Science Book A Day Interviews Nicki Greenberg


Special thanks to Nick Greenberg for answering 5 questions about her recently featured book – It’s True! Squids Suck

Nicki Greenberg is a writer and illustrator based in Melbourne, Australia. Her first books, The Digits series, were published when she was fifteen years old. They sold more than 380,000 copies in Australia and New Zealand. When Nicki was seventeen, two big things happened to her. She started drawing comics. And she read The Great Gatsby for the first time. Nicki’s innovative adaptation of Gatsby was widely acclaimed and was selected as a White Raven at the Bologna Book Fair. Her recent picture books include The Naughtiest ReindeerMonkey Red, Monkey Blue and BOM! Went the Bear. She has also written and illustrated non-fiction for children, and her book, It’s True! Squids Suck! was shortlisted for the 2006 Aventis Prize for Science Books. – Adapted from Nicki’s Homepage

Nicki’s Homepage:
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#1 – What was the impetus for It’s True! Squids suck?

The book was sparked almost by accident. I was working on a long project, a graphic novel, and was showing the work in progress to Allen & Unwin. They hadn’t yet committed to that project, but while we were talking they asked if I’d be interested in illustrating one of their “It’s True!” series of kids’ non-fiction books. I asked if I could write the book as well as illustrating it, and they said yes! My initial idea was to write a book about snails, as I’ve always loved snails and found them very beautiful. But when I started to research snails, I felt that the subject wasn’t… well… fast-paced enough. Something else caught my eye, though – the snails’ speedy mollusc cousins, the cephalopods. I knew nothing about cephalopods, but I leapt into researching them and found them fascinating. It’s True! Squids Suck was the result.

#2 – Your book focuses on fascinating facts about marine animals. What do you find fascinating about them?

Pretty much everything about cephalopods is fascinating. The way they move. Their ability to change shape and colour. Their intelligence. Their goggle-eyed appearance and extraordinary arms. The sheer variety of their forms.

#3 – When writing a non-fiction book for kids, how do you make the information interesting for them?

I found the material I was researching inherently interesting, and being enthused by your subject matter certainly helps. But more importantly, I was very conscious about presenting the information in a way that was engaging and funny, but not simplistic. I wanted the book to be dense with information, but written in a way that kids would understand and appreciate. To do this, I drew on my work as a lawyer, would you believe! I had done a fair bit of training in “Plain English” communication: learning how to communicate difficult legal concepts clearly and in ordinary language, but without sacrificing precision. These skills transferred very well to writing non-fiction for kids. I think it is important to respect your audience’s intelligence: it is the writer’s responsibility to make the subject comprehensible and interesting. A sense of humour is also handy!

#4 – It’s been 10 years since the book was out. What feedback have you received about the book?

I’ve had lovely feedback about the book from kids, parents, teachers and librarians. A lot of adults have told me how much they enjoyed the book, which makes me very happy – I think that books for kids should also be enjoyable and interesting for adults. It was a real thrill to have the book shortlisted for the Aventis prize too.

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

Since Squids Suck came out, I’ve had seven other books published. Two were huge graphic novels, each of which took years to complete (Squids Suck took about six months, while lawyering). In the last five years, since my kids were born, I’ve been working mostly on children’s picture books, which I love. My next book, Teddy Took the Train will be out in May this year, and there are quite a few others in the pipeline. Right now I’m working on a funny picture book about a gang of meerkats.

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