Sydney & Simon: Full Steam Ahead!

Written by Paul A. Reynolds
Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
Hardcover Book

Sydney and Simon are twin mice on a mission to save the wilting flowers in their window box. During a humid heat wave, their window got stuck, and now they can't open it to water their blossoms before the neighborhood flower show. The young chapter book underscores how the characters use STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) to learn about the water cycle on earth and in the home and, ultimately, to rescue their flowers. Curious readers can learn more in a glossary and author's note.

About the Author: 

Paul A. Reynolds’s childhood home was as lively as Sydney and Simon’s. His family’s ginormous supply of pencils, paper, books, and art was referred to as “the creativity tools.” Today Paul exercises his imagination at FableVision Studios, a media company he founded with his twin brother, Peter. Together they create storytelling technology, such as websites, games, and animated films. Paul is also the author of the children’s book Going Places. 

About the Illustrator: 

Peter H. Reynolds learned early on that two minds are better than one. Like his twin, Paul, he believes that the arts help us solve problems and understand the world. Peter has written and illustrated many books for children, including The Dot, Ish, and The Smallest Gift of Christmas. He also illustrates Megan McDonald’s Judy Moody series. Peter lives in Dedham, Massachusetts, where his wife runs an art gallery just across the street from The Blue Bunny. 

Meet the Characters:

Meet Sydney

Meet Simon

Character full name -  Sydney Beatrix Starr. Her parents gave her that middle name in honor of Beatrix Potter – who, along with being an amazing artist & storyteller of such books as The Tales of Peter Rabbit, was also a natural scientist & conservationist – who discovered the symbiotic relationship between fungus and algae. She was prevented from reading her research paper to one of the UK’s scientific societies because she was a woman.

Age - 12, 6th grade.

Physical features - thin, lanky, with purple fur/skin/tail, with a shock of orange red hair that is never neatly brushed.  She loves bright colored clothing – with fun, vibrant designs.  She is 1 inch shorter than Simon.

Education – 6th grade.  Loves school. Insatiably curious – always reading, exploring, asking questions.   Learning happens everywhere for Sydney. 

Preferred hobbies – Writing and drawing.  Syd prefers low-tech means of self-expression – a good notepad/sketching journal – a pencil & a paintbrush.

Family dynamic – Sydney was born 1st - before her twin brother Simon.  This makes her feel like she’s looking out for her kid brother, which sometimes annoys Simon. “You’ve only been breathing air 5 minutes longer than I have Syd – that doesn’t really mean you’re older!”  For Sydney, nothing will changer her mind.   The twins have EACH OTHER’S backs.   They love being together - and love being twins.  They know how special it is – even more special that normal brothers & sisters who get along.  The twins don’t compete – and genuinely enjoy each other’s successes.   Sometimes they don’t even need use words to speak – they can give a look, and the other one knows exactly what the other is thinking.

Favorite possessions – Sydney travels everywhere with her Wonder Journal, with pen attached by a piece of colored yarn.  She has a 100-pencil set of watercolor pencils that she won in the 3rd grade school art contest – and has memorized all the funny names of each color. Electric kumquat and Misty Lavender are her two favorites.

Ambition(s) – Sydney wants to be a publisher author, just like her Dad – and an artist/scientist just like her middle name’s sake Beatrix Potter – with an aim to make the world a better place.   One project she has on her bucket list is to make the world’s safest unicycle – that creates an instant soft landing pad around the unicycle if it tips too far over. 

Food preferences - Sydney became a Vegan at age 10 after she read the book Chew on This, which led her to wage anti-fast food campaign in their house. Vegans are vegetarians whose diet that excludes meat, eggs, dairy products and all other animal-derived ingredients. Sydney has learned a lot about nutritional & environmental science over the last couple years – and loves to share what she has learned with anyone who will listen! 

She LOVES spicy foods, unlike Simon, and says one day she’ll try the Ghost Chili which is rated at over one million Scoville units – and that definitely has mild-palette Simon spooked! (The scale is named after its creator, American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville – who measured the spiciness of chili peppers or other spicy foods on with a scale referred to as Scoville heat units (SHU) - which is really measuring the amount of capsaicin in the pepper.)

She positively hates fast food – and after recently reading CHEW ON THIS, she won’t let her parents even slow down near any of the fast food joints in Wonder Falls.  She loves growing her own veggies.  And is now all about “organic everything” in what she eats and how she grows her plants.

Character flaws – While she almost always sees the glass half full, Sydney can sometimes be a worrier.  Of the two twins, she’s the first who might feel discouraged.  From wilting flowers to wasted water, she can carry the weight of the world on her shoulders and won’t stop wringing her hands until she thinks she’s got a good solution.

Character strengths – Very empathetic.  Sydney feels the pain of the world – and out to make sure she uses her creative problem solving skills go to good use.  She is wildly optimistic and enthusiastic. She is fiercely protective of her kid brother – and naturally draws on her steely courage and bravery to get Simon out of any dangerous situation.

