I’m always a little in awe of writers who make science thrilling for kids as Jenna Grodzicki does in her delicious new book, I See Sea Food: Sea Creatures That Look Like Food (Millbrook Press). Check out this week’s Q and A on The Kids Are All Write to find out what made Jenna bite on this tasty idea. Leave a comment and you’ll be entered for a chance to win your very own autographed copy!
What inspired you to write I See Sea Food: Sea Creatures that Look Like Food?
Believe it or not, I came across this idea completely by accident. I was researching lemon sharks for what would later become Finn Finds a Friend (Clear Fork Publishing), when I came across an online article about sea animals named after food. I was fascinated because some of these animals looked EXACTLY like the food they were named after! I made a list and continued on with my lemon shark research. A couple of months passed, and I couldn’t get these sea food lookalikes out of my head. I was not a nonfiction writer, but these creatures wouldn’t leave me alone. So, I started researching them and never looked back. I’m so glad I followed my gut.
Tell us about your book journey. How much did the book change from the time you got your idea to when you finished the manuscript?
This manuscript changed a LOT. When I wrote my first draft, I had no idea what I was doing. I was learning more about crafting nonfiction, but my first draft was basically a list of facts about each animal. I went through MANY rounds of revisions before I found the right format and voice. Studying mentor texts was invaluable in this process, as was a critique by the incredible Lisa Amstutz. (Note from Nancy: Lisa Amstutz and I are both members of the Nonfiction Ninjas and I can personally attest that her critiques are incredible!).
What were the hardest and easiest sea creatures to find a food connection for?
Some of the sea creatures I researched look more like food than others. The Australian pineapplefish, the chocolate chip sea star, the lettuce sea slug, and the egg yolk jellyfish look so much like their namesake, the connection was obvious. However, some of the sea animals I started with didn’t look like food at all. For example, I researched a bright red tiny fish called a cherry barb. The only connection to cherries was its color. This little guy, plus a few others, never made it into the manuscript. To keep the wow factor, I only wanted sea creatures that truly looked like food.
Are there any sea creatures you love that didn’t make it into the book? Which ones and why did they miss the cut?
Yes, there were a couple of creatures I loved but ultimately had to cut. In most cases, this was because I couldn’t find enough information about them. One such creature was the orange-peel doris. This is a sea slug that looks exactly like an orange peel. It definitely had the visual wow factor. But scientists have not studied it enough to conclusively know much about it. So, it had to go. Fortunately, I had another amazing nudibranch that could take its place – the pizza crust sea slug.
Who took the amazing photos? At what point did you know that your book would be using photos rather than illustrations and how did you feel about that decision? Do you have any favorites among the photos?
I was very fortunate because Millbrook Press took care of all the photo research, securing the rights for the photos, and the fees. I always envisioned photographs for this manuscript. Seeing the actual animal really makes its similarity to food stand out. I knew photographs would have a bigger impact on the reader than illustrations. I’m beyond thrilled with how every spread turned out, but I think my favorite is the one with the chocolate chip sea stars. Seeing the ocean floor covered with them is surreal.
What do you hope that kids will take away from I See Sea Food?
I hope young readers will walk away with a renewed sense of wonder about the world’s oceans. I hope my book will spark their curiosity and compel them to learn about more sea creatures they may never have heard of. A handful of sea animals, such as sharks and dolphins, get all the love. I want kids to get excited about what else is out there.
You have a new book coming out in 2020, Harmony Humbolt — Perfect Pets Queen (Clear Fork Publishing). Can you tell us about that?
Sure, I’m glad you asked about this one. It has a special place in my heart because it was inspired by my daughter. This picture book follows Harmony who learns that her special Perfect Pets collection is even more special when it’s shared with friends. To clarify, Perfect Pets are stuffed animals. It’s being illustrated by the insanely talented Mirka Hokkanen. (Note from Nancy: Mira Hokkanen also did the amazing illustrations for Vivian Kirkfield’s lyrical Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book, published by Pomegranate).
Thanks so much for having me, Nancy! I greatly admire your writing, so it was an honor to be on your blog!
It was an honor to have you here, Jenna! Thank you for providing an autographed copy of your beautiful book to one lucky person, living in the U.S., who comments on this post. To stay in touch with Jenna and be up to date on her latest book news, visit her on her website here:
On Facebook: Jenna Grodzicki