Flowers Are Pretty…Weird! A Talk with Rosemary Mosco About Those Flowers You Wouldn’t Invite to a Dinner Party
Okay, okay. Enough of all these biographies. It’s a problem we actually have every year at my library when we’re compiling our 101 Great Books for Kids List. When the time comes to consider the nonfiction, we end up staring at almost a hundred biographies and maybe thirty to forty science and math titles. Narrative nonfiction, man. It just sucks people in.
But you know what else sucks people in? Weirdo flower facts!! And fortunately, I have a dynamic duo that have already proven themselves in the field. You loved them when they made this year’s Butterflies Are Pretty … Gross! Now enjoy them with the upcoming 2022 title, Flowers Are Pretty …. Weird!
I had a chance to sit down with Rosemary Mosco once again to pick her brain. And pick I did!!
Betsy Bird: Well, hello again! And once more we return to the world of unexpected natural oddities. Now I know you already discussed the less than savory (sometimes literally) aspects of butterflies in BUTTERFLIES ARE PRETTY…GROSS. Why the switcheroo to the plant world?
Rosemary Mosco: Good question. When I decided to change up my career a few years ago and get a graduate degree in science communication, my program was technically part of the botany department. That meant that I took a lot of plant classes. At first, I got so bored identifying a zillion fern species. Then I fell head over heels in love. It’s tempting to see plants as dull and static – either background noise or ingredients in a salad. But they’re shocking and strange. One you notice them, you unlock the entire natural world.
BB: One of the things I like about your book is that you don’t go in for the usual suspects. A know-it-all kid might walk into this book expecting a venus flytrap and instead find themselves facing a corpse lily. How on earth did you pick and choose what to include?
RM: I’m so glad you noticed that! Part of it is because we decided to zero in on flowers specifically. This was a hard choice, because it cut out some fun plants like venus flytraps and pitcher plants – those insect traps are made of leaves, not flowers. Sigh. Luckily, there are plenty of peculiar blooms! I tried to include a mix of unusual plants from all around the world, but I did add in a few of my local favorites, like the glost plant and bottle gentian. The first time I saw a bottle gentian, a perpetually-closed flower, I jumped up and down with joy.
BB: There’s an arc and a distinct pattern to informational books and yours is no exception. Though this is classic expository nonfiction you’ve got going on here, how you choose to dole out your information is methodical. How did you build the narrative structure of the book? Because as kooky as it sounds, there really does seem to be a kind of rising action to how we’re introduced to these plants.
RM: I was hoping the facts would get progressively stranger, building as you read. But sometimes I had trouble objectively choosing which flowers were weirder than others. I think I’m too emotionally close to the source sometimes! My editor Liz helped a lot with reshuffling things, and Jacob’s brilliant art helped break the facts up into thematically similar narrative chunks. I’m proud of what we accomplished.
BB: I have to ask – do you have a garden? And, if so, are any of the offenders in this book housed there?
RM: I don’t, but I have houseplants – and one of them was almost in the book. I have a tree-dwelling plant called Pink Quill that I rescued from an office building. Originally it was the plant featured on the page about hummingbirds acting as pollinators. But then I realized that there aren’t any scientific papers showing that hummingbirds are definitely Pink Quill pollinators. We swapped it out for a different plant – but not before I spent some time glaring at that plant, muttering “TELL ME YOUR POLLINATORS”. The plant had no comment.
BB: Tell me a bit about your research process. Where do you go to get your information? Was there one source in particular that turned out to be your favorite?
RM: I made lists and read a lot of scientific papers, which isn’t all that exciting. But I spent a long time on this exhaustive, wild, wonderful website about duckweeds by Wayne P. Armstrong, “Mr. Wolffia”: https://www2.palomar.edu/users/warmstrong/1wayindx.htm The photos are stunning, and you get to enjoy the fact that Professor Armstrong calls his site Wayne’s Word(c), which he has copyrighted!
BB: Finally, I gotta ask it. What’s next?
RM: Before this book comes out, I have another one about feral pigeons due out in September through the publisher Workman. I also have a couple of other books coming out in 2022. After that, I think I might take a long nap in a sunny field of flowers.
Many thanks, yet again, to Rosemary for joining me today. Her latest book with illustrator Jacob Souva, Flowers Are Pretty … Weird is due out on shelves March 29, 2022. Many thanks to Samantha Devotta and the folks at Penguin Random House Canada Young Readers for the discussion.
Finally, this is not in the upcoming book. Ms. Mosco happens to have a site called Bird and Moon Comics where she talks about nature. This is, without a doubt, one of my favorites and it ties in nicely to today’s book. Send it to someone you love this upcoming Valentine’s Day season:
Filed under: Interviews
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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