Award-winning nonfiction author of books for young readers

Get Real!

That’s what I love to do most—write about real people, places, and things. As a nonfiction writer, I’ve met some fascinating people, from bug scientists to bone detectives. I’ve also had the honor of meeting a few heroes—and hero dogs—of September 11th.

Every Body's Talking:
What We Say Without Words

Donna M. Jackson with Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.
(Twenty-First Century/Lerner, 2014)

" A smart, accessible introduction to an important and interesting topic." -Kirkus

"A must-have for [classes with oral presentations]. . . Display in public and school libraries; gift a copy to your child or child's teacher; help this extraordinary resource make the rounds." -VOYA, starred review

Warm smiles. Cold shoulders. Itchy feet.

We're always talking—with our words and through our actions. From head to toe, our bodies say volumes about what we’re thinking and feeling—whether we want them to or not. Sometimes we convey these messages through gestures, such as nodding our heads in agreement or raising our arms in victory. Other times, our faces give us away, revealing underlying emotions of joy, anger, fear, sorrow or surprise. Even our postures, the way we walk, and the amount of personal space we put between ourselves and others tell stories.

EVERY BODY’S TALKING gives readers a few clues to decoding this not-so-hidden language. Unsure whether you should join a conversation between two people? Look at their feet. If they turn the foot nearest you in your direction, you’re welcome to join in. If their torsos turn and their feet stay put, it’s a private conversation best not to interrupt.

The book also looks at cultural differences. People in some cultures—France, Israel and Greece—are more comfortable touching each other than others, such as Japan, Germany and the United Kingdom. Common gestures can also carry different meanings. While giving someone the “thumps up” shows approval in the United States and Canada, it’s pretty rude in Greece.

And there’s much more, including hints, tips, and “Take Action” activities to test your observational skills. So put on a smile and get ready to start reading!

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"Alone, the tip to mimic a superhero's stance to build confidence makes the title a worthwhile investment. . . . gift a copy to your child or child's teacher; help this extraordinary resource make the rounds."   
- VOYA, starred review

"Using examples teens will recognize--young people struggling with stage fright, a teen twisting her hair nervously, young athletes avoiding the gaze of the coach--makes the narrative particularly accessible.  The chapter on cultural roots of body language, including differences in personal space, is especially compelling.   . . . A smart, accessible introduction to an important and interesting topic."   
- Kirkus

"The layout is lighthearted and the photographs are spry, while the source information is drawn from both current events and scientific experts."   
- Booklist

"Fascinating information about body language is clearly presented in six detailed yet easily understood chapters. . . . This intriguing title will enlighten readers about how much we say without saying a word."   
- School Library Journal

More Books


Co-authored with Caitlin O'Connell; Illustrated by Caitlin O'Connell and Timothy Rodwell
(Houghton Mifflin, July 2011)
- 2012 Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal Honor
- 2012 Boston Globe-Horn Book Nonfiction Honor

"This amazing presentation is a must-have
for all collections."

                  - School Library Journal, starred review

Caitlin O'Connell peered through binoculars and spotted an elephant family in the distance. Suddenly, the leader stopped in its tracks. The mighty matriarch shifted her weight and leaned forward on her front feet. The other elephants followed suit—standing still as statues.

What could they be doing?

The elephant scientist was determined to find out.

Join Caitlin and her team in the Namibian desert as they study African elephants and make a groundbreaking discovery about one of nature's most intelligent mammals!

Learn more and read an excerpt from the book

LISTEN to an excerpt from the book.

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Extreme Scientists

Making Sense of Humor

Illustrated by Ted Stearn (Viking, June 2011)
- A Junior Library Guild Selection

  • "Toss this life raft to a reluctant reader facing a nonfiction book report and make yourself a hero."
  •                            -The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

  • "Researchers and budding comedians will find plenty of useful material."
  •                                                                      - School Library Journal

- Do animals laugh?
- Are giggles contagious?
- Why can't I tickle myself?

We all love to laugh at funny things.  But what makes something funny in the first place?  What exactly is humor? 

Experts don't have all the answers—yet. But they do have insights into questions such as: Why do boys and girls often laugh at different types of humor? And, what's up with all those strange sounds we make when we laugh?

Illustrated with Ted Stearn's clever drawings, What's So Funny? is a behind-the-scenes look at humor that will tickle your brain and your funny bone—after explaining what that is, of course! Learn more and read an excerpt from the book

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"Donna's lighthearted survey injects plenty of levity into the topic of what makes us laugh . . . This book will prove valuable for readers from youth to adult."
- Jeffrey Briar, director, The Laughter Yoga Institute

" Readers will enjoy the jokes and cartoon sketches presented as well as the facts about animals and their sense of humor, the sounds of laughter . . . and the interpretation of laughter in the different cultures around the world. "
- Ingram Library Services

Extreme Scientists

Extreme Scientists

Exploring Nature's Mysteries from Perilous Places
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
- A Junior Library Guild Selection
- Smithsonian Notable Books for Children 2009
- Chicago Public Library Best of the Best kids books 2009

Scaling giant redwoods.
Diving deep into underwater caves.
Flying through the eye of a hurricane.

