Monday, June 12, 2017

Happy Pub Day!

Tomorrow is the pub day for the first two books in Erin Peabody’s Behind the Legend seriesBEHIND THE LEGEND: BIGFOOT and BEHIND THE LEGEND: LOCH NESS MONSTER.  The first book has already received astarred Booklist review, which is insanely exciting and I am very happy to introduce you to Erin and her books!

Tell us a little bit about this series and the first two books.

Sure! BEHIND THE LEGEND (Little Bee Books), an ultimately six-book series, explores the fascinating histories and foggy possibilities surrounding our most enduring legendary creatures, including Bigfoot, dragons, zombies and unicorns. Targeted to kids 8 and up, the books lay open these beastly mysteries in a quirky, lighthearted fashion while celebrating the capacity for science to play hero detective. As a consolation prize, kids are encouraged to marvel at "real-life" wonders in nature, like the giant squid, narwhal and okapi (captivating animals that all play a role in the books). Readers are also treated to the curious and sometimes comical cultural ideas about legendary animals (like, for instance, the scary kelpie ponies of Scottish lore, and the unicorn horn cups of Medieval Europe that allegedly protected users from deadly poisonings!)

The first two books, BIGFOOT and THE LOCH NESS MONSTER just recently published. The next two, WEREWOLVES and ZOMBIES are due out September 2017, with the final two installments, DRAGONS and UNICORNS, due sometime after that. 

These series a different from your debut, A WEIRD AND WILD BEAUTY.  Can you tell us what it was like researching for this series?  Was it more fun?  How was writing this book different than writing the first? 

Most fun has been the research. Thanks to wonderful accounts written thousands of years ago, I've been able to travel back to ancient faraway places without ever leaving the comforts of my home sofa! Whether reading about Confucius' connection to unicorns or the tragic truths behind zombies in the slave communities of 16th century Haiti, I've definitely become a better student of world history. While the research I did for A WEIRD AND WILD BEAUTY (including trips to Yellowstone National Park) was awesome, the current digging I've done for the BEHIND THE LEGEND series has ranged across all the continents and dates back to the first known written accounts. 

What part of the publication process has been the most interesting? 

For me, it's been discovering how powerful illustrations can be. While I haven't gotten to work directly with illustrator Victor Rivas on the books, I've been struck by how much brilliance, humor and life his images bring the stories. My editor and I aimed for a fun, almost irreverent, tone with these books, and Victor's illustrations (including his rendering of alleged Bigfoot "scat" atop a museum pedestal!) is both hilarious (for kids) and clever and insightful (for science-minded grownups).

Tell us about the next books in the series!

Both Werewolves and Zombies are a little darker and edgier than the first two books. Their histories are a little more complicated, especially Zombies, given the ghoulish creatures' real origins in the devastating slave trade of the 15th, 16th centuries. But the information is carefully presented and balanced with other fascinating, weird and funny anecdotes.  

Why do you like writing children’s nonfiction?  Any advice for other children’s nonfiction writers out there?

With a background in environmental education, I guess I have an innate passion for nature and science and sharing it with others, especially young people who are naturally curious and enthusiastic. I love sharing strange, quirky bits of information with kids, but not too much ..just enough to get them wondering, asking questions and probing mysteries on their own. I think that balance--of providing enough of a hook or teaser, without swamping kids with excess information--is a challenge for most children's nonfiction writers.

I also consider the role of science advocate or "cheerleader" for lack of a better word, a hugely important one. We need to cultivate curious minds who love marveling at the mysteries of the world but who can also find comfort and hope in the empirical power of science!