Q&A with Above and Below: Sea and Shore author, Harriet Evans
Posted in Author/Illustrator Posts on Thu, 13 April at 4.42 pm
Above and Below is a unique split page and lift-the-flap book, can you explain how the book works?
The book showcases eight watery habitats from across the world, with facts about the creatures and plants that inhabit these places – or their geological features – on the left and Hannah Bailey’s beautiful illustrations on the right. Each artwork is divided into two using a split-page flap that allows the reader to delve further into these underwater worlds to discover what lies beneath the waves.
What kinds of areas of the world do you cover in the book?
We journey all around the planet, taking in some of the magnificent marine life along the way! From the sandy shallows of the British coastline to the amazing mangrove forests of Asia and from colourful coral reefs to the darkest depths of the deep ocean, there should be something to capture every young nature-lover’s imagination!
Did you have to do a lot of research the content in the book, how did you go about deciding which facts to cover?
I definitely did have to research the places – sadly my knowledge of habitats isn’t quite encyclopaedic just yet! I love finding stories in nature, so I was particularly drawn to the facts that helped me imagine the lives of the animals I was writing about or that challenged my expectations of these creatures. For example, did you know that seagulls stamp on the ground to imitate the sound of rainfall and trick worms out into the open where they can be quickly gobbled up? Or that plover birds build fake nests to draw predators away from their hatchlings?
How do you make the subjects you cover engaging for your readers?
I tried to pick a mixture of different creatures – some that readers would know and enjoy spotting but also animals that they might not have encountered before like the opalescent nudibranch (great name!) or the Irrawaddy dolphin. Similarly, we took care to pick a variety of different locations so we could have a broad sweep of different animals, plants and geographic features.
What do you think of the look of the finished book, with illustrations by Hannah Bailey? Are there any spreads that stand out for you?
Hannah Bailey’s illustrations are completely gorgeous, so I was thrilled! She’s a master at adding small details that make the whole habitat come to life and was so skilled at the shifts of perspective that you need for the split-page novelty to work. I love all the spreads but the kelp forest one has a special place in my heart. Otters are one of my favourite animals and I think Hannah’s depiction of the harbour seal and leopard shark on this spread are beautiful too!
Other than some fascinating insights into our world, what would you like young readers to take from your book?
That our planet is a much weirder and more wonderful place than we often remember. Learning more about the Earth’s incredible habitats – some of which are on our doorstep – can encourage us to live more thoughtfully and be aware that we share this world and have a responsibility to protect it.
How do you think this book could be used in classrooms?
One of the things I love about this series is how it taps into your curiosity – what else could be hiding inside a habitat? What might come out at night or what lived there eons before? Perhaps teachers could give each child their own simple seascape picture and assign them different oceans to use as inspiration to draw and write about underwater worlds. Or maybe they could read the book in class together and each child could choose an animal or plant and research it further to present their findings to the class? For younger children, perhaps you could match the animals mentioned to their habitat. It could be a great way to think about how different creatures are adapted to where they live and the relationships that we all have with our homes.