Also published on this date: Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Wednesday, November 3 Dedicated Issue: Introducing Neon Squid

Neon Squid: Gorgeously illustrated nonfiction books, written by experts for inquisitive kids (and kids at heart)

Editors' Note

Neon Squid

With the support of the publisher, Shelf Awareness celebrates the MacKids imprint Neon Squid, which is dedicated to creating beautiful nonfiction books for inquisitive kids.

Neon Squid: Animal Sidekicks: Amazing Stories of Symbiosis in Animals and Plants by Macken Murphy, illustrated by Dragan Kordic

Books & Authors

Introducing Neon Squid!

Neon Squid, a new nonfiction imprint from MacKids, was formed by Joanne Clark, Fiona Macdonald and Sam Priddy at the start of 2020 (coinciding with a global pandemic...). The three previously worked together at DK for 10 years. Their first list has been made entirely in bedrooms and living rooms around the globe.

At Neon Squid, we believe the most amazing stories in the world are the real ones.

In our first list, kids will dive deep beneath the waves to discover a sunken ancient Egyptian city, undisturbed for thousands of years. They'll trek into the jungles of South America to come face to face with the tiny frog that shares its home with a tarantula. And they'll be inspired by Maria and Marjorie Tallchief of the Osage Nation, who became the first ballet superstars.

We understand that every child is different, so we create books that appeal to all sorts of kids: fact fans, visual learners, and those who like to curl up with a good story. Children are discerning readers, so we use whatever we can to hook them in--whether that's intriguing topics, humor (Viking poop anyone?), or amazing illustrations.

It's really important to us to find authors with interesting backgrounds who can bring our books to life, from bug experts and doctors to archaeology YouTubers and history professors. They all have one thing in common: an ability to take complicated subjects and explain them in a fun and accessible way.

Our books are a labor of love--written by experts, illustrated by the best artists around and produced using the finest materials, including sustainably sourced paper. We hope that by reading our books, kids will be encouraged to further explore the world around them. And maybe, just maybe, they spark an interest that lasts a lifetime.

Neon Squid: The Hospital: The Inside Story by Christle Nwora, illustrated by Ginnie Hsu

Dr. Jessica L. Ware and Bugs (A Day in the Life)

Jessica Ware

Dr. Jessica L. Ware is an insect expert who works at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. She is the current president of the Worldwide Dragonfly Association and serves as Vice President of the Entomological Society of America. Dr. Ware has been awarded a presidential award from the U.S. government for her work on insect evolution. Here she discusses with Shelf Awareness her academic passions and her upcoming book, Bugs (A Day in the Life).

You are the Associate Curator of Invertebrate Zoology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. What does this job include? What does a day in your life look like?

My job is really fun! I am responsible for the collections of insects that have incomplete metamorphosis, including dragonflies, termites and cockroaches. Each day is different, but I mainly work on research projects, mentor students, collaborate with folks on exhibitions and care for the entomological collections at the AMNH--we have more than 23 million insect specimens! Sometimes I am in the lab extracting insect DNA, other days I am at the microscope looking at insects up close and, if I'm lucky, I get to head to the field to collect samples for our collections. 

What was it like turning your passion into a career? How did you make the decision to make bugs your livelihood?

I spent a lot of time outdoors as a child, so I've been fascinated by insects for a long time. However, I didn't know any insect experts until I went to university, so I didn't realize entomology was a potential career option for me until then. I had intended to study marine biology, but after working with insects I realized there is so much yet to be discovered! We've found over a million different species of insect, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. I wasn't sure whether I would end up working at a university or a museum--I have been fortunate to have been able to do both!

Why did you decide you wanted to write a book? Why, specifically, a children's book?

I think most children are inherently fascinated with insects and the natural world. We need to harness this appreciation for insects early on and a children's book is a great way to do that. I spent hours upon hours reading with my kids when they were little, and it was hard to find books about insects that met them at their level and kept them interested. I hope this book is an exciting read that will advocate for the insects and inspire the next generation of entomologists.

The concept of Bugs (A Day in the Life) is fun: following the "journeys of insects throughout a full day and observe what they're up to." What was it like to frame a nonfiction book this way?

More often than not, we think of insects only in the few seconds that we see them, and we don't spend time wondering what else they are up to over the rest of the hours of their days. Insects lead lives full of danger: hunting, searching and hiding. They are up to many more things than most would imagine in a 24-hour period.

How did you feel after seeing the illustrations for the first time?

I absolutely love the illustrations in the book. Chaaya Prabhat has done a wonderful job--it was a joy to work with her. When I first saw her artwork, it made me want to read the book again from start to finish!

Do you have a favorite bug in the book? What makes it your favorite?

By far my favorites are always dragonflies. They are an ancient group (250 million years old!) and among the first insects to fly. They are voracious predators and eat the things we dislike, like mosquitoes.

Is there anything else you'd like to tell Shelf readers?

Insects need you! We need insect ambassadors to help protect the future of this diverse group of animals. Hopefully this book can kickstart a new appreciation for these amazing critters.

Neon Squid: Rewilding: Bringing Wildlife Back Where It Belongs by David A Steen, illustrated by Chiara Fedele

Olivia Meikle and Katie Nelson on The Book of Sisters

Katie Nelson and Olivia Meikle

Olivia Meikle and Katie Nelson are professors, podcasters and sisters! Together they host the popular What'sHerName history podcast. They also teach History (Nelson) and Women's Studies (Meikle) on opposite sides of the Rocky Mountains. Between them, Nelson and Meikle have two husbands, five kids, two parakeets, one schnauzer, one hermit crab and approximately one zillion years of schooling. Here they discuss what it was like working together on The Book of Sisters.

Meikle: We've worked together closely for the past few years now, but do you recall when we first met?

