Together, let's inspire the next generation of curious minds!
Rose's Superhero Birthday: An Immune Cell Treasure Hunt is a book that takes children on a journey of discovery about the immune cells that keep them safe every day. A curious and inspired girl, Rose has asked her immunologist mom for a science-themed birthday party, complete with a B cell birthday cake. The book follows Rose and her friends through the joys of childhood, including treasure hunts and self-made theatrical performances, while simplifying and illuminating some of the deeper complexities of the immune system.
How this story was born, and why it matters
My eldest daughter entered a phase where she wanted me to make up a new story for her each night before bed, and so our protagonist, Rose, was born. Each night, we followed Rose and her dog Chocolate on an imaginative adventure of my creation. Around this same time, my daughter began asking for deeper answers to questions about bodies, cells, and immunology. I am a research immunologist working in software development, and my daughter would always delight in looking over my shoulder at visualizations of cells. When she got a cut or a cold, I would give her a simple immunology-based explanation, and she would dig deeper and deeper with her questions. I first decided to write and illustrate this book as a way to engage and further educate my curious children.
As I began to sketch and develop the storyline, I realized that there was a broader opportunity: to bridge the communication gap between what we've learned as immunology researchers and what is communicated to the public, in a fun and illustrated way! I love simplifying complex information and making it fun and easy to understand. Our immune systems have been in the spotlight in public health conversations, and providing an accessible, deeper introduction to immune cells can only facilitate that conversation.
Beyond that, I see tremendous value for the self-image of girls with the protagonist being a curious, spirited girl of seven with a very knowledgeable and capable scientist mom. The more that we can provide examples of women and girls shooting for the stars and engaging on complex topics, the more we empower our little girls. Likewise, Rose's friends draw from a diverse demographic, and I hope that this message of self-empowerment resonates with children no matter their race or background. Let's empower our little ones to shoot for the stars!
While the protagonist is a curious, science-loving girl, boys and girls will both engage with and learn from this superhero storyline. One of Rose's friends, Lucas, helps us learn more about our superhero mast cells!
I hold a Ph.D. in Immunology from Stanford University, where my studies focused on dissecting mechanisms of T cell signaling, and understanding the responses of cancerous T cells to therapeutics (PubMed me!). I am now a product manager in software development, focused on developing and implementing novel algorithms and visualizations for large single cell datasets, most commonly involving immunology research data. I do a lot of project management as well, and so am comfortable managing complex timelines with moving parts. I'm also a mom to two energetic, curious girls who love to learn and have insisted that I read them drafts of this work-in-progress regularly. :) They (and their friends) are great test audiences!
Many of my hobbies center around creative, visual art forms, including illustrating, photography, painting, and sculpting. I have done all of the illustrations in this book myself, and have crafted the immune cells to represent actual images as we know them from microscopy and receptor morphology, while conferring upon them a friendly feel. :)
I've been doing my best to add value for the community beyond this campaign, including hosting a Reddit IamA where I welcomed questions from the community about immunology (and cancer, since immuno-oncology was my graduate research focus). Likewise, in honor of breast cancer awareness month, I've been illustrating how cancer interacts with the immune system, and some very promising therapeutics that are already making an impact. (NB: cancer / immuno-oncology is not a topic in the children's book.)
Who's the target audience, and what will they learn?
The storyline is geared toward girls and boys ages 4-10, but adults and caregivers will learn along the way as well. Readers will learn:
- What major cell types comprise the human immune system
- The primary functions of each of the major cell types
- How these cell types work together / communicate
- How children can work together to achieve a fun outcome!
If you're thinking, "Wow, this is a really cool idea, but I don't have a kid!," consider supporting my campaign by buying a book for a friend, grandchild, neighbor, school, or library. Or keep it for yourself and learn anyway! The card game that comes with some of the reward levels is also a fun way for adults to learn, and the custom art posters will add lovely science ambiance to your space.
While still in the editing phase, the book is currently comprised of 29 pages of storyline and 8 pages of appendix and will be printed in 11" x 9" hardcover form. The appendix lets readers dig deeper into concepts in immunology, including how cells are related, where they form in the body, and example scenarios where immune cells are involved in real life (allergies, runny noses, cuts, etc).
A few of the reward tiers contain a poster featuring an immune cell (or cells) of your choosing! Choose between 8x8 and 11x14. Frame not included. Perfect for offices, labs, and children's rooms!
Yes, one of the reward levels include a 52 playing card set featuring immune cell superheroes from the book! This is fun for the whole family. While the cards have images and descriptions of each of the immune cells, they also have standard numbering and suits so that you can use them to play any standard card game. Favorites over here with our 4 year old are "Go Fish," "Crazy 8s," and memory/matching. Each card also includes a fun-facts stripe spelling out the hierarchy and percent-of-leukocytes (for anyone who is actually studying...)
Stuffed Immune Toys!! (Added 10/21/2015)
GIANTmicrobes has sponsored our campaign by donating stuffed immune cells toys! Fun, fun, fun! Three backers at the $65 level and up will win a white blood cell, stem cell, or antibody, and one lucky backer at the $125 level and up will win a gigantic stem cell! These plush toys will make learning about immune cells through the book even more fun. The winners will be determined by lottery at the end. Here's what they look like!
Funds raised during this campaign will be used for:
- High-quality offset printing of hardcover books
- Printing of superhero immune cell playing cards
- Poster production
- Shipping costs (materials and postage)
- Costs of obtaining an ISBN and other book registration fees
- Kickstarter and payment processing fees
- Costs to list in online book stores following close of campaign and shipping of your rewards
A lot of people have contributed to my journey that has led me to writing this book. I'd like to thank:
- My family for their enthusiasm and support - particularly my daughters who inspired this work, love being the "testers," and are eager for more
- My mentors and advisors in science over the years who afforded me the opportunity to grow as a scientist and learn hands-on
- My dad for cultivating my curiosity and love of science by conducting fun science experiments at home and helping me with every science fair project - and for creating an environment where I could shoot for the stars and feel no ceiling
- And last but not least, I'd like to thank you in advance for considering (and possibly contributing to!) this campaign to educate the world about immune cell superheroes, and to inspire girls and diversity in science!
Risks and challenges
I have a full draft of this book already written, and am in the stages of editing and revisions, with help from scientific colleagues and non-scientist friends with kids. I will be using Print Ninja to print the hardcover book copies and decks of playing cards and have had discussions with them around quotes and turnaround times. I have investigated shipping costs and those are reflected in the shipping charges associated with this campaign, and factored into the campaign fundraising goal. There is always risk of delays in production if the sample doesn't meet spec or if the printer has delays, but Print Ninja is a reputable business and I have full confidence that we can print and ship in a timely fashion. We have mapped out timelines for samples/proofing, production, shipping, and I've built in some additional buffer for unforeseen delays.
Finally, there is always the risk that we won't meet our campaign funding goal and won't be able to print the book. So, please help spread the word and help Rose empower children to shoot for the stars!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)