Suzanne Slade studied mechanical engineering and worked in the field — on car brakes and rockets– after getting her degree. But she eventually returned to her first passion: writing. (Visit her website to see her very first work, which received two stars. . .and a smiley face.) And while most of us were out hunting for masks and wet wipes during the pandemic, she was hunting down a good story. Read on to learn more about Suzanne and her latest picture book, June Almeida, Virus Detective! The Woman Who Discovered the First Human Coronavirus, illustrated by Elisa Paganelli (Sleeping Bear Press).
I never know when a book idea will find me. And I certainly wasn’t looking for a new book project in the spring of 2019 when the pandemic first began. I was too busy figuring out which store might still have toilet paper, and how to clean my groceries so I didn’t bring any dangerous coronavirus particles into our home.
Like most people around the world, I was scrambling to make sense of this evolving situation. So I read lots of news articles trying to learn more about this new virus and the disease it caused, Covid-19.
On April 17, I stumbled upon across a shocking article. It explained that coronaviruses weren’t new at all. In fact, the first human coronavirus was discovered back in 1964. Even more surprising—by a woman who’d never attended college. Her name was June Almeida. Why have I never heard of her? I wondered. The article went on to share that June had made many groundbreaking science discoveries, yet she’d been overlooked by historians.
And there it was—my next book!
That same day, I began to research and went hunting for primary sources. I soon learned June had one daughter, Joyce Almeida. Joyce had very little internet presence and it seemed she lived in England. So I reached out to an organization that had recently worked with Joyce and asked if they’d forward an email to her. They agreed, and the next day Joyce responded.
I told Joyce I’d like to share her mother’s inspiring life story with young readers, and she kindly sent back priceless source materials: marvelous photos of June at work, science papers she’d written, June’s official CV, and much more. Best of all, Joyce and I developed a friendship over time. She kindly answered questions about her mother’s invaluable work, and also shared details about her personal qualities, interests, and hobbies.
Fortunately, it didn’t take long to find a publisher who was as excited as I was about sharing June’s amazing story. The publisher was ready to move mountains to get the book out as soon as possible. So, thanks to the phenomenal team at Sleeping Bear Press, and illustrator extraordinaire, Elisa Paganelli, June Almeida, Virus Detective! The Woman Who Discovered the First Human Coronavirus (Sleeping Bear Press) releases March 15, 2021 (11 months after June’s story idea found me.) And the book couldn’t have turned out better!
In June Almeida’s story, readers will discover that although June faced many obstacles, she continued to pursue her passion for science. A brilliant virologist, June went on to find the first human coronavirus, and her work is now helping in the fight against Covid-19. I hope June Almeida, Virus Detective! inspires readers to go after their dreams and make a difference in the world.
To see the book trailer, click here.
Sibert Honor author, Suzanne Slade, has written more than 100 books. An engineer by degree, she enjoys writing about groundbreaking women in science, such as A Computer Called Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Helped Put America on the Moon (NSTA/CBC Best STEM Book) and Out of School and Into Nature: The Anna Comstock Story (NSTA/CBC Outstanding Science Trade Book). Suzanne’s book Astronaut Annie was read by astronaut Anne McClain aboard the International Space Station for Story Time From Space. Learn more about her at suzanneslade.com.