Guest Post: Featuring Lindsey Leigh, Author and Illustrator of THE DEEP!
Oh, I’m so very very excited today! If you know me then you know there’s a spot in my heart for the wonderful nonfiction titles we’re seeing coming out every year. And speaking of which, have you ever seen this beautiful baby before?
Gorgeous, right? So it is my true and distinct pleasure to announce that its creator, Lindsey Leigh, will be providing today’s guest post.
Writing and illustrating this book was a bit like taking a deep dive into the ocean on a voyage of discovery. Though at times it could be daunting, the process was primarily filled with excitement and enthusiasm for this mysterious region of our planet.
I have been fascinated by the deep ocean since I was a child because it is a place that seemed so full of mystery with many animals still to discover. The creatures that lived down there are so downright alien and strange, I was hooked. I have always had a soft spot for animals that other people consider a little odd or creepy, and the deep sea has no shortage of wonderful weirdos. How could I resist making a book about a place that has carnivorous sponges and yeti crabs?
These animals all look so bizarre because they are perfectly adapted to living life in such a dark, cold, and harsh place. Some, like the Giant Larvacean and Pigbutt Worm, cast out mucus nets to catch and eat marine snow (a whimsical term for the little particles of dead animal matter and poop that floats down from the surface). Others, like the Barreleye fish, have huge eyes to capture as much light as possible in the dark blue waters before the light vanishes altogether as you dive deeper. Many animals are quite small, like the ping-pong ball sized Giant Ostracod, and some are huge, like the sea serpent-like Oarfish and the Megamouth Shark. While I was writing the book, I felt as if the animals revealed their varied personalities to me quite easily and the jokes almost wrote themselves!
It was a joy to read and research information about these animals, though because so little is known about these creatures, I had to be careful to scrutinize all the information I was reading. For example, for the Pram Bug, it’s often reported in pop science articles that the animal was the inspiration for the artist H.R. Giger’s design of the xenomorph in the classic sci-fi horror film Alien, which would be a cool fact to add, but sadly if you dig deeper than the surface, there is no solid proof to back that up at all. (As I’m a huge fan of horror movies, you’ll notice that throughout the book that I have modeled some of the lettering on old horror movie posters!)
Because so little is known about the deep sea, I occasionally ran into questions that I couldn’t answer with my research alone when the time came to illustrate the book. What color is vampire squid mucus? What does the process of carnivorous sponge digestion look like? What exactly does swimming sea cucumber poop look like? I reached out directly to scientists to answer these questions and they were all very happy to share their scientific papers with me and answer my absurd yet earnest questions!
This book was created for my younger self who loved memorizing animal facts and pouring over every fun animal encyclopedia I could get my hands on. I also loved comics as a child, as most kids do, and I fell in love with comics as a form of expression when I was in high school and college. I feel very strongly about using comics as to communicate complicated scientific ideas, primarily because of the accessibility of the medium. I’ve worked with some scientists to create comics based on their scientific papers (which, while very fascinated, can be dense and difficult to understand for the average reader). I really enjoy trying to find funny comparisons or goofy jokes to make while communicating the idea, because I think humor is such a great tool for learning and helping to retain information.
I feel as though this book is proof that if someone is interested in both art and science and feels torn between two worlds, there’s a way to unify both of those passions. I was always interested in biology and science as a kid, but when I started to feel very passionately about art and illustration in high school, I wasn’t sure I would be able to follow both of my interests. I studied illustration, but always kept my interest in the natural world alive and incorporated it into many of my school projects. Joining the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators and interning at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (where I painted flea beetles in the Entomology department) also reinforced that there was room for both disciplines in my life.
There are so many commonalities between art and science and there are numerous ways to explore both. I truly feel that both fields don’t have to be so separate and can exist in harmony. I’m thrilled I get to share this planet with animals like sea pigs and vampire squid and equally excited that I can use my art skills to share information about the weird and wonderful world around us with the next generation of young animal enthusiasts!
Thank you, Lindsey! I’ll never think about sea cucumber poop the same way again. Thanks too to Jenna Smith and the folks at Penguin Young Readers for suggesting this post. The Deep is on shelves everywhere so go on out and find yourself a copy. It’s a funny, fantastic ride.
Filed under: Guest Posts
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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