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Beyond the Page: Dia L. Michels

This week we are excited to feature Dia L. Michels, author of the latest, Si mi mamá fuera un ornitorrinco: Los bebés mamíferos y sus madres (Science, Naturally! January 2019), illustrated by Andrew Barthelmes. Get to know her through some fun questions below.

What is your zodiac sign? Which zodiac sign personality trait do you relate to most and least? 

I’m a Libra, which is represented by scales, symbolizing our obsession with balance and harmony. This has always resonated with me because I weigh every side of a decision, thinking about how the side you take is always dictated by who the protagonist is. Every story unfolds differently based on point of view—if you’re a lion, it’s a cause of celebration when you catch a mouse, but if you’re the mouse, it’s a very different story!

What kind of cheese would you be and why? 

I was fortunate enough to be in Amsterdam recently and stopped at the Cheese Museum where I tasted dozens of cheeses and picked one to bring home. The label says “Gouda Caractére” and I learned that this cheese is produced by Dutch cows, then shipped to Romania, where it is ripened in a natural salt cave in the Transylvanian mountains. The hardness of the cheese meant it would last a long time, the moisture from the salt cave gave it an earthy and exotic appeal, and the cross-country adventure meant the cheese was well traveled. If I were a cheese, I’d want to be that one—a bit salty, long lasting, and full of culture!

What’s the weirdest random fact you know? 

I love learning about patterns and oddities in the mammal world. My favorite random fact is that hooded seals, who spend their lives swimming in arctic waters, will only breed, give birth, and breastfeed on land. Why is that weird? They live where there is no land. They use the sea ice instead—and hope it doesn’t melt before they’re done!

Tell us one fun insider-fact about If My Mom Were A Platypus, your most recent work. 

In order to ensure accuracy, I had to do a lot of research about the mammals in the book. I got stuck while researching hippos, because they breastfeed underwater, which seems very inefficient (to nurse underwater, a baby hippo must close her nose and ears to block out water—and then come up to the surface to breathe every 40 seconds). I hypothesized that they must nurse underwater because all of their predators live on land, but I called the hippo expert at the Smithsonian National Zoo for verification. He thought about it and said that safety could not be the reason because many of their predators live in the water. When he reflected further, he explained that hippos can’t sweat and will overheat if they are in the sun, so to protect themselves from dehydration and heat, they stay in water 16 hours a day. That experience really showed me how important it is to ask questions, because sometimes even the experts haven’t thought about your ideas before!

Dia L. Michels

Dia L. Michels is an award-winning internationally published science and parenting writer, she is the author or editor of over a dozen books for both children and adults. Her books have been translated into Spanish, Dutch, Hebrew, Chinese, and Korean. A popular speaker, she lectures frequently at conferences, universities, libraries, and schools around the country. Her most recent publication is a Spanish edition of her classic STEM children’s book, If My Mom Were a Platypus.

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