A lot goes into creating a nonfiction picture book—just ask Susan Stockdale. As she was writing and illustrating Fantastic Flowers, she not only did her
own research, she relied on the expertise of multiple botanists and scientists to proof her work and provide any additional information or suggestions to ensure scientific accuracy, particularly in the back matter and throughout her
illustrations. Hear from Susan herself as she explains a little more about the science behind Fantastic Flowers.
In addition to my research to create Fantastic Flowers, I consulted closely
with three botanists on the book: Dr. Ari Novy of the U.S. Botanic Garden; Dr.
Peter Zale of Longwood Gardens; and Dr. Gary Krupnick of the National Museum of
Natural History. They vetted my manuscript and illustrations for scientific accuracy
and provided valuable feedback (and enthusiasm!) as I crafted the book.
These scientists were particularly helpful as I designed my approach to the
back matter. Initially, I wanted to provide “shape” categories in which to
place my 17 flowers and their pollinators. For example: “Flowers
shaped like a long tube attract
hummingbirds and insects that have long tongues to reach deep into the flower
for nectar. Trumpet creeper.” However, my
consultants advised against this. They said it was impossible to place the
flowers’ pollinators in such neat categories, calling it “leaky science.”
Ultimately, I decided to
explain what a flower is and how it is pollinated, and provided a photo of each
flower along with its common and scientific name, native range, and
pollinators. I leaned heavily on my consultants to ensure the accuracy of this
very specific information. I probably emailed the pollination expert 10 times
I also submitted my flower drawings to the
botanists to ensure that they were anatomically correct before I began painting
them. After seeing my initial drawing of this spider flower,
Dr. Zale responded, “Your painting could use
some modifications. The ends of the flowers should look more like stigmas than
anthers. The styles should also be coming out of each flower. The flowers
themselves should not be pointy but should curl open.”
Based on his comments, I revised my final
I am indebted to these scientists and others
with whom I’ve worked on previous books for helping me convey accurate
information to my young readers!
Read more about Susan Stockdale and Fantastic Flowers on our Sunday Brunch post. Find Fantastic Flowers at your local library, indie bookstore, or Barnes & Noble!
Labels: Author/Illustrator Talks, Behind the Scenes, Behind the Story, Children's books, Illustrators, Informational Picture Book, Interviews, Picture books, Susan Stockdale