog of course that then added more. I also wanted the rain drops/hailstones to have names and be personalized but the publisher did not. Research showed that concept wasn’t helpful with learning.
A few of the books take place in a different setting. Clouds takes place outdoor on the soccer field. Hurricanes is set at Grandpa’s house in Florida. Thunderstorms takes place at Bel’s house when Dylan is sleeping over. How did you decide where to set each of the stories?
I wanted Bel to be from the Upper Midwest where I have been talking to the majority of my students. I had to, of course, have her travel to her grandparents for the hurricane book, but that itself is a teachable moment. Do hurricanes directly impact people in the Upper Midwest? That works well to explain why they are in Florida.
When did you first become interested in weather? How did that spur you toward a career as a meteorologist?
I did not have a thermometer on my crib like many of my colleagues. I loved earth science and I loved geography and I had a teacher influence me to look into meteorology in High School.
Each of the books includes weather facts. Those facts blend beautifully into the story. Most authors have to do a great deal of research to ascertain that the facts are correct. How did this aspect of the book work for you as a subject expert?
We just had to keep our word count down, and in the right reading level. These facts are plentiful and we just packed in as many as we could!
The back matter in each book includes a glossary, a bibliography of books for further reading, and an activity such as “Make a Thunder Bag,” “Measuring Melt,” and “Make Play Snow.” Were these activities you knew about before you wrote the books?
I have done many of these experiments in classrooms and continue to do them. Kids love experiments.
How would you suggest that teachers use these books in their classroom?
The cloud book has all of the curriculum for 2nd grade weather unit in it, the other five books just add on to it and are additional resources for them. Each book has great websites and other books to also refer too. Each book has a really fun, easy experiment that they could easily do in the classroom.
Have you worked with librarians to bring these books into the library?
Yes I have spoken at many libraries in the last few years.
What kind of feedback have you received from educators and parents? From kids?
I have really gotten many firsthand accounts of these books helping kids, helping parents, teachers explain the nuts and bolts of weather to kids. Many of those kids were afraid too and had anxiety about weather and these books have helped them.
Are you working on other books for children?
I am not right now, but the students have given me so many ideas that I know that I will someday. Bel has many more adventures ahead of her.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with your readers?
Remember that scientists come in all sorts of shapes and sizes! Scientists can be anyone, girls, boys, athletes, artists, anyone. The only thing that is necessary is that you are curious and you could become a scientist.
As an adult, after reading these books, I feel smarter, reassured, about the weather. Television news shows spend a good deal of time making us worry about the weather. Your books explain what’s happening in ways that let me in on the mystery. Thanks for making us smarter about the weather, a part of daily life that affects everyone, everywhere. I’m confident that classrooms throughout the world will want a set of these books. “Because every day is another weather day.” We all need to understand the weather.
All titles are available as library bound hardcovers, paperbacks, and multi-user e‑books from Millbrook Press (available through Lerner Books). These ISBNs are for the paperback editions:
A Party for Clouds: Thunderstorms, Belinda Jensen, illustrated by Renée Kurilla (ISBN 978−1−4677−9751−1)
Raindrops on a Roller Coaster: Hail, Belinda Jensen, illustrated by Renée Kurilla (ISBN 978−1−4677−9747−4)
The Sky Stirs Up Trouble: Tornadoes, Belinda Jensen, illustrated by Renée Kurilla (ISBN 978−1−4677−9753−5)
A Snowstorm Shows Off: Blizzards, Belinda Jensen, illustrated by Renée Kurilla (ISBN 978−1−4677−9743−6)
Spinning Wind and Water: Hurricanes, Belinda Jensen, illustrated by Renée Kurilla (ISBN 978−1−4677−9749−8)
Weather Clues in the Sky: Clouds, Belinda Jensen, illustrated by Renée Kurilla (ISBN 978−1−4677−9745−0)
Belinda Jensen is currently the chief meteorologist for KARE-11, the NBC affiliate in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. She has worked for the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City along with the ABC affiliate KTVX in Salt Lake City. She is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin at Madison with a Bachelor of Science degree in Meteorology. She has also done graduate work in secondary education through the University of Utah. She enjoys serving her community through involvement in the schools, trying to involve students, particularly girls, in science. Belinda is proud of authoring six children’s books about becoming weather savvy and helping kids with weather anxiety. Learn more about Bel the Weather Girl at her website.