Monday, April 25, 2011

Turning a Jumble of Facts into an Idea

When I was a child, my favorite lunch was Campbell’s alphabet soup. I loved to fish out the noodle letters and arrange them on my plate until they spelled a word. Writing and illustrating a book is a little bit like that. I take a jumble of facts and put them together so they make sense. Just as the letters in my soup could be made into a variety of different words, facts can be arranged to tell a variety of different stories.

In my book A Penguin’s World, I followed two Adelie penguin chicks through a year of their life. The organizing principle is time sequence. In this book, I illustrated each step with my own cut paper art.
In Australian Animals, I grouped the animals by the places where they live. The organizing principle is a common space. This book is illustrated with photographs, many of them taken by me on my several trips to Australia.
In Birds: Nature’s Magnificent Flying Machines, I showed how each part of a bird’s body helps it to fly. The organizing principle is the physical act of flying. This book is illustrated with beautiful, scientifically accurate art by Patricia Wynne.

Each of these books is organized in a different way, but by the end of each one, all the pieces fit together in logical order to make a unified whole.