There’s been quite a bit cooking at my place over the last few months – in this case it’s food for the mind rather than for the body. Today I’m extraordinarily happy to announce the publication of my book Animalfish Alphabet, a fishy coloring book featuring some of the world’s wonderful watery creatures. Factual, fun, and illustrated by Sara Birns, a high school senior at the time and friend of Kid One.
Why Animalfish? This whole project actually started eight years ago. Kid One had turned four became obsessed with sharks in that intelligent, single-minded way preschoolers have of glomming onto a subject and not letting go until it’s been thoroughly exhausted in their minds. I didn’t know much about sharks, myself, so together over the months we learned about almost all the 440 different species of sharks in the world: hammerhead sharks, whale sharks, lanternhead sharks, cookie cutter sharks, nurse sharks, and guitar sharks. Well, the writer in me loves and collects names; over the years I’ve kept mental lists of fruits, flowers, herbs, seasons, and cities that can pass for reasonable people-names. So it didn’t take long for me to wonder – could I come up with a whole alphabet of sharks named after other things? Fortunately this is the digital age, and after I dropped him off at preschool I’d spend an hour or two on the FishBase, a database aimed at research scientists but perfect for oddly-minded writers like myself. Eventually my list of sharks became just fish in general, and then just those fish named after animals. I thought it would make a great alphabet picture book, and sat down to write it. Then I set out to sell it.
The rejection letters I got back then from publishers were fantastic – no, seriously! Not a form letter among them; each editor had something positive to say about my manuscript, only for one reason or another the timing just wasn’t quite right. So I tucked the whole packet away in a file cabinet, kept writing, went back to college to finish my B. A., started my own business, and kept writing.
Then last year Kid One took a marine biology class. One of his textbooks was Thomas Niesen’s The Marine Biology Coloring Book. I hadn’t thought about the Animalfish Alphabet manuscript for a few years, but it seems obvious to me now – I could make it a coloring book! My business could publish it! My only drawback was a lack of images, and here Kid One came through again. He told me he had a friend who was a talented artist and suggested I get in touch with her. I met Sara Birns for the first time at my house, where I gave her the manuscript, showed her styles of picture book illustrations I was drawn to, and asked her to make it whimsical. If you buy the book you’ll see what she came up with – a marvelous, fabulous, amazing collection of drawings that really do bring the fish to life. I predict a successful future for her in the art world!
I’m extraordinarily proud that this essentially home-grown effort has finally come to life, and can honestly say it’s because of my two boys.
You may notice every now and then I mention water issues in a blog post. Water issues are of great interest to me and I’ve vowed to myself to make an effort to more research and writing in the pursuit of clean water for all. So I’m donating a portion of the proceeds to organizations making an effort to help keep the world’s water supplies clean – for us as well as for the Animalfish.