Nelson: Uhh, I don't. Do you? [laughs] It would have been the moment I first entered this world...

Meikle: [laughing] Yeah, I don't remember either.

Nelson: But I'm glad it happened! Being sisters is such an interesting experience. We might never have become friends in real life.

Meikle: What are you implying?

Nelson: I'm saying that sisterhood throws together women who may never have teamed up otherwise! And that's us, we're opposites in so many ways. But therein lies our strength, right? It certainly came in handy while writing a book about sisters in history.

Meikle: Absolutely. I was delighted at the unusual idea of the project, and the challenge of it. But I wasn't expecting how much fun it was going to be, to see the sisters who used their differences and their similarities to create amazing art, change the world, or overcome huge obstacles.

Nelson: Yeah, I was hooked on the idea the moment I realized we could attempt to write a history of the world, in sisters. Teaching World History for so many years, there was a sort of accepted canon of historical figures--99% men. It was refreshing to view the human story through a new lens: not just women, but sisters, specifically! It really challenged me to seek out new perspectives and stories I'd never heard of before. Just as we've discovered with the podcast, when you go looking for important women in history, you find them everywhere, hidden just beneath the surface.

Meikle: Absolutely. These women were so fascinating and so unexpected that I found myself continually in awe. Stories like the brilliant McDonagh sisters, who pioneered moviemaking during the silent film era and yet have been almost completely forgotten now. There's something very satisfying about bringing them back into focus for a new generation of readers! Or the Oversteegen sisters who put their lives on the line to save innocent people--I'll never stop being amazed by their courage.

Nelson: I'm still enthralled by the Khatun, the four daughters of Genghis Khan who built a functioning kingdom (as opposed to Genghis, who just smashed everyone into submission). I'd never heard of them before, but they were such a force in history! I want to dig deeper. Need to learn Mongolian first...

Meikle: And there were plenty of villains too, that was equally fascinating. Since sisters know each other so well, they have a special power to all-out destroy each other.

Nelson: Yes, that's an important lesson for us [laughing]. I, for one, had a lovely time working on this project, and hope to continue NOT smashing each other in the future.

Meikle: Amen. Here's to smashing the patriarchy together!

Upcoming titles from Neon Squid

Tales of Ancient Worlds: Adventures in Archaeology by Stefan Milosavljevich, illus. by Sam Caldwell ($21.99, hardcover, 160p., ages 8-10, 9781684492121, January 4, 2022)

YouTuber Stefan Milosavljevich brings the world of archaeology to life in this beautifully illustrated book of history stories. Kids will peer into Egyptian tombs, dive under the ocean to explore shipwrecks and come face-to-face with fossilized Viking poop!

Animal Sidekicks: Amazing Stories of Symbiosis in Animals and Plants by Macken Murphy, illus. by Dragan Kordić ($19.99, hardcover, 128p., ages 8-10, 9781684492015, February 1, 2022)

Heard about the fish that clean shark teeth? Or the frog that lives with a tarantula? Wildlife podcaster Macken Murphy welcomes you to the weird world of symbiosis--where animals form incredible relationships.

The Book of Sisters: Biographies of Incredible Siblings Through History by Olivia Meikle and Katie Nelson ($19.99, hardcover, 128p., ages 8-10, 9781684492008, February 22, 2022)

Podcasters (and sisters!) Olivia Meikle and Katie Nelson highlight amazing sisters, such as Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret and tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams. Through the stories, readers will go on a breathtaking tour of history.

Big Cats (A Day in the Life): What Do Lions, Tigers, and Panthers Get up to All Day? by Tyus D. Williams, illus. by Chaaya Prabhat ($16.99, hardcover, 48p., ages 6-8, 9781684492077, March 1, 2022)

Set over a 24-hour period, meet sparring snow leopards, sprinting cheetahs and slumbering jaguars in this nonfiction story about the biggest cats on Earth. Wildlife ecologist Tyus D. Williams writes the gripping story in the style of a nature documentary, complete with simple science explanations perfect for future zoologists.

Bugs (A Day in the Life): What Do Bees, Ants, and Dragonflies Get up to All Day? by Dr. Jessica L. Ware, illus. by Chaaya Prabhat ($16.99, hardcover, 48p., ages 6-8, 9781684492114, March 1, 2022)

Bug expert Dr. Jessica L. Ware takes readers into the undergrowth to follow the lives of individual bugs, including honeybees and cicadas, as they fly, hunt, hide and scuttle their way through their day.

The Hospital: The Inside Story by Dr. Christle Nwora, illus. by Ginnie Hsu ($16.99, hardcover, 64p., ages 6-8, 9781684492046, April 5, 2022)

It's another busy day at the hospital! Meet doctors and nurses, ride in an ambulance and discover the magic of medicine in this story from real-life doctor Christle Nwora. Along the way Dr. Nwora explains the science behind how things work--such as X-rays and operating theaters--demystifying a trip to the hospital for kids.

Neon Squid: Tales of Ancient Worlds: Adventures in Archaeology by Stefan Milosavljevich, illustrated by Sam Caldwell

Neon Squid: The Book of Sisters: Biographies of Incredible Siblings Through History by Olivia Meikle and Katie Nelson

Neon Squid: Bugs (A Day in the Life): What Do Bees, Ants, and Dragonflies Get Up to All Day? by Jessica L Ware, illustrated by Chaaya Prabhat

Neon Squid: Big Cats (A Day in the Life): What Do Lions, Tigers, and Panthers Get Up to All Day? by Tyus D Williams, illustrated by Chaaya Prabhat

Neon Squid: Humpback Whale (Young Zoologist): A First Field Guide to the Singing Giant of the Ocean by Asha de Vos, illustrated by Jialei Sun

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