Cover Reveal and Interview: This is a Sea Cow by Cassandra Federman
Two interviews two days in a row? Maybe I’m getting soft, but sometimes I just like them. Particularly when they involve odd critters from the deep. Like a sea cow. Okay, that’s not what they’re actually officially named, but since today’s cover reveal is for a picture book called This Is a Sea Cow, I’m sticking with that particular moniker. Ms. Cassandra Federman is on hand to answer a question or ten about the creature in question and her own book. Along the way she clarifies for me the difference between a manatee and a beluga whale, the trend of 4th wall busting characters, and her own history of rescuing manatees.
Betsy Bird: I’ve seen a lot of books in my day about unusual animals. Hagfish. Blobfish. But sea cows? That’s a new one on me. What was the impetus to give voice to this particular creature of the deep?
Cassandra Federman: Sea cows are more a “creature of the shallows” than the deep. You might know them best as manatees! The voice of Sea Cow actually came to me in the delirium that is new parenthood. During a 4 am baby feeding, a manatee and a cow started talking to each other in my head. I was giggling and typing into my phone with one hand while holding a nursing newborn in the other. I couldn’t risk forgetting the idea of a manatee feeling insulted by the nickname “sea cow!” I also have a fascination with animals that are so ugly that they somehow come back around to being cute again. Manatees fall into that category for me, with their droopy jowls and their big wrinkly bodies that I just want to squeeeeze! Don’t you?
BB: I’ll confess to you that I’m a little sketchy on the difference between a manatee and a beluga whale. Care to educate me on the subject?
CF: Oh, beluga whales are also adorable–with their big dome-shaped heads that I just want to squeeeeze! (I’m detecting an unhealthy pattern in myself, so I’ll skip to the facts.) Both are marine mammals, but I’d say the biggest difference is that belugas live in the arctic, while manatees live in warm water. They don’t have enough blubber to keep warm in waters below 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
BB: Insofar as I can tell THIS IS A SEA COW follows an interesting trend right now of fourth-wall busting nonfiction characters and subjects. Were there any books in particular you referred to when coming up with the concept for this story?
CF: Interesting you should ask! While I was entering the dummy phase of THIS IS A SEA COW, I came upon Jessica Olien’s hilarious THE BLOBFISH BOOK. It’s so funny and informative—I bought it immediately! I knew I needed to differentiate my book, so I decided to personify my narrator. In THIS IS A SEA COW, a kid — an arguably creative and distractible one—writes a report about sea cows for school. My choice about who the narrator was then informed the whole crafty childlike style of the book.
BB: Have you ever seen a sea cow in person?
CF: Yes I have! In fact, that’s how I fell in love with them. I studied abroad in Belize during college and spent about a month tracking, tagging, and helping to rescue manatees. (And sneakily squeeeezing them.) They will always hold a special place in my heart.
BB: Is this a standalone sea cow or are there companion books in the works? For that matter, what do you have coming out next?
CF: Let’s say that THIS IS just A SEA COW for now, but we shall see what the future holds for other confusingly named creatures. As far as what’s next, I’ve got some things in the pipeline and I’m hoping to talk about them soon.
Many thanks to you, Cassandra, and to the nice folks at Albert Whitman for the reveal.
And now . . . your cover:
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