Worst fears - Sydney is pretty fearless within reason, as long as she can calculate reasonable probability of survival – except for one thing, she is very afraid of heights!  Even thinking of looking over the side of a rooftop or tall building makes her weak at the knees.  She also can’t stand seeing any creature, plant or person hurt in any way.

Talents – Wonderful artist and writer. Sydney can draw blindfolded and with one hand tied behind her back.  She’s very good at making observations, making thoughtful insights and “connecting the dots” to come up with new ideas/inventions.  She loves growing things – flowers & veggies. Syd loves collecting, creating & cooking Vegan recipes.


Character full name - Simon Seymour Starr.  Simon’s mother, a scientist/inventor, insisted on Simon’s middle name, as she is a devotee of Seymour Papert’s work, who is considered to be the father of Constructionism, a theory developed by Papert, one of the founders of MIT Media Lab. His theory about authentic learning is based on creativity, tinkering, exploring, building, and sharing with the world. “Papert had previously worked with Jean Piaget, but felt that Piaget’s constructivism placed too much emphasis on the internal mental processes of learners. He insisted that learning occurs not only through learners constructing meaning, but also through constructing real-world inventions, which can be shared with others. He argues that: the construction that takes place ‘in the head’ often happens especially felicitously when it is supported by construction of a more public sort ‘in the world’—a sand castle or a cake, a Lego house or a corporation, a computer program, a poem, or a theory of the universe. Part of what I mean by ‘in the world’ is that the product can be shown, discussed, examined, probed, and admired. It is out there.”  (

Character nickname:  He insists on Simon.  “No short cuts, please.”

Age - 12, 6th grade.

Physical features - Purple fur/skin with a wild tuft of orange hair.  Simon wears blue glasses.  He is one inch taller than Sydney.

Education - Like his sister, Simon loves learning everywhere/anytime – even in school.  He loves patterns, natural sounds, beats – and music. He is happiest learning when he can create something – especially original music or his video productions to make complex things easy for people to understand & enjoy. 

Preferred hobby - Simon is a techie-meets-musician-meets-media-producer.  He loves composing and recording his own original music – including playing his cherry red ukulele, as well as shooting & editing videos.  He also loves skateboarding.

Family dynamic:  Simon knows he’s younger brother of the twin duo, but he’s not about to let birth order put him in second place.  He’s usually the first one out the door to an adventure – sometimes forgetting to check for things he needs before he goes, which, luckily for Simon, Sydney usually remembers.  He’s the self-assigned cheerleader of the family – the counter balance to Sydney’s sometimes serious, feel-the-pain-of-the-world empathy and worry.  He’s quick with a funny quip or the center of slapstick humor.  Simon likes cheering people up – and entertaining a crowd.

Favorite possessions - Simon never goes anywhere without his computer tablet – where he makes daily notes in his electronic Wonder Journal – and uses it for capturing images and creating projects.   He loves his audio recording gear, his ukulele and his 3D-printed skateboard

Ambition(s) - 1) To meet Commander Chris Cheezfield, first Canadian mouse in space who strummed and sang the hit pop song “Mouse Oddity” on the International Space Station.  2) To create an animated series about a brother & sister who love STEM and the ARTS.  3) To inspire other people to fall in love with arts & STEM, by writing a Broadway musical about Leonardo da Vinci – his art and inventions – the score of which would feature Leonardo’s own musical invention, the Viola Organista. 

Food preferences - Simon likes to say he’s on the “White Food Diet” – he loves white bread, pasta, milk, potatoes, rice, cream of wheat, and sugar. His one exception is pizza – topped plain white cheese, thank you.  While he’s not fan of fast food, he hasn’t signed on to Sydney’s Vegan agenda – which causes some deep philosophical discussions between the twins. 

Character flaws – Simon is impulsive and sometimes takes short cuts without thinking of the consequences – he’d rather just try something first and see what happens – even if that means he falls flat – or he gets soaked.

Character strengths – Simon has a great sense of humor – though he can get a bit silly.   He loves his sister Sydney – and would do anything to protect her.   He is resilient and perseveres no matter what – usually thinking the glass is just about full, all the time.   He knows that creative thinking can lead to lots of great answers – even if you have to zig zag your way there.  He actually loves making mistakes.  One of his heroes is Thomas Edison who said, "Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up." Edison had worked through 3,000 theories about electric light, but only two of his experiments ultimately worked – including one during October 1879 when he finally invented the electric light!  Simon has a poster in his bedroom, “You never fail until you give up trying – Albert Edison.”

Worst fears - Losing all his data on his devices.   

Talents - Simon is amazingly gifted with music and all things technical.  He began coding his own games with Scratch at age 4.   Simon is a great photographer, videographer, music composer, ukulele player, and video editor.  And he’s never met a media gadget he didn’t like.