Some modern-day explorers risk life and limb to pursue scientific discoveries. They're pioneers who collect data in laboratories few dare to enter. Learn why ecologist Steve Sillett suspends himself high in the canopies of the world's largest trees. Travel with microbiologist Hazel Barton and probe the belly of earth's hidden caves. Follow the flight of meteorologist Paul Flaherty as he and other hurricane hunters carve through the winds of deadly storms.

Science is an adventure -- in more ways than one. Join the fun!

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Real Adventures

"One of the coolest books I've seen out this season . . ."
- Amanda Snow, A Patchwork of Books

Extreme Science: The self-sacrifice of some scientists will inspire awe, admiration, and chills
- Kathleen Baxter, School Library Journal

"Jackson hits just the right balance between informative descriptions of the science and excitement surrounding the risks involved in the activities of the scientists."
- The Horn Book Magazine

"This exemplary title is just the thing for those who think that all scientists are sedentary."
- School Library Journal

The Name Game

The Name Game

A Look Behind the Labels
Illustrated by Ted Stearn
(Viking - Penguin Young Readers Group)
A Junior Library Guild Selection

    ". . . those interested in what we name things and why will be pleased to encounter this well-researched and engagingly presented book."
    - Kirkus Reviews

What's in a name? Much more -- and much less -- than you might imagine. Our given names, for example, are often chosen with great care. Yet they generally say little about us. For that we have nicknames.

Among the more fascinating exceptions to the rule are aptronyms -- names aptly suited to a person's occupation or interests. In that case, you've got to wonder if it's purely coincidence that Alan Bloom is a renowned English gardener. Some think not.

Names introduce people, places, and things to the world -- and we all want to make a good first impression. Yet as with most labels in life, names only hint at part of the equation. Learn why what lies behind the name -- and how we interpret it -- are truly what matters.

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“All kinds of entertaining and random facts are found in this quirky book. . . . Sports, people, and geographic locations all have different sections. Black-and-white cartoons add a bit of humor. Students will navigate this book with ease."
– School Library Journal

Phenomena: Secrets of the Senses

Phenomena: Secrets of the Senses

(Little, Brown and Company, Fall 2008)
Watch the Book Trailer

Sacramento Bee review, Feb. 24, 2009

The Well-Read Child blog review, Jan. 12, 2009

'Fascinating Look at the World of Science,', 2009

Washington Post Book World review, Nov. 2, 2008

A Junior Library Guild Selection, November 2008

Notes from the Horn Book recommendation - October 2008

'Definitely a winner. . . ' Jan Fields, review

Why do we dream? Are coincidences meaningful? What do first impressions tell us?
Our senses help us see, hear, feel, smell and taste the world around us. Yet each of our experiences is different. Why is that? What influences our perceptions and, ultimately, the way we interact with the world? If one of our senses is damaged, will our brains compensate in some way? How can scientists tap into technology and extend our sensory capabilities? What about animal "super" senses? Can dogs sniff out diseases in people, and do elephants really know when an earthquake's about to occur?

PHENOMENA: SECRETS OF THE SENSES explores these fascinating mysteries and more -- surveying sensory worlds from a perspective sure to make your mind tingle! Learn More

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The Tale of Clever Hans

Clever Hans

People aren't the only ones who read our body language. Animals can also interpret our moves.

Learn more about a talented horse named Hans.

Body Talk

Positive body language generally defies gravity—thumbs, hands, and toes pointing up, for example—since it requires a bit of energy to make the move.

If you want to make a friend, smile to show you're approachable, look the person in the eyes, and subtly mirror his or her body language.

Feet point where they want to go. If you're talking with someone, and his feet are pointing in another direction, he's probably thinking more about where he wants to go than what you're saying!

A Chinese Name

Donna M. Jackson was named after a popular song called "Donna," and grew up in a state that takes its name from the Massachusett tribe of Native Americans.

Donna M JacksonWhile researching The Name Game, she received the Chinese pen name of "tang jie" (above) from a California naming company called Good Characters, Inc.

Tang (pronounced tahng) brings to mind the Tang Dynasty that reigned during China's golden age of science, poetry, and art. Jie (pronounced jee-eh) means one's older sister. This suits her perfectly, because she's the oldest of four children. Overall, the name is said to give a kind and welcoming impression.

Hear Donna pronounce her new name at

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