Science Book a Day Interviews Gillian Richardson


Special thanks to Gillian Richardson for answering 5 questions about her recently featured book – 10 Plants That Shook The World

I’m a Canadian author who has published 17 books for children. They include nonfiction, novels and picture books. I’ve written numerous short stories and articles for children’s magazines such as Cricket and KNOW. My writing is aimed at young readers from 7-14. My work has earned recognition on the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s ‘Our Choice” list and in Best Books for Children and Teens. – Adapted from Gillian’s Blog

Gillian’s Blog:

#1 – What was the impetus for writing 10 Plants the shook the World?

My publisher, Annick Press, came across this idea in the sidebar of a gardening magazine article. They approached me to write the book based on the original list of plants. We changed a couple of them, but kept the title for the right dramatic effect. This was my second book with Annick, who had given me the topic of explosions in 2009, and asked me to write Kaboom! Explosions of All Kinds.

#2 – No doubt there are many other plants that could have made the list. How did you go about deciding which plants were in or out?

Yes, other plants certainly could have been included. Readers have had fun trying to guess what’s on the list based on the title alone.  We chose 10 that we felt kids would be most aware of and likely come across almost every day. The one exception to that idea is cinchona, and even the publisher wasn’t sure about using it, at first.  But having a far-reaching impact on history was also a decisive factor. Quinine from cinchona bark is the only known natural treatment for the deadly, widespread disease called malaria. It’s a fascinating story, too strong to pass up for this list, and many kids travel to tropical countries these days so it could have personal relevance. It’s also great to give kids the chance to learn new vocabulary like ‘conchona’.  Another plant, corn, won out over wheat because of the vast uses of corn in thousands of everyday products.

#3 – How does the design and art in the book, by Kim Rosen, add the book?

The design does a good job of drawing the reader into each chapter, with quick facts, plus an engaging fictional anecdote that shows the way each plant might have influenced people’s lives.  The aim is to arouse curiosity to find out more about what makes these plants so important. I think this topic was a challenge to illustrate. Photos or drawings alone of the plants themselves would have been rather dull, static. Kim’s lively illustrations add animation and fun and stir the imagination. I like the actual sketch of each plant that appears on the statistics page of each chapter, though, and the bright colors that tie the book together nicely. The cover is especially eye-popping.

#4 – This book is written for children. How did you go about communicating the information about plants to this audience?

The introductory anecdotes did part of this job. I tried to show the viewpoint of a young person where possible to help young readers relate. Throughout the book, storytelling was important to get readers involved with the topics, as were the details that brought each plant’s impact right up to the present day. In the sidebars, more facts focused the attention on specific details in the text, to add understanding, interest and some humor. For instance, imagine riding on those early solid rubber car tires!  I like the fact that the book is being well received by adults, too, as it offers the chance for kids and parents to read it together.

#5 – Are you working on any new projects/books that you can tell us about?

10 Plants That Shook the World has been getting excellent reviews and has already won a 2013 Eureka Award from the California Reading Association. We’re hoping it will become the first in a series of similar books. Right now, I’m in the beginning stages of writing 10 Ships That Changed the World. Once again, the challenge is to find topics that are fresh and original, so the list must include ships that will be symbolic of events with wide-ranging impacts on history.  Stay tuned!

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