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Once Upon a Time

August 31, 2015

Book cover of “The Toy and the Twister”Northern Illinois University Press and the NIU Center for P-20 Engagement are creating a series of STEM-based storybooks, the Stuffed Bunny Science Adventure Series, which will include a total of eight books to be published over the course of the next two years.

The books in the series focus on the adventures of a toy bunny named Bear and his favorite boy, Jack, and introduce young readers to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) concepts.

The series is written by Gillian King-Cargile, director of NIU’s STEM Read program, and illustrated by Kevin Krull, a recent NIU graduate. The first installment, “The Toy and the Twister,” will be released in November. The book follows Bear as he gets sucked into a tornado and learns about the weather. It concludes with an interview with Douglas Sisterson, a research meteorologist at Argonne National Laboratory.

The Stuffed Bunny Science Adventure Series is an extension of STEM Read, a P-20 Center program that creates field trips, community events, online games and lesson plans to help readers explore the STEM concepts behind popular fiction. The P-20 Center collaborates with university and community partners to promote innovation in teaching and learning, and foster educational success for all ages.

By including STEM content aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards, the books in the Stuffed Bunny Science Adventure Series will enable parents of young children and elementary school teachers to introduce and reinforce the concepts in a way children will enjoy.

”Very few children’s storybooks aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards are available, because the standards have been adopted by states in just the past year,” said Marilyn Bellert, associate director of the NIU P-20 Center. “Young children are natural scientists and tinkerers. We can help point them toward STEM studies and careers by getting them interested early.”

The series is NIU Press’s first foray into children’s literature. The press has traditionally published books on a variety of topics in the areas of US history, Russian studies, religion, Southeast Asian studies and regional studies. Fiction imprint Switchgrass Books publishes dynamic, original voices of Midwestern literary fiction.

Linda Manning

Linda Manning

“The press is thrilled to collaborate with the P-20 Center on this project,” said Linda Manning, director of NIU Press. “We are proud to produce a series of books that will have a positive effect on STEM education. And it’s exciting to guide the press into a new subject area.”

By partnering to create the Stuffed Bunny Science Adventure Series, NIU Press and the P-20 Center will maximize their impact on STEM education, as well as raise awareness of two vital university programs.

“This book series provides a unique opportunity for the University Press to align research expertise at NIU with outreach to the region and the world,” said Gerald Blazey, interim vice president of the Division of Research and Innovation Partnerships. “It’s a great example of what can be accomplished through synergy between NIU departments.”

Learn more about the Stuffed Bunny Science Adventure Series and find resources, videos and games at Books published by NIU Press can be purchased by calling (800) 621-2736, by ordering online at or by visiting a local bookstore.