Science Book A Day Interviews Mick Manning


Special thanks to Mick Manning for answering 5 questions about his recently featured book – My Body Book

Mick Manning and Brita Granström have been collaborating together, sharing both illustration and text, for twenty years. Their critically acclaimed books, published internationally and in many languages, mix words and images in all sorts of inventive and delightful ways. – From their Homepage

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#1 – What was the impetus for My Body Book?

We had good feedback from a book we did called How Did I Begin? (a book that celebrates life by showing the amazing development of a baby in the womb) so we wanted to make a book for younger readers that explained some basic human biology – how we breathe for example. There was also a school and libraries market for this. As often is the case with our books, we had sons of the right age who were curious so we wrote the book with them in mind (we have four sons of various ages between 8 and 18).

#2 – We featured another of your books, What Mr Darwin Saw, which had a strong narrative. How are these books different? How are they the same?

We like to make the text work as a narrative; keeping it lyrical if we can. We believe that non fiction shouldn’t be dry and stuffy but should seek to engage children. We wrote a book called Woolly Mammoth a few years ago. It was commissioned by London’s Natural History museum, and so had up-to-date natural science facts and accurate artwork, but we also had great fun making a rollicking, rhythmic read-aloud text. Written as if spoken by the last mammoth (we imagined our mammoth had a Scottish accent) it is amusing and ultimately poignant. My Body Book differs from Darwin in that it is not the life story of an individual (as we did with Darwin, Dickens and The Beatles biographies) However, we speak directly out of the book at the reader, starting the book by saying ‘this book is all about your body’ – and pointing out that the reader’s brain must have just made a decision; ‘open this book’ .

#3 – How do you find ways to explore the inner workings of the body? How do you try to make them interesting to kids?

When we make a book, Brita and I try and find the most appropriate visuals and voice. For example, collage and repetition felt right for a book about the Earth’s geology (What’s Under the Bed), watercolour and a diary for What Mr. Darwin Saw… but how to show anatomy? First we looked at some amazing Edwardian adult anatomy books with Die-cut shapes you could lift to see inside. That was far too expensive to produce, our publishers told us! But this inspired us to come up with a budget version, a half page flip-the-flap approach that allows the reader to flip between the surface and the inside of various parts of their bod and to show ‘what’s under our skin’ (in fact that was an early working title for the book). We took the flip-flap format and did other titles after My Body Book : Doctor Doctor invites the reader to join the staff at a hospital and diagnose various illnesses, so learning about our immune system, heart disease, broken bones etc. Our Baby Inside is a very warm flip-flap friendly look at the 9 months of a baby growing inside its mum.

#4 – The book has been out for 7 years. What feedback have you received about that book from kids and adults?

We have had good feedback – especially from primary schools, who find it a light and often amusing way to explore simple human biology with their classes. The book was also shortlisted and won a prize in The 2007 Royal Society Science Book Prizes in London.

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

We have a new book just published called Wild Adventures (the follow-up to an earlier title, Nature Adventures). Wild Adventures uses the outdoors as a ‘classroom’; encouraging families to go out and explore the natural world. We talk about flying kites, making whistles, lighting fires (safely) and camping; cloud watching, star gazing, tracking, bird watching… We hope it will be in everyone rucksack this summer!

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