I’m Erin Dealey, and I write books for kids. I’m a teacher, presenter, rhymer, blogger, and proud Drama Mama.

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9 Qs for Henry Herz + I AM GRAVITY = Happy #BookBirthday!

April 16, 2024

It’s celebration time for the #BookBirthday of I AM GRAVITY written by Henry Herz, illus. Mercè López, Tilbury House. Readers may remember a previous interview about Henry Herz’ I AM SMOKE. We are happy to have him back to the blog!


“In the first person, gravity speaks of its many powers on Earth and in space throughout this incantatory introduction. Gesturing to human experiences of the force’s pull, riddle-like lines suggest, ‘You feel me but cannot see me. I reach/ everywhere, touching everything….’

As examples of the force’s influence build—touching on planet formation, black holes, the path of light, the tides, and much more—a titular refrain drives home the subject’s ubiquitous importance.”

Publishers Weekly

About the Author:

Henry Herz is the author of ten+ picture books. His children’s short stories have been published in Highlights for Children, Ladybug Magazine, and in anthologies for Albert Whitman & Co. and Blackstone Publishing. He also writes adult science fiction and fantasy short stories, and in his spare time (ha!) he is a freelance editor for Eschler Editing and Running Wild Press

We have Questions:

Henry, the young reader…

Q 1. Were you the kid who went straight to the nonfiction section in the library? Or were you drawn to humorous fantasy or science fiction?

HH: I liked both. I would read Where the Wild Things Are and then turn around and read a book about whales. Both fascinated me, though in different ways.


Q 2. What was your research like for I AM GRAVITY? What was your biggest challenge?

HH: As an Engineering major, I had to take physics, so the topic wasn’t new to me. I’d also taken an astronomy class. That said, that coursework was in the dim and distant past, so I did have to brush up on my physics, history of physics (e.g., Isaac Newton vs. Albert Einstein), and cosmology (not to be confused with cosmetology – I won’t make that mistake again).

Check your facts!

I also had the manuscript reviewed by a PhD physicist and a PhD astronomer, just to make sure I didn’t violate the laws of the universe, which I do from time to time.

Remember your readers…

Honestly, the biggest challenge was taking some of the truly complex and mind-blowing aspects of gravity, and communicating them in a manner comprehensible to young readers.

Q 3. I love that I AM GRAVITY imparts the same, mysterious tone of your previous title, I AM SMOKE, yet instead of smoke’s importance in history, gravity seems to get a more scientific framework in the main text. And yet you manage to capture the magic of this second scientific topic. This is not an easy task!

How does one even begin to write something like this? Do you write the first draft longhand? Structure the text like a poem?

HH: I always use my computer for drafting manuscripts. I wanted the book to have a cyclical structure, just like I used for I Am Smoke. Luckily for me, Mother Nature obliged.

Over millions of years, gravity clumps together interstellar gas and dust — the bigger the clump, the more it attracts additional atoms. With enough mass, the material collapses under its own gravity.

As the pressure continues to increase, the temperature of the core rises until it gets so hot that fusion reactions begin—a star is born. The outward pressure from fusion counteracts the inward pull of gravity.

Once a star’s fuel is used up, gravity overpowers the outward pressure from fusion. If the star is big enough, its rapid collapse creates shock waves, blasting the outer part of the star into space. Some of that debris may eventually collide with interstellar molecules to form new stars and planets.

Rinse and repeat on a galactic scale.

Voice and Scope

Q 4. Writing narrative nonfiction requires a balance between facts and lyrical language. How did you decide which elements of gravity to focus on? Were there some you had to leave out?

HH: The transition from science to lyrical imagery came naturally because gravity’s fingers brush so many subjects. And yes, that’s a parallel to the fact that every object in the universe exerts a gravitational effect (even if infinitesimally small) on every other object.

To achieve the narrator’s voice, I thought of myself (temporarily, mind you) as a relentless, eternal force, so my words became powerful with, dare I say it, gravitas. I did dare.

I had to leave out some of the more complex aspects of gravity, although some made it into the author’s note. For example, Sir Isaac Newton thought gravity was an instantaneous force. Over two-hundred years later, Albert Einstein developed the concept of gravitational waves that convey the effects of gravity between objects at the speed of light, 186,000 miles per second.


