2 Sep 2016

I wrote an illustrated book - about invisible stuff!

By Claire Eamer
Cover art by Marie-Eve Tremblay.
Published by Kids Can Press.

My latest kids' science book - Inside Your Insides: A Guide to the Microbes That Call You Home - hits the bookstore shelves on Tuesday, September 6. And I'm thrilled.

I know, I know - I've been here before. After all, this is my seventh kids' book. But the launch of a new book never loses its charm. There's a long and sometimes painful road from the first exciting bit of research to the finished object - all shiny and glossy and colourful, and just waiting to delight fresh eyes.

This time there's an extra level of delight, at least for me. The topic of the book is the invisible menagerie of tiny critters that make up the human microbiome. The key word here is "invisible." And a key aspect of kids' books is illustration. So, how do you illustrate the invisible?

One solution might have been photographs. Microbes aren't really invisible - just really, really small. You can see some of them through a light microscope and more through an electron microscope, but some are barely visible even with the best equipment. And they....well....they look a bit boring. (Sorry, microbiologists! I know you love them all.)

EHEC bacteria, O104:H4 outbreak strain. Scanning electron microscopy. Bar: 1 ┬ÁmSource: Gudrun Holland, Michael Laue/RKI
The better solution is an artist - in this case, the marvellous Quebec artist and illustrator Marie-Eve Tremblay.

I should explain that the publisher, Kids Can Press, came up with this solution. I just sent them words and then sat back and crossed my fingers, hoping they'd find a way to bring the book to visual life.

And they certainly did. Marie-Eve's microbes have character, humour, colour, emotion. Not bad for mostly-single-cell organisms. They might not be exactly what a microbiologist sees, but they get some fairly difficult information across in a way that will engage the kids reading the book.

And, who knows? Some of those kids might be the next generation of microbiologists. I hope so!

Thanks, Kids Can Press and Marie-Eve Tremblay, for making my words come to colourful and entertaining life.

If you want to know what reviewers think of the book, check out the reviews in Quill & Quire, School Library Journal, and Kirkus Reviews.

And for some cool information about researching the human microbiome - and keeping your research up to date - see Jan Thornhill's Sci/Why post from March of this year.

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