Q 5. Did you encounter any surprises while working on this manuscript?

Yes, that gravity keeps us alive. It maintains Earth’s orbit around the sun by counteracting the outward centrifugal force generated by Earth’s elliptical path.

Without the sun’s gravity, Earth would be flung into the cold of space. With gravity, we receive just enough light and heat for life to thrive.

Gravity similarly keeps the moon balanced in orbit around the Earth. Via gravity, the moon causes the oceans to ebb and flow. Gravity keeps the air and water in Earth’s atmosphere from simply drifting into space. Winds blow because gravity pulls down colder (denser) air. Rain falls because of gravity.

Mercè López Photo: MB Artists

Q 6. I’m so glad you were paired with Mercè López again for this second “I AM…” book. What surprises did Mercè bring to the project?

HH: Me too! Mercè’s art is stunning (which is no surprise). She went dark, on many spreads almost sepia-toned, not just for celestial scenes but even terrestrial ones.

Mercè chose a pale orange to show the influence of invisible gravity. I think she experimented with iron shavings and magnets to develop the patterns. That’s not accurate from a physics perspective, but it creates evocative graphics.

Visual winks

There are fun little visual winks in there, like a dandelion puff from I AM SMOKE, an apple in homage to Sir Isaac Newton, and a spaceship that’s awfully familiar-looking. Captain, she’s givin’ it all she’s got.

Mercè created a couple of spreads where the right side mirrors and complements the left in a visually stunning way.


Q 7. What’s your favorite spread?      

HH: Nutella.

More seriously, I love this one.

Interior art by Mercè López from I AM GRAVITY written by Henry Herz (Tilbury House).

“We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon…”

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

Q 8. Is it true that people are made of star dust?

HH: The fusion taking place in the core of stars forms heavier elements like carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and iron. These elements were not present when the universe formed. When dying stars explode, that scatters these elements into space.

Eventually, gravity forms some of them into planets, including Earth. Eventually, some work themselves into the food chain. So, the heavier elements that make up our bodies were originally forged within the cores of stars. We are literally made of stardust!


What’s next?

Q 9. What’s next for you? Anything you can share?

HH: There are two more I AM books written, I AM LIGHT and I AM WIND. I have several fiction picture books out on submission, as well as a time travel middle grade novel and a few anthologies.

We’re in the midst of negotiating a three-picture book deal with a fun concept – fractured origin stories of sidekicks from classic adult novels. The first, THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY, tells of young Ishmael’s attempts to catch a wily white fish. The artist for those does stunning work, too.

Three anthologies I edited that are scheduled for 2024 release:

  • THE FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS (contemporary middle grade, Albert Whitman & Co.) – with Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, Nancy Churnin, Stacia Deutsch, Bridget Hodder, Nancy Holder, Alan Katz, Gini Koch, Nancy Krulik, Joanne Levy, Terri Libenson, Leslea Newman, Erica Perl, Rachael Romero, Alan Silberberg.
  • WINK (young adult fantasy, Brigids Gate Press) – with James Aquilone, Kendare Blake, Leah Cypess, Stacia Deutsch, David Gerrold, Tara Gilboy, Nancy Holder, Alethea Kontis, Jonathan Maberry, Seanan McGuire, Wulf Moon, Henry Neff, Alex Shvartsman, Maggie Stiefvater
  • RED STARS & SHATTERED SHIELDS (adult sci-fi, Yuriko Publishing) – with David Brin, Jennifer Brody, Jennifer Brozek, Adam-Troy Castro, Keith DeCandido, David Gerrold, Elana Gomel, Jonathan Maberry, Jody Lynn Nye, Cat Rambo, Alex Shvartsman, Susan Schwartz, Robert Silberberg, Adam Stemple, Ian Randal Strock.

Thank you for joining us on the blog again, Henry.

San Diego area #kidlit friends–go celebrate his Book Launch THIS Sunday!

You can learn more about Henry Herz and his books on his web site

www.henryherz.com and by following him on social media:

TwitterX @HenryLHerz

Insta henry_herz

Next up on the blog: 

An early celebration of Jami Gigot’s upcoming (5.12)



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